When I mention the letters “OC” to most people (generally meaning non-homeschoolers), I am usually greeted with responses such as, “When were you in Ocean City?” or “Oh, that show on MTV?” Regretfully, I am referring to neither. I am, in fact, speaking of a place which has had a much greater impact on my life than a beach getaway or (poor) excuse to sit on the couch for a few hours (seriously, the “OC”? The Housewives of New Jersey is much better!)
Open Connections(OC) is a homeschooling resource center located in Newtown Square, PA. The beautiful property hosts two buildings (which have been outfitted for all OC needs) called the Farm House and the Barn atop running hills and green grass. And thus, within this wonderful space, OC thrives.
OC consists of multiple programs throughout each day of the week, encompassing a range of ages. Since 2008, I have been attending a Thursday program deemed “Shaping Your Life.”
Shaping Your Life is made up of about twenty teen programmers and two facilitators. The morning starts off at 9:15 with “check-in,” in which everyone goes around and shares some highlights of their week (a thirty-second time limit has actually been placed on this, due to the length of check-in often running much longer than it should, something that is frequently joked about).
After check-in, we usually do a mental warm-up exercise to stimulate ourselves before the full day ahead of us. These usually consist of brain-teasers and/or games that test and sharpen our minds.
Then it’s on to group activities for the rest of the morning that range from working on the garden we planted last year on the grounds to studying poverty or foreign newspaper headlines to group discussions or challenges. For example, a few weeks ago, we examined and discussed the many types of rhetoric and fallacies used in media, writing, etc. Then, we broke into two groups and went about two different ways of studying excerpts from books, politics, news, and fictional scenarios, trying to deduce which type was being used.
The morning portion culminates with a brief physical activity, ranging from games such as Wink or Knockout to attempting to find equal balance on an off-kilter platform holding all twenty of us or trying to squeeze fellow teens through a spider web of rope without ringing the bell attached to said rope. Needless to say, that bell went off. Multiple times.
The stroke of noon signals lunch followed by free time, during which we teens essentially have two unstructured hours to schedule as we please. Within OC guidelines, of course.
Then finally, from two to four, we split up into three or four groups and go about our afternoon sessions. These vary greatly in subject matter and last for five consecutive weeks. I am currently three weeks into a “Geography Challenge” session, where we study different aspects of geography while also learning about the function of our brains in relation to memory. Before that? The Assassination of JKF and the conspiracies surrounding the event. Like I said, varied.
What I love the most about OC is actually quite simple: the environment and the vibe which that environment gives off. When I arrive at OC, I instantly feel comfortable and happy. It feels like nothing can touch me. It’s like being at a close friend’s house, except that friend’s house happens to be a giant community. I’m always up for challenges when I’m there and know that I will be both supported and helped develop in areas if and when I experience roadblocks. OC is like a second home, and the level of comfort I feel within the realm of OC is bested only by that of my own humble abode.