To Co-Op or Not to Co-Op – FAH episode 20

To Co-Op or Not to Co-Op

Homeschooling is primarily a family endeavor. Even the name “homeschooling” has the word “home” in it! One of its greatest benefits is the ability to customize one-on-one instruction with your children instead of the less personal group instruction they’d get in an institutional school.

So would it be inconsistent to move some of your homeschooling back out of the home and into a homeschool co-op? Not at all! Co-ops aren’t a good fit for some families, but they’re a great blessing to others. Of course, participating in a co-op (a short form of “cooperative”) requires that you cooperate. You have to give up some flexibility in exchange for sharing the planning, activities, and teaching, but the trade-off can be worth it.

Co-ops can range from very informal to highly structured. Some co-ops focus on field trips, activities, and enrichment, while some cover a few academic subjects, and others cover all academic subjects, often with a full day of classes every week.

I’ve just begun my 19th year of homeschooling. Some years we homeschooled completely on our own, and some years we were in more casual co-ops for a few subjects. For the past 9 years we’ve been part of a formal classical co-op that was a huge blessing to our family, but this year we’re flying solo again. So I’ve had the opportunity to experience the many pros and cons of co-ops.

First, here are some of the many benefits of co-ops:

  • fellowship / community / socialization
  • accountability for both parents and students
  • structure
  • sharing the load of lesson planning and teaching
  • learning from other parent-teachers in a classroom setting (good preparation for college!)
  • delegating messy hands-on activities like oil painting or science labs
  • expert instruction in advanced subjects like chemistry or rhetoric
  • opportunities to make speeches and present projects to a group
  • group discussion

Of course, there are disadvantages too:

  • less flexible schedule
  • less customization of curriculum for individual students
  • may focus on co-op subjects and neglect at-home subjects
  • socialization may bring peer pressure
  • some instructors aren’t as good as others
  • cost—time and/or money
  • can over-delegate and become too dependent on co-op teachers

Participating in a co-op can be a help, a joy, and a blessing, OR it can become a hindrance, a crutch, and a burden. There is NO One Right Way to Homeschool. You have to decide what is best for your family. Consider your strengths and weaknesses, what kind of help you may need, what kind of schedule and commitment are a good fit, and what your local options are.

Whether or not you choose to join a co-op, I encourage you to be involved in some kind of local support group. It can be a wonderful source of fellowship, encouragement, and sharing ideas.

Have you participated in a homeschool co-op? How has that worked out for your family? I’d love for you to leave a comment and share your experience with us!

Remember, you’ll find encouragement and practical tips for managing your busy life as a homeschooling family in my book, Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms, available at FlourishAtHome.com.

Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms

 

 

Comments

  1. Mary Jo, I really liked your list of pros and cons. In my list of pros and cons in my book, Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out, my chapter on disadvantages is longer than the list on advantages of co-ops! Ha! I believes in going into a co-op with your eyes wide open.
    Your sage advice about over delegating and becoming too dependent on co-ops is very important to remember.
    As I see more 3-day a week co-ops, and more parents of very young children enrolling in co-ops, I get concerned too. I’m afraid they are missing the joy and freedom of homeschooling.

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