If you homeschool, there may come a day when you decide you don’t want to go it alone.  You’d like to join a few other families and learn together in a co-op.

We’ve joined three different co-ops during our homeschool tenure thus far, and we’ve learned quite a bit about how co-ops do and don’t fit into our homeschool.  If you’re thinking of joining a co-op, here are some things to consider:

Is this a mainly academic co-op?  Some co-ops are strictly academic, and you will likely have to set aside your own homeschooling to complete all of the assignments required of the co-op.  Some families love this and find that having a co-op to attend motivates them and gets them more excited to learn.  For our family, we found these types of co-ops restrictive.  We much prefer doing our learning independent of a co-op.  We like to choose what subjects to study and what materials to use.

Is this a mainly extracurricular co-op?  In these co-ops, families gather to do fun activities together.  We belonged to a co-op like this and really enjoyed it.  The girls took dance and art; Bookworm took street hockey and magnetic experiments.  We did our own academic work at home, and one day a week we met for co-op and fun extracurriculars.  Some families may not like this type of co-op because they may see it as a drag on school time.

What are the rules of the co-op?  Of the three co-ops we have attended, one was VERY strict.  Everything was spelled out in a 30+ page handbook, and there were even uniforms required.  Another had a mid-level number of rules, and the third did not have very many rules at all.  I preferred the mid-level co-op because there were enough rules to maintain order and structure, but not so many that I felt micromanaged.

What is your responsibility as a parent?  Co-ops vary in their parental responsibility.  Some co-ops require that the parent volunteers to teach one class; other co-ops do not require parents volunteer.  In each of the co-ops we attended, parents were required to volunteer in some capacity.  I’ve done everything from teaching preschoolers to teaching high school literature and composition.  Remember when you join a co-op that your own requirement will take time to plan and execute.  I often found that the preparation I needed for volunteering at the co-op took several hours time away from my own family and homeschooling.

A co-op can be a great addition to the homeschool day IF you choose the right co-op for your family’s learning style and you are aware of the time commitment on both yourself as a volunteer and your children.

If you homeschool, are you part of a co-op?

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