Homeschool co-ops– if you’ve been homeschooling for any length of time, you’ve probably heard of them. Some folks love them and others…well, not so much. But chances are that if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to join a homeschool co-op, you will. You’ll see an advertisement in that local homeschool Facebook group or a friend will mention her co-op and invite you to bring your family.
But are homeschool co-ops right for everyone? There are several things you need to consider when you’re thinking of joining a homeschool co-op. Ask yourself these questions to determine whether or not a homeschool co-op is right for your family.
What is the co-op’s statement of faith, or do the participants obviously adhere to a specific worldview?
Even though we are Christians, we’ve been a part of co-op groups that weren’t primarily Christian. It was something I thought about and talked with my husband about, and we decided that, at the age of our kids, and because the co-op was not teaching any specific worldview that this was going to work for our family. There have been other times when we chose not to be involved in a group because of worldview beliefs.
Depending on the classes your kids are taking and the age that they are, it may matter what the worldview of the co-op is. Take time to read the website, check out the Facebook group if they have one, talk to the leadership, and talk with other members to determine if beliefs and worldview are going to be an issue for your family.
What are the ages of the kids in the co-op?
Find out what the age range in the co-op is. The first time we tried a co-op, there were many, many preschool, kindergarten, and young elementary aged kids. There were a few kids in the age group of my older kids, but not many. By mid-year they were complaining and pleading not to go to co-op. It just didn’t work out well for them because of the primary age of the kids in the group. Take some time to find out about the ages of the kids in the co-op. If you can, go and observe for a day and see the size of each age group.
What are the ages and stages of your kids?
In addition to considering the ages of the kids in the co-op, consider the ages and developmental levels of your own kids. When we tried our first co-op, my youngest was a preschooler. She was a very clingy preschooler. I helped in her classroom for part of the day, but when I left, she had a hard time. It made co-op days very difficult.
The next time we tried a co-op, my youngest was eight. It was a much better fit. Although she still wanted to be in the class with her sister, she didn’t have trouble being away from me for that amount of time. Younger kids also may have trouble in a co-op that is very structured. If the co-op allows, visit with the kids for a day before making the decision to join. That will help you to see if your kids are at a good age to do well in the co-op.
What is the schedule and do you have time for it?
I could never join a co-op that met every week for an all day time period. That doesn’t fit with our family and the way we work our schedule. On the other hand, I have friends who love their structured, once-a-week co-ops. The blessing of homeschooling is that it is flexible. Because of that, homeschool families work on different schedules, and what works for one family may not be a good fit for another.
Unfortunately, you can’t always figure this one out before you join the co-op. You may think that the every Tuesday from 9am to 3pm co-op sounds awesome. And you figure you’ll make it work somehow- even though your family is usually slow moving, late starting and less structured. Try to realistically consider how the co-op’s schedule is going to affect the way your family’s homeschooling works.
What are the expectations for the moms/parents?
We’ve been a part of drop-off co-ops. In these co-ops, we paid teachers who taught the classes, and I dropped the kids off and left. I only chose to do this when my kids were older. In another co-op, moms split up and taught the classes, having two hours of teaching and two hours of break time each week. But, we didn’t leave campus during the breaks. I have friends in other co-ops where all parents help or teach throughout the entire day of co-op.
Find out the ins and outs of what moms are expected to do in the homeschool co-op. You don’t want to be surprised with the need to prepare lessons and teach a group if that isn’t what you expected. And you need to decide if you want to be in a group where moms stick around and teach or help all day or if you want a drop-off co-op where you leave the kids to take classes for part of the day while you don’t stick around.
A homeschool co-op can be a blessing for your family. It can provide a fun environment where kids have the opportunity to learn and play with other homeschoolers. But it can also be a burden if the co-op isn’t a good fit. If you consider these things as you’re making your decision, you can determine whether or not a co-op is right for your family.
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