Is a Homeschool Co-op a Good Option for Your Family?

Are homeschool co-ops a good fit for your family? |

 

There are so many advantages to belonging to a homeschool co-op such as socialization, learning from others, group interaction, and support, but perhaps you are asking, “Is it a good option for my family?” and “Am I ready for the commitment?”

Socialization

The most apparent benefit of a homeschool co-op is socialization. Most co-ops meet once or twice a week, giving students a “taste” of group learning without being overwhelming. They are a great place to make friends.

Learning from Another Adult

The other parents who volunteer as teachers and helpers in a co-op serve as role models, mentors and teachers. I think it is very healthy for children to have adults they respect outside their own family. Children will learn from college professors and trainers in the workplace someday, so a homeschool co-op helps them learn from different types of people.

Group Interaction

Co-ops provide a wonderful opportunity for your student to engage in group discussions and other classes that work best in a group setting including performing plays, public speaking, gym games, and choir. These types of learning opportunities cannot be done as well in a home setting, but they work beautifully in a homeschool co-op.

Encouragement

One co-op director believes that if a co-op helps even one mother to continue homeschooling, then all the work has been worthwhile. Specifically, she tries to support parents of high school students, many of whom drop out of homeschooling because the subject material grows more difficult at the high school level.

Another homeschool co-op offers a room for mothers to eat, talk and share each other’s burdens. Mothers feel free to share their homeschooling struggles because this group understands them without condemnation.

Time commitment

But co-ops come at a cost and have challenges as well. A commitment to joining a co-op will involve your time on co-op day itself. Joining a co-op means that others are depending upon you to uphold your commitment to teach or help in a class. If you do not show up at co-op one week, someone else will need to fill the gap. If you skip too many times, you may even be asked to leave the group!

Money

In addition to a time commitment, co-ops require money. While most of the co-ops keep costs low, a co-op cannot run without charging some fees. Overall, co-oping provides tremendous benefits for the money, but some homeschoolers are financially strapped and find even a small fee difficult to manage.

There are homeschool organizations that hire teachers and do not require the parents to volunteer. The cost of these programs is significantly higher than an all-volunteer homeschool co-op. Realize that you will pay with time, money, or perhaps some of each.

Structure

Some co-ops have a very school-like structure or require agreement to rules and policies. If you are a free spirit or an unschooler, you may not feel comfortable with too much structure. Before joining, visit the co-op in action to get a sense of the surroundings and the rules. You may decide that the benefits outweigh the negative feelings of a structured environment, or you may conclude that you can live with a little structure once a week.

Belonging to a homeschool co-op can have some challenges, but can bring significant benefits. Most homeschool parents find that co-oping is worth the commitment and expense. Understand the expectations before you join in to get the best out of your experience.


Carol Topp, CPA author of Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out is a retired homeschool mother who participated in homeschool co-ops for over 10 years. She now uses her accounting skills to help homeschool organizations at her website www.HomeschoolCPA.com. Carol’s podcast for the Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network is called Dollars and Sense.

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