“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.