There are many benefits to starting your own homeschool co-op. Many parents are looking for additional child play and learning activities. The main point of a co-op is for parents and children to gather together in a defined place to cooperate and teach subjects that they are comfortable teaching such as math, science, arts, anything really. These subjects are taught by parents.
But what do you do when you do not have a co-op in your area?
how do you go about creating a co-op as a homeschool mom? Let’s start by defining what a co-op is.
What is a Homeschool co-op?
A homeschool co-op is formed by a group of families, as few as three families or many more to work together for the education of their children. In the largest co-ops, there are several hundred children.
Related post: How to Start Homeschooling
These families form the co-ops to assist with homeschooling. The co-ops don’t all focus on academics. Some are organized around social activities, volunteer work, and the arts, including music. Some focus on a combination of school subjects and electives.
These activities and classes may be taught by parents or the co-op may pay qualified professionals to take the classes. At most co-ops, the parents of the students organize the co-op, plan the classes and do the teaching.
Co-ops set their own calendar – some meet a few times a week, others once a week and some meet once a month. Learn how to create a homeschool schedule that works for your child.
Types of Homeschool Co-ops?
Some co-ops use the so-called university model where the students meet a couple of days a week when they focus on academics and they work towards academic credits.
Students get most of their education at the co-op but they do their homework and assignments at home. These co-ops operate like accredited university model private schools.
Most co-ops, however, offer extracurricular activities like arts education, music, extra classes on traditional subjects, social activities, and community work. These students get most of their education at their homeschool.
The co-op is there to give homeschool children the opportunity to mix with other children and do something interesting and informative with peers.
Reasons why you should join a homeschool co-op?
It can be very isolating with just you and your children in your homeschool, week in and week out. Joining a co-op creates the opportunity for regular interaction of like-minded parents.
And children get the chance to go on field trips and do other activities with other children in the homeschool community and hopefully form good friendships.
Parents are not qualified teachers and you might find that there are subjects that you simply cannot teach. A co-op can help with the subject that you don’t feel confident to teach. For example, I don’t teach history at all. It’s not one of the subjects I can do, but I am very strong in science and math, and I teach them with no problems.
Attending a co-op can broaden your child’s education. It’s difficult for one parent to offer everything at home. At a co-op, your child can learn something, a subject, or an interest, that you are not able to teach or teach well.
The time that your child spends at the co-op gives you a welcome break from teaching.
Being taught at the co-op by a different person, exposes your child to a different teaching style, which can only benefit them.
The cost to become a member of a co-op is usually low, and so are the class fees. It costs a whole lot less than a professional teacher or a tutor.
Reasons to open your own Homeschool Co-op?
There are many reasons to start a co-op. Here are some cases where you might benefit from starting your own.
A homeschool co-op makes you more accountable
Starting your own co-op is an excellent way to become more accountable for what you teach and how you teach.
When you undertake to be responsible for a subject for other kids as well as your own, you’re more likely to do your best because other parents are counting on you, and you want the kids to have the best experience possible.
A co-op offers a solution for those difficult subjects and certain electives
High school-level math is very challenging for many parents to teach. A co-op can help with that.
Electives like violin or photography might also be out of your scope of skills, but your child might show a talent for or interest in it. It’s possible that one of the parents in the co-op have the skills to teach those subjects in exchange for something that you are good at.
Some classes don’t’ work well on a one-on-one basis
If you want to teach drama you need more than one child to play the different roles. For history classes that can be important. Chemistry is also preferably taught to groups of students. In fact, for most subjects, students can benefit from working with other students.
A homeschool co-op can teach life skills
In a co-op setting, kids learn how to work as a group. They learn how to collaborate, express their opinions, come to agreements, delegate tasks, and resolve conflicts and disagreements, all vital skills for later in life.
Homeschool co-ops teach children to take direction from other adults
Kids benefit from having instructors from different adults. Another adult will have a different teaching style, and a different way of interacting with children that can be instructive and liberating for children. It’s part of one’s education to learn that there are different ways of doing things and being with people.
Getting instructions from different parents and teachers prepare students for university or college where they will be instructed by people other than their parents.
Questions to think about when planning your own homeschool co-op
1. How involved will the parents be?
Co-op works best when everyone has a role to play. Will every parent teach a class? Who will keep the younger children busy? Will somebody be in charge? Will there be field trips? Who will organize them? You must figure out who will contribute what.
2. What will you offer?
Will your co-op offer academic classes or will you focus on enrichment classes and activities, or will you offer a combination of both. Will you offer core subjects like language art, history, math, and science, or do you want to offer electives such as life skills, art, and community service?
3. Is this going to be a paid or free co-op?
It’s hardly possible to have a free co-op simply because there will always be costs involved and someone has to pay for them. At the most, you can make your co-op free to join but beyond that, you’ll have to consider who will be paying for the venue if it’s not someone’s home, supplies, teaching equipment, and other odds and ends.
Expenses have to be shared by all, but the aim is to keep expenses to a minimum. If you have parents volunteering to teach, you won’t have that cost, but you’ll still have to pay other miscellaneous expenses like student supplies.
Some homeschool co-ops require a registration fee which is then used to cover the cost of running the co-op.
4. How big do you want your co-op to be?
Even if you would like to have a large co-op with many subject and activity options for students, it might be wiser to start small and build some experience. For some families, an intimate group of friends and small classes work well.
5. How often will you meet?
Can everyone meet once or twice a week, or only once in two weeks? Does your schedule allow for weekly classes or only monthly classes?
6. Where do you want to meet?
Many people who start their own co-op opt to meet in someone’s home. If that’s not possible, places like community halls, library rooms, or church facilities can work. Of course, that will add to the cost.
The location is an important factor to take into consideration – the venue might be ideal, but the location might be inconvenient for one or two parents.
How to Create a Schedule for your Homeschool Co-op?
You will have to determine how long and how often each class will meet. That will depend on the type of classes you plan to offer.
For instance, art classes don’t need to be more than once a week, but they take longer to set up and clean up afterward. Math classes don’t take time to set up, but they have to be more often than once a week.
You also need to decide when your co-op will operate. For example, will it be a year-long or single semester co-op?
It may be a good idea to schedule a few days in the calendar that will be extra days to compensate for times that students won’t be able to attend for whatever reason.
Once the calendar has been agreed upon, all parties should adhere to it.
Because no single person can run a homeschool co-op, three or four homeschool parents who are enthusiastic and have the desire to get things done, should get things going.
However, it is also a good idea to have one person in charge of everybody. If there is no one in charge, nothing will get done and there’s no accountability.
Who is doing the teaching for your co-op?
- Parents: Many co-ops have talented parents who volunteer to do some of the teachings. Many co-ops pay these volunteer parents $15 -$20 per hour.
- Hiring a tutor or teacher is trickier. Due to some IRS guidelines, many co-ops don’t pay their teachers; the teachers are paid directly by the parents, so the teachers don’t become employees of the co-ops.
- Teacher’s responsibility anybody taking on a class at a co-op takes on the responsibility to teach that class to the best of their ability.
Co-op teachers must prepare the curriculum for classes and carry out the lesson plans by following state guidelines.
Just like in a normal school, co-op teachers have to be able to practice classroom management, and be able to teach children at different levels if need be.
Co-op teachers must make sure that the students cover and understand the material and that their work is up to standard.
Teachers hired by a co-op plan and organize the curriculum in collaboration with students and their parents. The best teachers know multiple teaching strategies to allow for different learning styles.
Possible homeschool co-op classes include:
- United States History
- World History
- Colonial history
- History of Chocolate
- Personal Finance
- Math (any level)
- Nature Studies
- Marine Biology
- Physical education
- Foreign languages
- Life skills
- Sign language
- Team sports
What mode of communication are you going to be using
When you are planning your co-op, you must decide how you will communicate with everyone involved. Phone calls and group text (What app, Voxer) are good for a quick exchange of information and emails are probably better for documents that contain rules, etc.
For virtual get-togethers when it’s not possible to meet in person, you’ll have to decide between Zoom or Google hangout and Facebook video call.
The main thing to remember about getting a co-op to work, is that it requires commitment from everyone. You are working together to create something that all the students and their parents will hopefully benefit from. It’s an endeavor that requires you and your child to give as much to the co-op as you expect to get from it.
A homeschool co-op will only succeed if everyone remains committed and do their part to the best of their ability.