Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Co-op Corner: What is a Co-op?

Homeschooling is growing exponentially in America.  More and more families are seeing homeschooling their children as a viable alternative to public or private schools. The recent study sites some fascinating statistics that point to homeschooled children being more likely to stay connected with church. Not to mention, it has been shown in other studies that homeschooled children perform better on standardized tests than their public schooled peers. Those of us who have been homeschool a while know the joys, but thankfully this method of educating is opening up to many more. 

As homeschooling increases in popularity, parents are finding out that homeschooling has let to do with educating at home and more to do with parents directly overseeing their child’s education.  They humbly admit that they may not be the best teacher for their child for ever subject.  They often start looking outside of the home for opportunities for education and socialization very soon after deciding to homeschool.

One kind of opportunity is a homeschool cooperative. A homeschool cooperative can come in many forms, but the underlying foundation of all co-ops is homeschooling families sharing access to services in an equitable way.  This can be as simple as a field trip club or as complex as multi-day academic school.  It can be as simply as operating in someone’s basement or as complex as having a building of classrooms.  A co-op can be completely free or charge for services.   They types and sizes vary. But in short, a co-op is just a group of like minded people sharing resources and/or information. 

So what's so good about co-ops? 

The benefits are numerous and sometimes specific to the group.  My top 10 are:

  1. Building relationships with other homeschooling families.
  2. Getting to teach students other than my own.
  3. Exposing my children to other teaching styles.
  4. Doing group activities that aren’t possible in our home.
  5. It provides an outside source for accountability, while not being invasive like the state can be.
  6. Having someone to go with us on field trips.
  7. Having access to curriculum and equipment that I might not be able to afford otherwise.
  8. Sharing information on local activities and information about homeschooling methods and curriculum.
  9. Pooling resources so that classes are significantly cheaper.
  10. Having the support of like-minded people going through the same things I’m going through.
Currently we belong to a co-op of about 40-50 families and 120-150 children.  We meet one day a week, offer at least 2 or 3 options for 4 different grade levels (pre/k,  lower and upper elementary, and middle school and high school), plus nursery services, for 4 periods.  Examples of classes we’ve offered are Apologia Young Explorers Series, Christian Heroes, Magic Tree House Reading and Lapbooking, Recorder, US and World Geography, Apologia General Science, Physical Science, and Biology, Music Theory, Spanish, and many, many more.
 Many of our families use these classes as their main course of study, continuing the teaching at home, but some use them for supplements and electives. 

This isn’t the only way to do co-op.  Some people find what we do a bit overwhelming.  Some want more structure. That’ s fine.  Different strokes for different folks. 

How do you do co-op? What are the benefits?  Comment below and tell me about your co-op. 


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