Homeschool co-ops can be a wonderful experience or one that leaves you wanting more. Whether you are new to homeschooling or established homeschoolers, you might be wondering if co-ops are right for your family.
As an introverted homeschooling mom, I’ll be honest with you. Co-ops have been a struggle for me in the past. But even though they might stretch me beyond my comfort zone, I know that homeschool co-ops are good for me and my kids.
Different Types of Co-ops
The fact of the matter is, there are many different kinds of homeschool co-ops. Let’s look at a few of them:
This might be a Classical Conversations community or some other group. What sets an academic co-op apart from other homeschool group meetings is simply the focus. Students get together to take one class (or more) from a trained teacher or tutor. Academic co-ops typically require a significant financial investment and time commitment. Some co-ops require parent participation, while others might be a “drop-off” situation.
Homeschool families meet together regularly to go on hikes, do nature studies, and enjoy the outdoors together. Nature groups might introduce locations never explored before, with a low cost and no long-term commitment. These groups are generally more laid-back than academic co-ops, with the opportunity to build community and learn more about local nature.
These groups are typically more casual than academic co-ops. Families might get together once a week, once a month, or somewhere in between. Parents volunteer to teach electives, such as woodworking, creative writing, drama, and more. There might be a small financial investment and parents participate as helpers and teachers. Students get to experience a group learning environment and explore a new topic they might not learn at home.
Our Family’s Experience with Homeschool Co-ops
When our children were small, we joined a weekly academic co-op. While we loved the families involved, we realized that the rigorous atmosphere was not a good fit for our kids. After two years of trying to make it work, we couldn’t justify the cost and time for another year. Though it was heartbreaking to walk away from our community, it was the right decision for our family.
The next year, we joined up with two other homeschooling families for regular, casual playdates. We spent time at the botanical garden, the children’s museum, and quite a few library storytimes. Even though our group had no academic component, our children learned a lot about genuine friendships and the moms did, too.
Our current homeschool co-op meets once a month for just three hours. Students take a structured P.E. class, practice their public speaking with oral presentations, and participate in fun electives. Parents are required to volunteer for half the time, leaving the other half of the morning open for snacks and casual conversation in the “hospitality room.” We also have a homeschool choir, regular mom nights, and casual park playdates.
It’s taken some trial and error, but we finally feel like we are in the right spot. We are thankful for every homeschool group we’ve been a part of, for they made us stronger as a family.
If you’re wondering if homeschool co-ops are right for your family, here are a few things to consider:
Do the potential benefits outweigh the costs?
Ask yourself exactly what you’re looking for in a group. If you have academic goals, a casual community group might not meet your needs (and vice versa). Be sure to factor in the time you be at the co-op, plus prep time and driving time. Consider if the financial commitment is worth it or if you’ll be forced to say no to other opportunities throughout the school year.
Do you honestly have the time for homeschool co-ops?
As homeschoolers, we get asked about socialization a lot. Sometimes we overcompensate and sign up for too many outside activities, leaving everyone feeling rushed and stressed. A once-a-week, six-hour co-op might be more than you can commit to — but a once-a-week hourly choir class could be doable! Consider how the co-op will fit into your family’s schedule and curriculum plans for the school year before you commit.
Is the group a good fit?
Not every homeschool co-op is going to feel “right” for your family. It could be something simple, like the fact that the group meets during your youngest child’s naptime. Or it could be something bigger, like a difference in parenting philosophy. I honestly believe that, for most of us, groups will ebb and flow throughout our homeschool experience as our family’s needs change.
Even if you are an introverted homeschooling mom, community and connection are important. Don’t be afraid to try a variety of homeschool co-ops, and don’t be afraid to start your own if you can’t find a good fit in any existing groups.