There are many reasons to consider joining a homeschool co-op. A co-op can be an invaluable source of support for homeschool parents who work outside the home. They can also provide enrichment opportunities or be used to supplement what parents are teaching their kids at home.
What Is a Homeschool Co-Op?
A homeschool co-op is not the same as a homeschool support group. A support group usually serves as a resource for parents and hosts monthly meetings and field trips like park days or dances.
A homeschool co-op, short for cooperative, is a group of homeschool families that join to share in the education of their children. Homeschool co-ops offer classes for students and usually require parent participation. Don't expect to drop your kids off at classes or activities. In most cases, parents are actively involved in teaching classes, caring for younger children, or helping with cleaning and other tasks.
In other cases, parents may pool their financial resources to hire instructors for the courses offered by the co-op. This option can be more costly but can be an accessible way to get expert help.
Homeschool co-ops can vary in size from a small co-op of only two or three families to a large, organized setting with paid instructors.
What Are the Benefits?
A homeschool co-op can help both parents and students alike. They can help expand the knowledge base of an individual homeschool parent, allow parents to share their expertise with others, and provide student opportunities that would be difficult to achieve outside a group setting.
1. Promote Group Learning
A homeschool co-op provides an opportunity for homeschooled children to experience learning in a group atmosphere. Young students learn skills such as raising their hands to speak, taking turns, and waiting in lines. Older students learn more advanced group skills, such as collaborating with others on projects, class participation, and public speaking. Children of all ages learn to take instruction from someone other than a parent and to respect teachers and fellow students.
A homeschool co-op can also make what might be a boring class at home alone a much more enjoyable endeavor. It's a relief for students not to be the one expected to give all the answers. It's also a learning experience for them to get other students' input and perspective.
2. Opportunities to Socialize
Homeschool co-ops provide socialization opportunities for both the parent and the student. Meeting on a weekly basis provides students with the opportunity to forge friendships.
Unfortunately, students may also discover that a co-op presents the opportunity to learn to deal with peer pressure, bullies, and uncooperative students. However, even this downside can lead to valuable lessons that will help kids develop the skills they need to deal with future school and workplace situations.
A regular co-op schedule also allows moms and dads to meet other homeschooling parents. They can encourage one another, ask questions, or share ideas.
3. Shared Expenses and Equipment
Some subjects require equipment or supplies that can be expensive for a single family to purchase, such as a microscope or quality lab equipment. A homeschool co-op allows for shared expenses and pooling of available resources.
If it is necessary to hire an instructor for classes that parents feel unqualified to teach, such as a foreign language or a high school level science course, the expense can be shared among participating families. This makes it possible for many parents to provide top-quality classes.
4. Some Classes Are Difficult to Teach at Home
For younger students, homeschool co-ops may offer enrichment classes or those that require more preparation and clean up than everyday studies. These courses may include science, cooking, music, art, or unit studies.
Homeschool co-op classes for older students often include lab sciences, such as biology or chemistry, advanced math, writing, or foreign language. There are often opportunities for students to take classes that function better with a group, such as drama, physical education, or orchestra.
Because someone outside your immediate family is setting the schedule, a homeschool co-op can provide a level of accountability. This accountability makes co-op an excellent option for classes that may fall by the wayside at home.
Students learn to take deadlines seriously and stay on schedule. Even students who don't mind telling a parent that they “forgot” their homework are usually much more reluctant to make such an admission when called on in a classroom setting.
While homeschool co-ops aren't for everyone, many families find that sharing the load, even with only two or three other families, has benefits for everyone involved.
Edited by Kris Bales