Depending upon who you talk to (and their experience) will provide various answers as to whether or not a homeschool co-op is the “right decision” for homeschoolers.
You’re in luck. I’m going to bring you both the benefits, the disadvantages, and offer a few things you should consider in helping you to decide if joining a homeschool co-op is the right path for your family.
Here’s everything you should take under consideration when deciding whether to embrace or reject the idea of joining a homeschool co-op:
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1. The Load Just Got Lighter
When you’re a homeschooling parent of multiple kids, the load can get pretty heavy. As your kids get older they want to try everything.
But this is where co-op comes into play and can save the day. By joining a co-op, things you don’t have time to teach or aren’t comfortable teaching, your kids can still have access to them.
You take your kids to class, let them learn, and pick them up when they’re done. Your biggest responsibility is seeing to it that they complete any assignments between classes.
Yep, you just created a little breathing room for yourself! Way. To. Go!
2. Chatty Cathy is On the Loose
One of the biggest discussions about homeschooling is, “What about their social skills?” It drives me crazy!
My kids (even prior to co-op) were some of the most social kids you’ve ever seen. Can we get a new talking point, please?
However, if you’re worried your child is going to become a recluse because you homeschool, co-op does provide ample opportunity for them to make new friends and try out their social skills on a regular basis.
3. They Don’t Have to Miss Out
Another big concern from the non-homeschoolers and homeschoolers alike is, “Won’t the kids miss out on normal things?”
By “normal things” they mean school dances, picture days, field trips, prom, and graduation. There are large homeschool conferences in many states that offer these events for those who don’t participate in a homeschool co-op.
However, if you want a more personalized experience, join a homeschool co-op. This will allow your kids to do these things with their friends.
4. Bring on the Mom-Friends
This one is for you mamas. I’ll be the first to admit, where my kids are super social, I am not. Like, not at all. I could sit at home with a book from now until the cows come home and be happy.
However, I’ve realized over my homeschooling journey, I need a tribe. I need people who get what I’m going through.
Funny enough, I’ve realized I have something to bring to the table as well—support. Our co-op has allowed my kids to make friends, but I’ve made some too. This has made the journey of motherhood much easier and fun!
5. Fun and New Things
Kids need experiences. This is why a few years ago we stopped buying toys for every holiday and started sinking our funds into experiences for our kids.
When you’re homeschooling on your own, it’s hard to plan field trips because life seems to happen.
Plus, if you don’t have anyone to go with you, they aren’t quite as exciting. When you join a homeschool co-op, there are field trips and other fun experiences that are planned for you and are super fun because you go as a group.
6. You Can Break Away from the Kitchen Table
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I’m tied to the kitchen table with our homeschool work.
Co-op allows you to break the ties at least one day a week. Your kids get to get up, get dressed, head off to classes for a few hours, you get to coffee-up and breathe a little, and head home.
You can do more school work if you want or consider co-op your school day. However you choose to divide your day up, co-op helps break up the routine a little bit.
As much as co-op can be a great thing for some families, it just doesn’t work for everyone. Here are a few reasons why:
1. There Just Isn’t Enough Time
The biggest thing I hear from families who simply can’t do the co-op thing (or can’t do it every year) is the schedule.
If your kids are already into 100 million extra things outside of homeschooling, your schedule is probably pretty busy.
Adding one more thing to the week may just be too much for some families. It can make it hard to get your other school stuff done if your plate is overflowing as it is.
If this is you, it’s okay. Co-op just may not be a part of this season (or any season) of homeschooling. You do what works best for your family.
2. Money, Money, Money
Most homeschoolers live on a pretty tight budget. Unless one family member makes a really good living, or you have two full-time incomes and can still manage the time to homeschool, money is probably tight.
Co-op may not be an affordable option for you right now. If it’s something you’re interested in, start by tweaking your budget.
From there, talk to your local co-op. They may have teaching opportunities which could offset the cost of classes. They may allow you to volunteer to help with payment and some co-ops (like the one we participate in) have fundraising opportunities to allow you to help pay for tuition.
3. Why Leave Home?
Some people don’t see the point in participating in a co-op if you can teach the same courses from home.
They’re right in many aspects. If your kids prefer to school completely at home, are involved in other activities, and are generally not interested in joining a homeschool co-op then don’t sweat it.
You can learn most extra-curricular activities (like music or art) online, through private lessons, or even discounted classes through local art councils.
Core subjects you can teach at home by using purchased or free curriculum. You can add to these subjects with field trips, experiments, or watching documentaries.
4. Drama, Drama, Drama
Between social media and online games, it’s hard to protect your kids from everything. However, I know when you get kids together (especially older kids) there’s still the possibility of drama occurring.
If this has happened to you in previous co-ops (or the thought of it makes you want to avoid co-ops) then this may not be the right homeschooling opportunity for you.
We’ve been very fortunate to have nothing but positive experiences through our co-op, but disagreements are a reality in any large group setting.
Is It Right For Your Family?
After reviewing the pros and cons of homeschool co-ops, how do you know if it’s right for your family?
Begin by weighing out the positives and negatives. Follow it up by asking yourself the following questions:
1. Are You in the Right Group?
How positive your co-op experience will be depends heavily upon which group you join. The right group will depend upon your beliefs, preferences, etc.
In our case, we’ve found a very welcoming group. Everyone’s relaxed, and we have a good time together.
I’ll be honest, I’m a bluejeans type of gal. We have some groups in our area that feel more comfortable if the women wear skirts, etc. I wouldn’t be as comfortable in these particular groups which would obviously impact my experience.
So if you haven’t had the best experience with co-op, I’d recommend you try out different groups to see if a “better fit” might be out there.
2. Is There Room in the Schedule?
Do you have enough time to dedicate to co-op? If your schedule is overloaded, and you aren’t sure you can get your other homeschooling requirements fulfilled with this additional commitment, co-op may not be right for you.
However, if you feel you need to lighten your load or have some time for yourself, co-op may be the perfect solution.
3. Is There Room in the Budget?
Lastly, can you afford co-op? If you can, it might be a great fit for your family. If not, consider some of the tips I mentioned above.
Yet, if none of those options work, as I said before, keep pushing forward. Co-op may be a better fit in a later season in life.
Hopefully these tips and considerations help you discover whether co-op would be a benefit or hindrance to your family and homeschool routine.
Whether a homeschool co-op works for you or not, I encourage you to find a homeschool family. It has made all the difference for us.