Co-ops, are they a good fit for your homeschool? Is it worth the time? Is it worth the money? Do my kids benefit from them? Will they enjoy it? Will they learn anything? These are all good questions we ask ourselves when we consider to join a co-op or not.
First, for any of our newbies out there let me explain what co-ops are all about. Co-ops are basically when homeschool families meet together to teach their kids in a group setting. There are many kinds of co-ops and they can vary greatly. Some co-ops are very structured and will meet on a regular basis, usually once a week. Some co-ops may be a little looser and may meet less regularly. They will offer many types of classes from art to science labs to writing classes. The classes may be divided by ages and/or subject. Most co-ops expect parent participation. Parents are usually the teachers but sometimes you may have a teacher from the community such as an art teacher.
What are my personal experiences with co-ops? Ever since we started homeschooling we have participated in co-ops. At first it was just to meet other homeschool families since we were newbies ourselves. My children were not excited about it at first. So I made sure they took classes that was an interest to them. Then a strange thing happened and my shy children started making friends at co-op. Now they just love it and can’t wait for every Friday. Now I am teaching at the co-op too and I love it! I generally teach science type of classes. In my classes we have dissected worms, sheep brains, frogs and more. We are blessed because our co-op is such a great one!
What are the benefits of co-ops? There are many benefits to co-ops and I will list just a few for you. Whether you join a co-op or not may depend on if it is the right season for your family to participate in a co-op. I believe there are times when a co-op may be a great fit to homeschooling but there are times when home is simply the best place to be.
Benefits of co-ops:
1. A chance for your children to meet other homeschoolers.
2. Your child can take a class that may be more suited to learn in a group setting such as a drama class, band, a debate class, and more.
3. Maybe there is a subject you have not been able to teach at home. With co-op your child can have the opportunity to take it in a structured environment. Such classes would be a science lab with dissections or an art class.
4. An opportunity to take a class taught by an expert such as sign language or a cooking class.
5. An opportunity to take classes that will enhance your own homeschool such as a history class. If your children are learning about medieval history then a class about the vikings would be a great fit.
6. An opportunity for your child to take a class that is an interest to her. My daughter loves animals so any class about animals is something she loves to learn about it.
7. Sometimes co-op is a way for your child to experience some of the “school experiences” without having to go to regular school. One example is at our co-op we had a yearbook class. At the end of co-op the children had the opportunity to purchase a yearbook and then attend a yearbook signing party.
I am sure there are more benefits to participating in a co-op that I have not listed or even thought about. Co-ops can be fun and educational. My children always look forward to co-op days.
There may also be reasons why a co-op may not be beneficial for your family. Sometimes it is the season that your family is going through. If you just had a new baby arrive it may not be the time that you can participate in a co-op. If you have a family member that has required medical care then it may not be the time to join a co-op. It simply may be that your curriculum is so full that there is not any time to fit in a co-op. It could also be that your children have other things they are participating in such as sports or music lessons which may not leave any time for co-op.
Some things to ask yourself when you are a considering a co-op:
1. Can your family afford a co-op? Co-ops often cost and that can be a big factor for many homeschool families.
2. Can your family afford to give up the time away from your regular homeschool to attend a co-op?
3. Does a co-op offer any classes that are an interest to your children?
4. Does the co-op offer any classes that will benefit your children’s education?
5. Co-ops generally mean parents must volunteer in some capacity. You need to decide if you want to make this commitment.
6. Co-ops in general are a commitment for your family. Is it a time that your children can make that commitment?
How can you find co-ops in your area? Check with your local support groups. They will often have information about co-ops in your area. You can also check with your state support group.
Co-ops are a great way to enhance your homeschool. There are some ways to make sure a co-op is a good fit for your family. First, talk to the leaders of the co-op. If possible visit the co-op and see what it is like. Talk to the families who attend the co-op. Look at what classes are offered at the co-op. Consider teaching at the co-op some classes that you want your children to participate in.
So hopefully I have not confused you but possibly made it a littler clearer if co-ops are a good fit for your family.
Written by Korey