Have you ever wondered what a homeschool co-op is and whether you should be a part of one? Co-op means co-operative. At its most simple function, a co-op is a partnership between families, working together to educate their children. While all co-ops share this same basic goal, no two co-ops are exactly alike. These examples of specific homeschool co-ops, give you a sense for how broadly the term can be applied.
For 31 weeks, dozens of families meet together at a local church each Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Kids choose from a variety of classes that are offered during 6 class periods.
Once a month, three families get together a local park to complete an art project.
Every other Thursday, over the course of 8 months, five families meet in each other’s homes for 2 hours so their children can learn important life skills and do a physical fitness activity together.
- A few families meet daily for a couple of weeks for a US history cram camp to prepare for a field trip to Washington D.C.
When children are young, many moms take part in playdates and playgroups. Co-ops can been seen as the next logical step for homeschoolers, but instead of getting together to play, families come together so their kids can complete lessons with their friends.
Deciding Whether a Homeschool Co-op Is Right for You
This part is a bit trickier. As wonderful as co-ops can be, they’re not right for every family.
When kids are young, co-ops offer a couple of huge benefits. First is the social aspect. Kids get to spend time with their friends on a regular basis, which they love. Also, classes are often focused on exploratory learning and filled with hands-on activities. Fun!
Once children reach high school, the reasons to join a co-op often change. While there is still plenty of fun, families often search out co-ops that offer classes that students need for required credits. Popular classes include those that are more challenging to do alone at home, like public speaking and lab sciences.
Questions to Ask When Considering a Homeschool Co-op
Being a part of a co-op, regardless of the size, requires commitment. You should never jump into one without serious consideration. Here are some questions for you to think about.
1. What size group do you want?
Are you looking for a large group with many families and a wide variety of options or would you and your child be happier getting together with a couple of friends in a more intimate setting?
2. How often can you meet?
Are you interested in meeting every week or do you have room in your schedule only for a class every other week or even once a month?
3. What kind of class choices do you want?
How many classes are you looking for? Do you want an all day classroom experience or just one or two lessons?
Do you want your students to have access to core subjects like history, math, and science or are you more interested in electives such as life skills, art, and LEGOs?
4. Where do you want to meet?
If you’re looking at a co-op that meets in a static location such as a community center or house of worship, will the distance be a hassle over the course of the year?
If you’re thinking smaller and want to join with a couple of friends, you’ll need to figure out a place to meet. Is someone willing to open up her home for your scheduled class times? Or is there a local park or facility you could use?
5. Can you afford extra costs?
Some of the larger groups charge a registration fee when you sign up to cover miscellaneous costs as well as the location rental. In addition, there might also be class fees. While these costs usually aren’t exorbitant, you do need to factor them into your homeschool budget?
6. What will you contribute to the group?
A co-op works best when everyone is active in some way. Will you teach a class? Watch the younger children? Help gather needed materials? Plan field trips? It’s best to have an idea of what you’re willing and able to offer when you evaluate potential co-ops.
Consider the Pros and Cons of Homeschool Co-Ops
By sharing the instructional load, you won’t have to teach your children every lesson.
It’s a great way to handle the messier classes and activities like science labs and art projects.
Kids get to learn along with their friends.
It’s a great way to involve adults mentors into your kid’s lives.
Many co-ops plan additional fun activities for kids and parents like field trips and mom’s nights out.
Often there is a financial cost required for co-op participation.
The course selection may not interest your kids or fit into your overall homeschooling plan.
The co-op may use a different curriculum than you prefer.
The commitment of time and travel may be more than you’re willing to give.
Everyone is human, so conflicts are bound to arise, even if your co-op only includes friends.
So, is a co-op right for your family? Only you can answer that. Overall though, co-ops can be a great option for homeschoolers at least for a season of the homeschool journey.