Participating in a homeschool co-op is great – once you find the one that fits your needs and expectations. Not all co-ops are created equal! Just because every parent in the co-op homeschools doesn’t mean that you’ll be fast friends, have the same educational, moral or social goals for your children or even have the same interests.
As an eclectic homeschooling parent to one, I have tested the waters of 3 or 4 homeschool co-ops over the last 4 years. Despite the fact that three of them weren’t for us, I still believe that there is a beneficial place for them on the homeschooling calendar. Consider the following:
NEW SUBJECT MATTER
Do you detest history but have to teach it anyway? Not willing to have the big art project end up all over your kitchen floor? Can’t remember anything about past perfect tense or gerunds? Does the thought of teaching geometry make you bite your nails like you were in junior high school all over again? Co-op to the rescue!
Many co-op offerings can fit your curriculum needs and you don’t have to do the legwork collecting books, etc. or do the teaching. Either another parent (who actually LIKES the subject) will teach it or the co-op will hire a professional to teach the subject matter. A great opportunity to get chemistry under the belt and not worry that you’ll blow up your kitchen!
OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROUP LEARNING
Regardless of the reason you choose to homeschool, the methods you use or the curriculum you choose, at some point in your child’s life, they’ll be subjected to group learning. Whether it’s in church school, hebrew classes, t-ball, dance or some other activity you don’t provde at home, the child will be with a group of his/her peers listening to an adult, who isn’t you, teaching. We all know the challenges faced in classroom learning and they’re not limited to the public school classrooms.
Group learning offered through a co-op can be a good learning experience and transition for a homeschooled child. Listening to other styles of teaching, listening to answers given by other children, experiencing behavior (good and not so good) in a small group setting is a good way to introduce classroom learning to the homeschooled child. In many co-ops, parents can participate WITH their child (especially younger children) to get the most from a learning session. If your child has ONLY been homeschooled, a co-op class can be the closest thing to a classroom experience he/she will get.
Homeschoolers are always on the go (I think that “homeschool” is a misnomer for that reason!). It can get pretty expensive paying regular admission rates at the museums, art galleries, aquariums and the like. A co-op benefits from group rates and many places offer free admission for chaperones. A co-op can save your homeschool budget.
Yes, the much hated “S word”! I’m at a loss for another word other than “play date” so the S word will have to do. A co-op offers your child a chance to play, learn and interact with his/her peers in a social setting. Better than public school settings, the homeschool child who participates in a co-op is surrounded by a wider age range of children and enjoys the benefits of learning social behavior (good and not so good) from older children, younger children, only children, those with siblings, etc.
We homeschoolers NEVER deny that the social interaction is a necessary part of our process – we just want to manage it. And with a co-op, we can. We have the ability to address unacceptable behavior right then and there (no notes home to Mom and Dad for punishment hours after the fact) and (gasp) even remove our child immediately from an undesirable situation.
Yep, there’s even something in it for YOU: parental resources. Whether you make life long friends or simply find a kindred soul to have coffee with once a week, a homeschool co-op offers as much social interaction for the parents as it does for the children.
Want to check out the new curriculum before you buy it? Willing to purchase a used curriculum? Looking to offload your old school items? A homeschool co-op offers a great place for swapping, selling and buying items you need for your homeschool process.
The RIGHT homeschool co-op is a win/win situation for your child and for you. The trick is finding the one that fits your family (age range of children, philosophy, location, price, parental involvement). Interview the co-op just as you would a potential school or new physician before plunking down your money (if there is a fee). And once you joing, participate regularly for your child (and you) to get the most out of the co-op experience.