Has your family considered joining a homeschool co op? A homeschool co op can be a wonderful blessing and support to homeschooling families. Find out everything you need to know about homeschool co-ops and if they would be a good fit for your family.
This post is part of the Homeschooling 101 - All You Need to Know About Homeschooling Your Kids Series
- The Many Benefits of Homeschooling Your Children
- Deschooling: Transitioning to Learning at Home
- How to Create a Homeschool Space Your Kids Will Love
- How to Start Homeschooling: All You Need to Know
- Homeschool Record Keeping: What You Need to Know
- How to Create a Homeschooling Schedule That Works
- This Post: Homeschool Co-Ops: Everything You Need to Know
Homeschool Co Op
If you are new to homeschooling you may be looking into homeschool support groups or considering joining a homeschool co-op. Maybe you are leaving a private school or public school and you are concerned your children will miss their friends and socialization. Joining a homeschooling co-op will help to fill that need. If you have already learned what you need need to know about how to homeschool your kids, then exploring a co-op is great next step.
Different Types of Homeschool Groups
There are many different types of local homeschool groups. Do you need a group for special needs children? Maybe you prefer a secular group or a faith-based group that requires you to sign a statement of faith before you join. Do you prefer a certain style of teaching or methodology? Yes, there are co-ops for those as well! There are even relaxed groups that do various field trips or nature study using nature notebooks. Some groups just meet for scheduled park days.
Educational Homeschool Groups
Do you feel like your children are missing out on a classroom setting? Do they desire to do some work with their friends or see the same people once-a-week or on a consistent basis? Maybe they have never been in a school setting and need to practice listening to another adult and being held accountable for their work and actions outside of the home.
A homeschool co-op can help meet many of these types of needs and provide consistency and fun for all.
What is a homeschool co-op?
A homeschool co-op is a group of homeschool families that come together to collectively teach their children in a group setting. These may include core classes such as science, history or literature. They can also include electives or enrichment classes.
Co-op classes can be taught by the parents themselves, or the homeschool co op can pay teachers that have expertise in the subject to come in and teach it.
Many co-ops follow a traditional school calendar and meet after Labor Day and end before Memorial Day. They meet consistently on the same day each week.
A homeschool co-op adds to the social aspect of your homeschooling experience. Many co-op classes are broken down into age groups so your children will be working alongside other children that are close to their age. This is a great way to make friends and to have more weekly social time with other kids and families that are like minded.
Is a homeschool co-op worth it?
A homeschool co-op offers many opportunities for children and their parents. Many co-ops include homeschool field trips, special learning days, field days, water days, guest speakers, and even mom’s nights out. If your family is able to make the commitment to to participate, it can be a very rewarding experience.
Many families feel like a co-op gives them a break from their homeschool and teaching once a week. Homeschooling co ops give students many enrichment opportunities and experience with attending classes in a group setting.
Co-Ops for Hard to Teach Subjects
A co-op can help you to get some things done that you wouldn’t normally be able to do at home, such as advanced science experiments or group projects. It also comes with a chance to develop some life long friendships for your children and for yourself.
If you are able to commit to be out of the house at the same time on the same day each week for a full school year, then the rewards may be worth it for you. If you are willing to pay the dues or fees and are willing to teach, then you will reap the benefits from a homeschool co-op setting.
What is a homeschool hybrid?
A homeschool hybrid is basically where you send your children to a brick and mortar type of school or classroom setting 1-3 times a week. Their school work is assigned and sent home to complete on the off days. Schoolwork is typically graded at the “school” and there isn’t a lot of extra work for the parent.
Homeschool hybrids often take the pressure off homeschool record keeping as the logging of grades and attendance is often done for you. Of course, you’ll still need to keep track of your student’s homeschool portfolio and other requirements.
This is a great alternative if you have working parents that don’t have time to create lesson plans and assign work. It works well for students that need a teacher to answer to. Additionally, it’s helpful for students that may need help managing their time and completing their assignments according to a schedule.
A hybrid co-op is also a wonderful choice for college bound students, as most of the class offerings are college preparatory in style. It helps to teach responsibility as there may be many deadlines for tests and projects that would not normally happen in a homeschool setting.
What are the different types of homeschool co-ops?
- Homeschool hybrid – as we discussed above, this is a co-op where your children are taught by teachers or other parents at a school or location where they are dropped off. The rest of their homework and assignments are completed at home on the other days.
- Academic co-op – this is a co-op where the core subjects are taught by a certified teacher, or a teacher with years of experience or schooling in that subject. Usually high school math, science with labs, history with projects and literature or writing classes are offered.
- Enrichment co-op – this type of co-op may offer a mix of academic style and enrichment classes. Most of these will be fun, hands-on science or stem projects. Example classes may include a LEGO club, nature study, poetry, music, any of the fine arts.
What is taught at a homeschool co-op?
A variety of classes can be taught at a homeschool co-op depending on the interests and styles of the families that are involved. Some of the most common classes that are taught in a co-op setting are:
- Book club
- LEGO or STEM building classes
- Creative Writing
- Fine Arts Study – art appreciation, music appreciation
- Nature Study or Nature Journaling
- High School Classes or Electives
Who is in charge of a homeschool co-op?
A homeschool co-op is usually ran by one or two homeschool moms that originally had the idea of the co-op and created the vision for it. They will help find other parents to share their vision and to assist teach.
When a co-op grows, which often happens once the word gets out, a more formal board of directors may need to be formed.
A co-op board of directors helps to make some of the larger decisions regarding how the group is ran. They would be the liaison between the co-op and the place it is being hosted at. They help come up with a code of conduct, the statement of faith, any rules and requirements, teaching assignments, liability insurance, collecting dues etc.
The board members share the duties of collecting money and paperwork, hosting meetings, answering emails etc… They work together to take the pressure off of just one or two moms having to handle all the important details.
What are some of the requirements to join a homeschool co-op?
Requirements may differ depending on the type and style of homeschool co op, but most require these things:
- Statement of faith – many faith based co-ops require their members to sign a statement of faith to make sure everyone is on the same page with their belief systems.
- Annual membership fee – most co-ops collect a membership fee or family dues. These are spread out to purchase supplies, pay teachers, pay a facility or cleaning fee, or purchase liability insurance.
- Student code of conduct – many groups write up a code of conduct so the students know what is expected of them while they are at co-op. These are usually signed by the children and their parents.
- Teaching assignments/volunteering – most co-ops require their parents to sign up to teach a class, assist in a class, help out in nursery or preschool, or sign up to plan events, or field trips.
What to Consider When Starting a Homeschool Co-Op
When you are first starting a homeschool co-op there are some questions you may want to think about first.
- What type or style of co-op do you want to have? Do you want to adhere to a certain style of teaching? Do you want to offer academic classes or enrichment classes or a mix of both?
- Is your co-op going to be a drop off teacher paid co-op, or parent led co-op where everyone has to pitch in to make it run smoothly?
- How large do you want your co-op to be? Some co-ops choose to have a cap on the amount of students or families to keep paperwork and organization more simple.
- What types of group activities do you want to have? You will need to assign planners for these activities to make sure that they happen. Field trips and holiday parties are great things to include in a co-op.
- Do you have a place to meet? Some co-ops struggle with finding a meeting place. Many places require liability insurance, so you will want to make sure you look into that as you are searching for a location. Do you have a church that is willing to host you or do you need to look for libraries or community centers to hold your classes at?
The Difference Between a Homeschool Co Op and a Homeschool Support Group
There are similarities between a general homeschool group and a co-op, but there are also differences. Let’s look at them both.
A homeschool co op fills different needs for different families. It usually meets once a week and has a classroom-style to it. There is not normally extra time for talking and fellowship because classes and hands-on activities are happening. Most co-ops do offer extra events for support and socialization, but the majority of the meeting times are done once a week on co-op meeting days.
Homeschool Support Group
A homeschool support group may be more relaxed with less commitment. It’s easier to fit a laid-back homeschool group day into your homeschool schedule because they are often not super strict with attendance. They may meet weekly at a local park for fellowship and encouragement and play times, but they may not have meeting requirements. If you are able to come out, just come out and have fun.
It is within these more relaxed meeting times where a support system can start to develop within the homeschooling community. There is more time to talk and encourage one another when the kids are busy playing and the parents don’t have to assist or teach something.
How to Know if a Homeschool Co Op is Right for You
Now that you know what a homeschool co-op is, it’s time to evaluate if joining one is a good idea for your family.
Evaluating Your Educational Needs
Before you make the decision to join a co-op you really need to evaluate the educational needs of your homeschool. You may already have your homeschool plan in place at home. Have you already purchased your curriculum and books? Then you may find out the co-op is doing a class that you don’t need or one that you did the previous year.
Sometimes the co-ops educational plan doesn’t match up with what your student needs to graduate. Other times your student may have already taken the offered classes. It can be tricky to line up an academic co-op with what you need in your own homeschool.
Decide if you need or want an academic co-op, or if you prefer an hands-on, enrichment style co-op instead. There are many options that may or may not be a good fit for your family.
Core Classes or Electives
Does the co-op offer the classes you need? High school students may need extra help with academic classes in a classroom setting. Popular classes that are offered in a small group of high schoolers is usually science or history. Students can do experiments and hands-on activities together that you may not be able to do at home.
Additionally, your student may also need electives. Electives, along with core subjects are often offered that you can check off your student’s credit list!
Some co-ops pay teachers to come in and teach the harder subjects and allow drop offs for older students. That is not always the case though. Most co-ops require parents to work cooperatively together to teach their children.
This can require parent meetings, planning meetings, and extra work like planning lessons. If you are not able to assist or teach a class, then it may not be a good fit for you. Often you cannot join a co-op unless you can help out at some level.
Does the co-op offer extracurricular activities such as park days, field trips, or holiday parties? Some host monthly events and social events to get together outside of a classroom setting. Often time co-ops offer field trips and other activities. You can even participate in a mom’s night out in some groups.
If the co-op has these extra activities available to you, it will make it easier to plan your school year. You and your kids will get to see your friends more often. These extra events give you something to look forward to. They also provide opportunities that you may feel is lacking from not going to a school.
Being a part of a homeschool co-op can be a huge blessing in the life of a homeschooling family. Yet it isn’t for everyone. There is always a season for every family. There may be some years that you want to take a break and spend more time at home.
Whichever you decide, the beauty of homeschooling is that you can make the decision and choose what is best for your family each new school year.
Sarah is a wife, daughter of the King and Mama to 4 children (one who is a homeschool graduate)! She is a an eclectic, Charlotte Mason style homeschooler that has been homeschooling for almost 20 years.. She is still trying to find the balance between work and keeping a home and says she can only do it by the Grace of God, and Coffee!