Homeschool co-ops are one of our favorite ways to lighten the educating load and provide valuable socialization for our home-educated children. (Click here to learn more about the benefits of homeschool co-ops!) Thinking of starting or joining your own co-op? Here are five things to keep in mind before you get started:
All subjects and topics are possible in a homeschool co-op.
Whether you are looking to cover core subjects, such as history or science, or creative classes like drama or art, it can all be done in a co-op setting. Some co-ops are scheduled as all-day classes where families can choose the subjects that interest you and your child—and only join in for those specific classes. Other co-ops must be committed to as a set. Find a local co-op that suits your needs or find like-minded parents who can help you create a system that works for you all.
You and your child will be busier.
Co-ops usually take over most of at least one day of your week. They also involve travel, planning, preparation, and homework that will take up more of you and your child’s time. This type of schedule often ends up regulating the rest of the week’s activities. (Because you now have an obligation you must plan around!) Depending on the type of homeschool curriculum you use, you might not have time for a co-op. For example some “school at home” programs are laid out to be done five days a week, and a co-op will likely not fit into that schedule. Additionally, many virtual schools require kids to sign in at a specific time. Because a co-op typically takes a whole day out of your week, it doesn’t allow for other school work to be done at the same time. If your current school schedule is flexible, though, a co-op can be a great way to add some structure and keep you accountable the whole week through.
You and your child might become aware of academic weaknesses or developmental delays when compared to their peers.
This is an important conversation that goes beyond co-ops. It’s very important to understand that every child learns at their own pace—and that is absolutely okay! In fact, it’s one of the best things about homeschooling. Some families, however, can become intimidated by this possibility. It’s important not to ignore a problem that can be helped with therapy and professional assistance, and to remember that you are not running out of time (even if you feel like another child is moving “faster” than your own).
Find your tribe.
There are many differences with families within the homeschool community—differences in academic expectations, parenting styles, and family values. Some families are very relaxed in their academic goals, while others are looking for a more traditional school-like environment. Parenting styles also differ. When looking for a co-op, consider these questions: Are you okay with another adult correcting your child, even in your presence? Will the group match your family’s beliefs and values? Will evolution or creationism be taught, or will the science curriculum be “neutral”? Will the history curriculum being used have a Judeo-Christian worldview? Will the group be inclusive of different cultures, religions, and ethnicities?
Additional questions to ask a co-op you are thinking of joining:
- Do all parents teach?
- Are siblings invited to participate?
- Do parents stay in the room or are we free to leave?
- What fees are involved?
- Will the subjects and curriculum align with your family’s values and beliefs?