“So, do you belong to a homeschool co-op?”
It’s almost always the first question I am asked when I tell someone we homeschool. I think it’s probably because a co-op is the closest thing to a traditional classroom setting that people can think of when they try to envision what homeschooling is. I think they are also worried about whether our children are socialized.
Co-ops are a great option for many families, but just like with everything else, they’re not right for everyone. In this post, I’ll cover the pros and cons of co-ops, different types of co-ops, and how you can decide if one is right for your family.
Want to hear how my family has participated in homeschool co-ops? In episode 53 of the All in a Homeschool Day podcast, I talk about why we didn’t join a homeschool co-op for many years, what we did instead, and why we finally joined one. Take a listen and find out.
What is a Homeschool Co-op
A homeschool co-op is a group of parents who work together to provide learning experiences for their children. Some co-ops are led by parents who volunteer their time and knowledge while others are led by paid teachers.
Classes and activities offered through a co-op vary widely and can include academics, enrichment activities and subjects, and support meetings for parents. Homeschool co-ops are just as varied as the homeschool families who participate.
Benefits of a Homeschool Co-op
There are many benefits of joining a homeschool co-op. Some benefits include:
- You can take advantage of everyone’s specialized knowledge or skills.
- There’s a built in community you see every week.
- Your children can receive help in subjects you don’t feel qualified to teach.
- Co-ops provide accountability to accomplish lessons on time.
For some families, these benefits alone outweigh the drawbacks.
Drawbacks of a Homeschool Co-op
As great as homeschool co-ops are for many families, there are drawbacks to participating in one. Some drawbacks include:
- Some co-ops have strict attendance policies.
- It may be difficult to find one that matches your philosophy of education.
- The environment could be overwhelming for some families.
- It may be difficult to find one that provides classes or activities in which you want to participate.
Types of Homeschool Co-ops
There are a variety of options for homeschool co-ops. They typically fall under two types of classifications—academic or enrichment.
All co-ops are different, but listed below are characteristics of most academic co-ops.
- An academic co-op generally meets weekly although some may meet every other week.
- They typically offer classes ranging from electives to core subjects, and often offer a combination of both.
- Most require registration and expect regular attendance. (Attendance policies vary widely.)
- While there are a few co-ops that allow you to drop your child off to attend a class with a paid teacher, most require a parent to be present and volunteer in some capacity.
All co-ops are different, but listed below are characteristics of many enrichment co-ops.
- An enrichment co-op is usually more laid back.
- The meeting frequency varies. An enrichment co-op could meet weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even only for special events.
- They generally do not require all moms to volunteer. Some might request that you be present.
- Enrichment co-ops typically do not offer classes in core academic subjects.
Some might consider the examples below clubs instead of co-ops, but parents are still working together to provide learning experiences for their children. Given how frequently one is asked if you participate in a co-op, it would be an accurate statement to say that you do participate in a co-op if you belong to one of the following groups.
- Nature study co-op
- Book clubs
- Field trip groups
- A group that gathers to learn about subjects you have trouble fitting into your regular schedule or are difficult to do alone such as PE, science experiments, or fine arts.
- A group who participates in service projects together
- A regular gathering of friends
- Homeschool Mom’s Day Out (take turns watching all of the kids while the other moms get a break)
How to Decide if a Co-op is a Good Fit
When deciding if a homeschool co-op would be a good fit for your family, you should evaluate it with your homeschool mission statement in mind. Ask questions such as:
- Will the co-op help you achieve the goals and objectives you identified for your homeschool?
- Does the co-op share a similar educational philosophy?
- Does the attendance policy compliment your homeschool schedule?
- Does the co-op provide a course you feel unqualified to teach?
- Does the co-op provide a social experience in which you want to participate?
- How much time will the homework for the co-op require? Will you have enough time to complete other lessons at home or will co-op homework consume your child’s school day? (It is okay if the answer to this question is that co-op homework consumes the majority of your child’s school week if you are okay with that.)
Take it year-by-year. Co-ops are a great experience for many families, but it’s okay if you decide one is not a good fit for your homeschool.
If you cannot find a co-op in your area that meets your needs, you could consider starting your own. You only need a couple of families you want to see regularly and a willingness to schedule the dates! The possibilities for what you do during your meeting time are endless and might provide just what your family needs.
Do you have questions about homeschooling?
Watch the FREE Homeschool 101 Workshop. It’s an on-demand workshop you can watch at your convenience.
Ready to start homeschooling but not sure how?
Check out the Homeschool Roadmap. It walks you through establishing your homeschool with confidence and joy, one step at a time.