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Homeschool Co-ops
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Parents and those who are involved with homeschooling have a number of support groups to assist with the process. While there are support organizations on the national, state and local levels that help single families with homeschooling, co-op groups are different in that they are amalgams of families that join together for the purpose of educating their children. The terms cooperative education or cooperative schooling are sometimes used to distinguish the use of co-ops from the usual, single family, type of homeschooling.

Involvement in co-ops does not have to be exclusive or limiting. For some families, involvement in co-ops is only a part of their homeschool game-plan. In these cases, involvement might be for a specific subject, or certain group activities, such as team sports, music ensembles, or field trips and special outings. For other families the role of the co-op plays a more central role in their children’s education. Here, the co-op is more of a primary resource and can be involved in every aspect of the homeschooling process such as curriculum determination, assessment and testing, assistance with meeting statutory requirements, and other day-to-day homeshool tasks.

Co-ops can be created for a variety of reasons and can take a number of different forms or organizational structures, though the primary reason they are formed is to distribute and share the resources of the member families across the group that usually shares a common interest. Co-ops take advantage of members’ special skills and time availability. Often retirees with past teaching experience contribute their skills to co-ops. The families that form the co-ops can also pool their cash in order to more efficiently manage the use of available financial resources.

There are costs associated with co-ops. These depend on their size and what they offer. But since resource sharing is one of the objectives of most co-ops, these costs are usually less than what would have to be outlaid without them. The typical costs for homeschooling co-ops are for teaching fees, teaching materials, facilities, and maintenance. If a co-op offers its members special classes, such as remedial studies programs, then there may be additional costs for these.

Participation in co-ops has certain benefits. Children in co-ops have the ability to socialize with other kids, usually from families with similar interests and beliefs. Costs can be lower using co-ops because of economies of scale due to the number of participants involved. Resource sharing can occur involving anything from books and study materials, teaching availability, to day care availability. Because a group of people are involved in co-ops, there is usually more flexibility in managing parents’ schedules. And co-ops are great for providing the additional resources usually required for younger students.

If there are no homeschool co-ops in your area, you may consider starting one of your own. Your first goal will be to find other homeschool families that may have a need or desire cooperate. If you have specific goals and objectives you want for your co-op, include those in the discussions with potential members. Even families that are not currently homeschooling may be approached. Once you have a group of families that will comprise your co-op, you can then consider how you will organize it. You might first consider what basic teaching model you want to implement: single parent-led classes or group parent-led classes. Following making this decision you can move on to other organizational topics such as policy development, establishing planning sessions, setting meeting schedules, and creating by-laws. Realize that the creation process may result in some “stumbles” along the way and plan for a learning curve as you work out its details.

Co-ops, like anything else in life, are not always perfect. Areas of concern involving co-ops can arise. One common issue has to do with child discipline. On the plus side, homeschool co-op members usually share common values and thus are likely to be of one mind when it comes to ideas about child discipline. On the other hand, kids will be kids, and they will on occasion misbehave, so there should be agreed upon guidelines in place for handling disciplinary situations when they come up.

Whether a co-op consists of only a few families or many dozens, its resource sharing, socialization, advisory, and other potential benefits can make it a resource that can provide great practical value to your homeschooling game plan. Co-op participants believe that their whole is greater than the sum of their parts. Sharing information about homeschol resources such as co-ops is one of our main goals at Academic Boot Camp Tips. You can share in and contribute to these and other topics of value to homeschooling families in our community's discussion forums.

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