Teaching your children at home does not mean teaching your children alone! Starting a Homeschool Co-op could be your answer when looking for a community-centered alternative option for the school year. Read on for ideas and strategies on how to “co-op” with others this fall.
How to Start a Homeschool Co-op
Most of us found ourselves COVID-19 Homeschooling last spring. It felt stressful and lonely.
Now, reopening and virtual learning plans are forcing parents to make creative decisions about their children’s education. Many who had never considered homeschooling an option are suddenly exploring curriculum and co-ops as a better choice for family safety, schedule, and sanity. The great news is that homeschooling does not have to be done in isolation. And for many who need to share childcare while they work, a co-op provides a number of benefits.
What is a Homeschool Co-op?
A homeschool co-op is a group of homeschooling families who choose to collaborate together. There are a large range and variety of co-ops. This year’s special circumstances will produce a number of co-ops for parents to share childcare, resources, and teaching responsibilities.
Some Homeschool Co-Ops are nationally-based, with formalized curriculum and membership fees. Classical Conversations is a national Christian Homeschooling Organization that structures co-op experiences for K-12 in local communities. Parent-led teaching occurs in weekly meet-ups with other homeschooler families that enrich the at-home learning done during the rest of the week. Tuition to Classical Conversations provides you with curriculum, co-op classes, and community to shape your year of homeschool.
Starting Your Own Co-op
But starting your own co-op to meet the specific needs of your children or family’s schedule does not have to be daunting. While joining a national Homeschool Group provides structure and guides, when you build your own group you can tailor it to your homeschooler’s specific needs and interests. You can also keep the group smaller for simplicity, and during COVID-19, safety concerns.
Yes! You can do this. You can form a small community to teach your kids during a crazy time. Here are some things to consider as you start.
Know Your Purpose with a Homeschool Co-op
Be clear about the reason you are joining with other families as you homeschool. It will be helpful if your reasons align with cooperating and like-minded families.
So dig deep. Do you need to strengthen your homeschooler’s academics and think other friends can help? Does your child not respond as well to your instruction on certain subjects? You may know that a full-time work schedule does not allow you to be at home with your kids and sharing that load with another family will lighten it.
If you are able to teach your homeschooler most of their curriculum, you may be interested in connecting with other homeschool families regularly for social reasons. You could set up a co-op for field trips once a week. You could also see it as a homeschool support group, both for school students and for the parents involved.
Decide the Content for the Homeschool Co-op
Once you have identified your purpose in participating in a cooperative group with other families, decide what part of your child’s education will be handled by the group.
Jeni, who has been homeschooling for years, participates in a co-op with four other families. Once a week the families meet in a space at a church for enrichment classes. They break up into groups by grades and tackle subjects such as science, Latin, Fine Arts, and geography.
Each parent teaches other core subjects such as math, language arts, and history to their own children on the other days of the week. In Jeni’s situation, each parent teaches during the day the group meets. It is not a drop-off situation, but the group setting adds a new dynamic to the week as children are with other families and being taught by other parents. A group established to offset childcare needs would obviously look different.
Play to Your Strengths
When you decide on the content your homeschooler will cover within the group setting, think about how you can contribute to the experience. What are your strengths or areas of expertise? What would excite you to teach a small group of kids?
High school courses can be more challenging as the level of content is more advanced. If you majored in a subject, you could help teach it to the group. Or you may have connections to someone who can tutor in higher-level science or math.
Your strength could be in scheduling or set-up. You might have access to a classroom facility the group can use, or have the admin skills to keep everyone on track.
Find Your People for a Homeschool Co-op
Once you know your purpose, priorities, and how you can contribute, you can begin “recruiting” families for your co-op. Due to the current circumstances with COVID-19, you need to keep the group small. You also want to consider the range of children’s grades and personalities for how the homeschoolers will work together.
Local area Facebook Groups provide a chance to connect with other homeschooling parents and share resources. As school reopening plans are shared, social media is a place where parents are forming groups to support each other and discuss possibilities.
Develop a Plan and Policies
You need to have a clear plan with your other co-op families. Before you begin, discuss what the level of parental responsibility will be and how each family will contribute.
Set up expectations about student behavior, responsibilities, and schedule. Put the agreement in writing for everyone to discuss and sign. Students and Parent Educators need to understand that the benefits of this co-op only come with shared responsibility.
Jeni emphasizes that honest communication and trust are vital for homeschool parents working together. Parents need to be able to talk about what is and isn’t working and trust each other to honor their commitments.
Homeschool Co-ops: In It Together
Homeschooling families usually reach their education decisions over time for a range of personal and academic reasons. This year’s events are producing more homeschoolers than usual, and many for whom this is not their first choice for school.
But, while this is not where most wanted to be, we can be encouraged that we are all in it together. As you work to create a plan for your family’s school year, connect with others, and discuss how you can share the load and journey.