Confession time: I was very skeptical of homeschool co-ops. I assumed it would simply recreate the classroom setting. I thought it would be pointless. What could they learn there that I couldn’t teach them myself? You might have similar reservations. But SO MANY homeschoolers are part of co-ops. There has to be something good about them right? Let’s explore what a co-op is, and the pros and cons so that you can answer for yourself if you should join a homeschool co-op.
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What is a Homeschool Co-Op?
A homeschool co-op is simply a group of homeschooling families who come together once or twice a week to share in teaching each others children.
The actual organization can look very different from one group to another. Some co-ops are very informal and have a more unschooly atmosphere. Other co-ops are more structured (similar to a school), but parents do all the teaching.
Both have their merits. And plenty fall in-between the two or have a mix of things offered.
If you don’t want much structure, but want a place for making other homeschooling friends, then you should find a more relaxed co-op. Because these function more similarly to a play group or hang out for older kids, I’m not going to include further discussion here. It’s easy enough to figure out if this is the type of group you are looking for.
What does a structured co-op actually look like?
Structured co-ops offer a half day or full day of classes 1 to 2 days a week. The classes are taught by parents and most co-ops require parent volunteer hours in order to participate.
Some parents will teach classes, other work the nursery, monitor the halls, help at the welcome desk, etc. It takes a lot of work by a lot of people to make a structured co-op run well.
So expect to be required to have a volunteer position if you choose to sign-up with a structured co-op.
The classes offered at these co-ops ranges from fun preschool classes, art classes, science, music, baking, and more fun classes for elementary school students.
It’s good for younger students to get used to learning from other people too, not just you all the time!
Into middle and high school you’ll find more traditional academic classes like higher level math, science with labs, foreign language, etc. If there’s a subject you don’t feel qualified enough to teach, then you should seriously consider joining a co-op so that someone else can teach it for you!
What else does a structured co-op offer?
Aside from the weekly classes, many homeschool co-ops also offer opportunities to go on field trips, arrange play dates, participate in a field day, play sports, go to dances in middle school or prom in high school, and have a real high school graduation ceremony.
If you can find a co-op that offers more than just the classes, you will have found the perfect balance between homeschooling and traditional school. There are some great things about traditional school that kids miss out on when homeschooling, but a homeschool co-op can give your kids the opportunity to do those things while still getting all the benefits of homeschooling!
It really is a win-win if you can find the right co-op for your family.
If you want to have 1 or 2 days a week where your kids take classes then you should join a homeschool co-op that is structured and offers the classes you want. If you want to also have access to field trips and extracurricular activities then make sure you ask about those things when you research co-ops local to you.
Should you join a homeschool co-op?
YES! If you can find the right fit for your family, a homeschool co-op can be so beneficial.
Through a co-op both you and your kids can make friends, those friends that you SO NEED on this homeschool journey.
Related: Find Your Homeschool Tribe
I know it can feel daunting, especially if you’re an introvert like me, but it is so worth it to get to know other homeschoolers that you can connect with and build friendships with.
Step out of your comfort zone and ask around in homeschool groups to find the co-op that’s right for you!
How We Started with a Co-op
I was very unsure whether joining a co-op would be a good idea for us. I’m such an introvert and often find it hard to be in social situations. BUT, I also knew that my kids needed the opportunity to make friends.
I started asking around in local groups about co-ops. First I tried a very laid back co-op that meets once a week for play dates or field trips. There were SO MANY people there; it was overwhelming for me and the kids.
Then we found a co-op only 10 minutes from our house & everyone I talked to had good things to say about it! I was apprehensive, but decided to sign my 4 and 6 year olds up for 2 classes each one afternoon a week.
I was assigned the nursery volunteer position, so McKellen just stays with me in there the whole time.
And you know what??? We love it! The kids really enjoy their classes, I enjoy chatting with the other moms while we’re in the nursery.
Plus our co-op offers field trips and tons of other activities. It has been a wonderful experience so far, and I’m so glad that I decided to try it out. We will definitely be continuing!