In the last vlog I talked about hybrid homeschooling, where you can be in a classroom part time and home the rest of the time. It can be a great way to learn for some families. But for those who are “full time” homeschoolers, there can be other options to get your children involved with others, providing opportunities to do group work and subjects that are more fun with others. These are homeschool co-ops.
WHAT IS A HOMESCHOOL CO-OP?
A homeschool co-op is a group of families who come together on a regular basis to work together toward similar goals, which can be based on socialization, education, activities, or any combination of these. As homeschooling is becoming even more popular, so are co-ops.
There are different types of homeschool co-ops:
- Enrichment (education and socialization)
- Parents joining together to educate their children
- Joining together to hire a teacher for a subject or subjects
WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO JOIN A HOMESCHOOL CO-OP?
A homeschool co-op can help both parents and students alike. And they can be a lot of fun! They can:
- expand the knowledge base of an individual homeschool parent (parents sharing ideas with each other)
- provide student opportunities that are better in a group setting (like PE)
- provide opportunities for group learning/collaboration
- allow socialization and connection for all involved (children and parents) – that is, community!
- Get you outside of the house and enrich your learning with activities
HOW DO YOU JOIN A CO-OP?
Co-ops usually have openings at certain times during the school year. Many co-ops take applications for new members during the summer, before the fall semester begins.
Sometimes co-ops will hold an open house so that interested parents can observe classes, meet the teachers and other parents, and find out more information about the co-op before committing.
Co-ops might be secular or religious, so you do want to make sure it fits your academic, social and spiritual needs.
Most co-ops do have a cost associated with it. It might be a per child fee, or a per family fee. If you are paying for teachers, the cost will be greater than the co-ops where the parents share the teaching/instruction load.
WHERE CAN I FIND A LOCAL CO-OP?
There are places online where you can search for local co-ops. Many have an online presence or have been listed with others. But quite frankly, word of mouth is often best. Just ask other homeschooling parents what local co-ops they know of. This is also a good time to find out what co-op they might be part of and why.
DO YOU HAVE TO JOIN A CO-OP?
No, you do not. Many families don’t. But when you find a like-minded group of parents with similar educational goals, they really are a blessing. If your week is already jam packed with events, sports, etc and you struggle to find time to complete your school work, then by no means add something else to your plate. If it is going to stress you out teaching a subject to a small group, don’t join one where a requirement is parental involvement. There are many options – and one is to NOT join a co-op at all.
WHY DO I LOVE BEING PART OF A CO-OP?
I am very grateful that I was told about, and invited to, the homeschool co-op we are part of. I love that it is an outside one. We meet in public parks, and often we are there for hours at the end playing with friends and eating lunch.
For me personally, I have been able to meet an amazing bunch of mothers who are like minded in various aspects of homeschooling. I also love that we all differ in how we do it – some are strong on using curriculum, others are more eclectic, and it doesn’t matter that I unschool more than anything else. We are able to encourage each other and challenge each other in our thinking.
For my girls I love that they are meeting other children outside of our usual social settings (though I guess I would now say that this is a usual social setting for us). They are trying new things. They get to discuss different subjects with friends. And they get dirty and sweaty and have a marvelous time doing it.
Besides our rotating group lessons, we do have field trips, public speaking opportunities and parties. We even have a Maker’s Market, where the children get to make and sell their own items. (My girls love this!)
So, do you have to join a co-op? No. But there is every chance that if you do, you will enjoy it and it will enrich all of your lives. Homeschool co-ops truly can be a wonderful part of your homeschool journey.