I have been homeschooling for so long that most of my friends and family are homeschoolers or at least homeschool-friendly. Honestly, I haven’t heard the question about socialization in so long that I forgot it was an issue. Today, I saw a Facebook acquaintance post a question to her friends, asking what kind of school they would choose for their kids. Every single one who said they would consider homeschooling mentioned joining a co-op for socialization as some sort of disclaimer.
When I began homeschooling my sons at the ages of three and five, we joined a homeschool co-op for this exact reason. In a world of homeschool haters, joining a co-op gives you a way to say, “Look! My kids socialize! My kids sit in a classroom at least once a week!”
We joined a secular co-op that met once a week for laid-back, academic classes. Co-ops are great for making new friends, learning in a group environment, and taking advantage of group rates on field trips. We loved being part of our co-op while it worked.
But then, two years ago, it no longer worked for us. Rather than try to find a better fit, we decided to leave the world of homeschool co-ops behind for a while. Here are my reasons.
1. Homeschool Co-Op Took Too Much Time
While classes only meet once a week for a few hours, co-ops rely on the support of all the members. Teaching classes is rewarding and a lot of fun, but very time-consuming! Our family had so many other opportunities and obligations that I found it difficult to juggle planning classes, buying supplies, and helping with administrative duties. Co-op took over my life, and my sons’ education suffered for it.
2. Homeschool Co-Op Was Expensive
Though most co-ops are run completely by parent volunteers, they can still get pricey. There are typically supply fees, field trip costs, and building fees. As my kids got older, the cost increased and we realized there were other classes and opportunities they would like to try that the co-op money could be used for.
3. Homeschool Co-Op Had Drama
Any time you get a large group of people together, you will get personality conflicts. My sons had a great time with their friends, but I had a hard time dealing with some of the other parents. It’s okay to have disagreements and prefer some members over others, but when you get to a point where you dread each weekly meeting, it might be time to say goodbye.
What have I gained by leaving co-op behind? Time! We are no longer rushing around every single day. We have at least two days every school week that are devoted to being at home, reading, learning, and enjoying being together. We also have time for play dates with our friends, days at the museum, and volunteering.
In addition to time in our homeschool, I’ve gained personal time, too. I no longer need to spend 100% of my time being a homeschooler. I get some downtime to be myself: to invest in my own interests, read books for fun, and focus on my needs.
I am grateful for the friends we made through co-op and the support we received as new homeschoolers. As my boys get older, we may choose to join a more academic co-op where they can learn different subjects. But right now we need the freedom to learn away from the group. Don’t worry, though, they still get plenty of socialization even without a homeschool co-op.
About the Author
Stephanie Black is a writer and homeschool mama of two boys in Indianapolis, IN. Along with her husband and feisty rescue dog, they enjoy hiking, road tripping, and loudly singing 90s rock music.