How to Get the Most Out of a Homeschool Co-Op

This is our second year at our homeschool co-op. We’ve just started back for a 12 week term. We’ll have a couple of months off and then another 12 week term before finishing the co-op year in April. We love our co-op.

If you haven’t joined a homeschool co-op, or even if you have, here’s my top advice for making the most of the co-op situation:
most of homeschool co-op
1. Choose the right one. In some areas there a lot of options. In our area we have 4-5 that I know of, plus Classical Conversations.

You need something that’s a good fit for your family. If you’re looking for fun or just a chance to get together with other homeschoolers and the co-op is designed for heavy academics with tough grading, you won’t be happy. If you’re looking for tougher academics to challenge your kids and that particular co-op is more of a “we get together and have fun” type, you won’t be happy.

And don’t forget to choose the location wisely. Driving a longer distance may be worth it if you really like that co-op or the people in it. But you need to weigh the distance in your decision. Every co-op takes time but you might not want to spend all your time driving to and from meetings.

2. Use it to fill gaps in your homeschool. If you don’t like Science experiments, a co-op could be your answer to prayer. If you’ve never held a paintbrush and don’t know the difference between HB, 4B, 6B, and 2H pencils, you probably want a co-op that offers some art classes.

On the other hand, if you have a writing curriculum you love and History is your favorite subject, you probably don’t want a co-op with academically rigorous Writing or History classes.

A co-op can give your children the experience of answering to another adult. Be prepared to advocate for your child if the class turns out differently from what you signed up for, but don’t interfere unless necessary. It won’t hurt our children – here I’m especially referring to our older children – to learn to do some homework in a timely fashion, or to adjust to different styles (this teacher writes all important information on the board, this other teacher expects you to consult hand-outs instead of the board, etc.).

3. Contribute to making it work. Show up on time. Volunteer to help or teach (each co-op seems to have different standards for how that works). Encourage your kids to do their “homework”. Participate in the spirit days. Follow the rules and follow the correct procedures for addressing problems. Don’t wait until the end of the year to express frustration to the leadership.

The reasons for choosing a particular co-op are as varied as the people in them. But everyone needs to help make it work. If your kids need to bring pencils, crayons, and folders for co-op classes, then provide those things. Don’t be one of those, “oh, someone will have one you can borrow” kind of co-op parents. (We all have days like that, but try not to be habitually unprepared.)

What if you don’t have a co-op or support group in your area?

Consider starting one. Seek out fellow homeschoolers (I suggest the library or a local park on a school day). Set up an online group. Look into online classes.

The days of lone-ranger homeschooling are, for the most part, over. Our family could be involved in multiple co-ops, YMCA sports day, STEM activities for homeschoolers at the downtown library, a local support group, and other sports related activities every day of the week if we chose to do so. We don’t, of course. (We’re HOMEschoolers, not van-schoolers) But I’m thankful that we can choose what works for us.

homeschool co-op pinIs your family part of a co-op or support group? What are your tips for making it work?

 

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