We didn’t join our first homeschool co-op until our 13th year of homeschooling. I chose not to add more to our plate with having many littles since I was able to teach them on my own. Once we hit the high school years, though, I realized I needed some help–and that’s okay!
After the first year, I didn’t want to go back. I’m a homebody and an introvert and I didn’t like having to leave the house on a regular basis. It took a lot out of me mentally. However, after talking to my friend, mentor, and more seasoned homeschool mom, I decided it was a good idea to go back. So we are in our second year of co-op.
Though it leaves us all exhausted at the end of the day, I’m so glad we decided to go back.
Pros of a Homeschool Co-op
I love the accountability our homeschool co-op brings for me and my children. My children, especially my highschoolers, appreciate that aspect as well. Sometimes it can be easy to slack on certain subjects because you aren’t good at them or things can slip through the cracks.
2. A Wider Social Circle
Since my children are not in traditional school and they are too old for playdates, they needed more opportunities to make friends.
The idea that you can throw students all the same age into a classroom and expect them to get along and be friends is unrealistic. The same is true of a co-op.
Most of my kids connected with one or two people (out of a fairly large co-op). One or two good connections is worth it to venture outside our homeschool walls.
3. Community Learning
My children would often talk about how they wanted to try going to public schools to see what it was like. They also sometimes lamented because they believed it was the only avenue for them to make more friends.
Joining the homeschool co-op allowed them to have a taste of that community learning setting. And it’s not as romantic as they envisioned it. They like it well enough, but realize it’s not exactly what they thought.
Also, being it’s mostly a Christian co-op, they were surprised to face some of the challenges they have faced. Which opened up some great dialogue for us.
Cons of a Homeschool Co-op
1. Fairly Constrictive Setting
One of the reasons we love homeschooling so much is because it offers us flexibility. Sometimes I get antsy when we’ve gotten through a lesson in class and just have to burn up time waiting for the next class. I struggle with finding it to be a waste of time because I’m very production driven. The reality is, there is nothing wrong with a little white space.
But if we want to take a week off or have a sickness, we have to play catch-up which just adds further stress. On the flip side, this does teach my children how to deal with stressful situations.
2. Mean Kids
My children assumed (and maybe I did a little) that being in a Christian co-op, they wouldn’t have to worry about bullies. Unfortunately, that has not been the case for two of my boys.
I am grateful they are wise enough to not engage and to stick up for themselves and for others being bullied. However, after 1.5 years of trying to ignore it, it has taken its toll on them. It’s also escalated to threats of physical violence so we’ve had to take the matter to leadership as a result.
It’s unfortunate that this has become a “normal” or common part of kid’s lives. Even so, that doesn’t mean we as parents should just let it go and let the kids deal with it. Our children are still just children and they need an advocate to say this is not okay behavior and it needs to be dealt with. I understand bullies often have hurt of their own or things going on inside their home, but something still needs to be done to send the message that behavior like that is not the way to handle your problems.
Having said all that, it has taught my boys how to stick up for themselves and for others and I am so proud of them for how they have handled the situation.
3. A Time Drain
Not only do my children spend a significant part of their day at co-op each week, but they also have homework as well. This isn’t a big deal as long as you make those classes a part of your regular homeschool load rather than adding it on as an extra. But because co-op does take most the day, that’s all they are required for that day. I do not have them do other school work once we get home.
But since it is a co-op, I have added workload as well because I teach/co-teach at least 2 classes. This means I have more “homework” of my own as I prepare the lessons each week (or every other week as I share with another teacher). Some weeks it feels really overwhelming and I wonder why I chose to put such a burden on myself.
Everything can’t always be “just so” or how we want. So even these cons can be turned into pros with the right attitude. It is teaching us how to manage areas we aren’t fully in control of. I can’t control how another parent chooses to teach my children, even if we both prefer a different way. But it teaches us all to adapt.
Overall, I do recommend getting involved in a local homeschool co-op if you are able. It can be good for you and good for your kids.