By contributing writer Tabitha
I love the idea of homeschool co-ops. I think it is so great to get kids together and let them learn something from someone other than their parents. It is valuable for them to know how to treat other adults.
When I first started homeschooling, I knew I was going to sign my kids up as soon as I found one. Problem was, when my oldest became was school age, we were in a small town and had no access to a homeschool group, let alone a co-op.
I had ideas to form a co-op. I only knew one other homeschooling family within driving distance. They were in a different state with different laws and requirements, and they already had their own groups and schedule, so it didn’t work out.
By the time I moved to Texas and had more than one child being homeschooled, I found a great group, but at first they didn’t have a co-op. The families I knew that homeschooled sent their children to school very soon after we moved in. Again, we couldn’t form a co-op.
Finally, when we did have access to a co-op, we chose not to join. Why? Here are our reasons why we haven’t joined any co-op that we’ve had the opportunity to attend.
- When the opportunity finally presented itself, we were firmly established in our homeschooling and knew what we were doing. I no longer felt we needed help or even other people teaching our children beyond what they got at church.
- With as many children as we have, the classes offered weren’t a good fit. Either there was nothing that interested some of my children, or the requirements didn’t fit the ages of my children. Even if one class was a perfect fit, what do I do with all my other children?
- At times, the fees involved were more than the opportunity was worth. Yes, I know the fees are necessary to run the course, buy materials, make copies, etc, but with 9 children and 7 of them co-op age, we could do similar activities on our own for less.
- Some of the co-ops I was invited to join had many of the same features I disagreed with from public schools. I had no say over subject material. The students were still grouped with similar ages in an unnatural environment.
- By the time I got all of my children up, dressed, fed, in the van, and drove to co-op, the time spent was more than what we could have covered the material in. The time commitment was not a good investment.
- Considering that I’ve been pregnant or nursing most of the time since we started homeschooling, the energy expended was not worth it to either sign up, attend, teach or transport kids to and from co-op.
- My 9 children are a co-op on their own. They teach each other. They learn from each other, and it’s not always the older ones helping the younger ones. Plus I learn from them too.
- When there is something we need to learn that I cannot teach or even know where to begin to find information for, there are so many ways I can outsource and find resources for my family. ASL with an aunt and uncle. Friends that have a farm. Writing help with a college professor uncle. Help from a member of our church. The library. It never ends, and I offer that same help to others who need it. It works both ways.
- Our daily routine changes from day to day as the physical, mental, educational, and emotional needs of 11 different people are met. And with that many people, we can’t always stop everything to attend something external.
- Last but not least, it just never fit the particular learning styles of my children. Will it someday? Possibly. My family is still growing.
I know this isn’t true for everyone, but sometimes we need to connect with others who feel the same. There are so many different ways to help our children learn at home, and co-ops don’t always fit our family, just like any one curriculum isn’t right for everyone. Otherwise, the curriculum companies would be out of business! Find what works for you, and everything works out.
Lisa W. says
Thank you so much for your post. I homeschool my 2 girls but I also work part-time at our church (they go with me to work). Plus various other ministry responsibilities. I have been feeling bad that we aren’t connected more with a group. However, my kids are doing great and we have figured out what is working for our family right now. My kids see their friends at church and they have great relationships with adults (which to me is even more important then socializing with kids their age) I am always being asked though why we are not more involved with the homeschool group in our area. It just isn’t fitting in right now – plain and simple. Thank you so much for that, I will not feel bad about it anymore.
My mom traded with other homeschool mom’s for things like French Lessons, Sign Language, and Horse back riding. That I know of we never joined a co-op though. There were professionals that provided things like Art Class and Biology for a small fee also. I never felt like I missed out on anything. There are so many great opportunities available to homeschoolers! Now with the internet you can even hire a tutor to teach your kids a language over the web! I am so excited to be homeschooling my boys right now with all the recourses I have available!
Nisha Worsham says
It was so good to read your post. As my oldest enters junior high I am regularly gripped with a sense of dread that I will not be able to teach the classes as well as the co-op outside teachers that staff many of the programs my friends attend. My husband travels up to 40% of the year and sometimes we are able to go on trips with him. That makes having a flexible schedule even that much more important for us. I cannot see spending the amount of money the co-ops ask for these classes when my kids are self-motivated and are content without them. I understand what you mean about co-ops not catering to your child’s learning style and all of the wasted time in-between. Both of my kids are on or above grade level (I know that is a four letter word in homeschooling) and I love teaching Bible to my kids. As I matter of fact, a big part of why I decided to homeschool is because I love teaching the Bible to my kids so much! I tolerate teaching the other subjects. So if I were to teach co-op I would have to teach something I was not passionate about to kids who are not mine. Hmm. sounds a lot like why I left teaching public school. I am not blind and know where I am completely inadequate in teaching but until my kid are in high school I do not see a need to send them outside for classes. I just regret that we are a shrinking minority.
I’ve stopped doing co-ops for many of the same reasons, but I also missed the social aspect for me and the kids. I’ve found coordinating park days a good alternative – low key, I get the chat with nice moms, and the kids get to have unstructured social time with other kids with me nearby. We have an active local homeschoolers facebook group, so I just posted on that to get people together. It turned out that there were a lot of families who were in the same situation.