In simplest terms, a homeschool co-op is an organized group of parents who take turns teaching each other’s children. It can be as simple or as formal as you would like it to be. The first co-op we participated in was free if you volunteered to teach or to assist a teacher. It was one day a week for six weeks during the Fall.
Our homeschool group saw the need for more classes and the entire thing was reorganized. It has blossomed into a huge program with over 100 kids attending each week. Teachers are paid a small fee per month or per class (around $12 monthly for elementary and $5 per class for middle and high school). Classes meet once a week for the duration of the school year. Some students come for one class and others (like my children) take three or four. Some parents schedule their children to be at co-op all day so that they have a day to themselves to
get manicures lesson plan.
We have a local church who has been very supportive of our homeschool group. We use their facility every week. They have two fellowship halls (allowing us to split up the middle/high schoolers and the elementary kids) and many classrooms in two seperate buildings. We even have use of their gym for PE and their kitchen for baking classes (and chemistry experiments!)
5 Reasons to Join a Homeschool Co-Op
1. Children can choose to take classes that they may not have the option to take otherwise. For instance, my daughters were able to take Spanish from a native South American and they have taken Art from a mom who has an Art degree. They learned things in both of those classes that I would not have been able to teach them. My oldest daughter took a computer and typing course–something that I likely would not have taken the time to teach her.
2. It allows students to spend time with their friends (you know…”socializing”…wink, wink). My girls love being in classes with their friends and they enjoy making new friends.
3. Parents have the opportunity to use their knowledge to the benefit of others. One of my friends has a PhD in Chemistry. When her child was born, she chose to give up her teaching job and homeschool him. Now she uses her wealth of knowledge to teach science classes to various age groups. My daughter did some amazing experiments during her class several years ago and she would not have had that opportunity at home with her dear old mom. Teaching also allows my friend to earn a little income for her family without spending too much time away from home.
4. It allows children to have a “real school” experience. Of course, this really isn’t the most important reason we participate in co-op but my girls do like packing a lunch, carrying a backpack, and having homework to do for someone other then their mom and dad.
5. It provides a break from being at home. No matter how many field trips we plan, homeschooling can still become monotonous at times. We eat at home. Sleep at home. Have school at home. We are at home all the time! Co-op allows us to get out of our house and spend time with other people who are just like us. It makes us all not feel so “weird” because of the path we have chosen. I look forward to seeing my homeschool mama friends and my girls literally count down the days until it is time for co-op!
Starting a Homeschool Co-Op
If you are interested in starting a co-op, ask around and find a few interested friends. Decide how large you want your co-op and set a class/family limit. Our co-op classes tend to be no larger than 12-15 depending on the class.
Find a location to accomodate your group. If it’s a small group than someone’s house may be sufficient. For larger groups, ask your library, church or local civics group if you can use their building.
Choose what day of the week you will meet on. Most co-ops meet once weekly for a few hours.
Decide what will be taught and come up with a teaching schedule. One great way to keep things simple is to use lapbooks. This gives a complete overview of a topic but includes several different subjects which could be split up among parents.
Decide if there will be a fee for classes. Some parent teachers may be able to make a swap (you teach my child, I’ll teach your child) instead of exchanging money. Don’t forget to charge supply fees especially for classes like art and science labs. Paper and ink costs also add up so remember that when planning your class materials and fees.
Read More about Homeschool Co-Ops
- Homeschool Co-Op Tips
- Guilt Free Homeschooling (several blog posts about a variety of co-op related topics)
- Starting a Girl’s Book Club Co-op
- Five Steps to Start a Homeschooling Co-Op
Do you participate in a co-op? I’m putting together a list of class ideas and would love to hear what your homeschool co-op offers!