The Pros And Cons Of Joining A Homeschool Co-op

 

pros and cons of joining a homeschool co-op
Photo credit: USFWS

As the popularity of homeschooling increases, so do the opportunities for getting together with other homeschoolers. One way to do this is to join a homeschool co-op.

There are advantages and disadvantages to joining a co-op.  But even if you decide that a co-op isn’t right for your family, you needn’t miss out on the benefits. A co-op doesn’t work for us right now – I’ll share below about some of the things we do instead.

What is a homeschool co-op?

Here in the UK,  a co-op is a group of homeschooling parents who get together regularly to teach their children. Each parent offers a different class and children choose which classes they want to take.

Co-ops might meet weekly, fortnightly or even monthly.  They can be quite informal, but most  groups that consider themselves co-ops rather than social groups have a bit more structure.

Benefits of joining a homeschool co-op

1. You can pool resources and leverage your talents. Your children can benefit from another mum’s artistic flair while you get to run a science course, or vice versa.

2. Variety. Your children have a larger choice of subjects than you might think to offer. Even if you do project-based or interest-led homeschooling, there are topics your children might not come across in your home environment. You never know where that might lead.

3. Exposure to different teaching styles. One of the benefits of homeschooling is that we get to know our children’s learning styles and can tailor our teaching to help them learn best. But another adult’s teaching style might be a natural match with your child’s learning style, which could be good for their confidence and help them understand tricky topics.

4. Social benefits for the children. By seeing the same people regularly, your children will have the chance to make friends with similar interests. They’ll have valuable opportunities to learn to work collaboratively. Extroverted children in particular will benefit from co-ops in this way.

5. Of course, the adults also get to make friends and mutually support each other in their homeschooling goals. When I first took my kids out of school, I was like a sponge around the experienced homeschoolers I met in real life – I was so eager to absorb every bit of the wisdom they had to offer. Joining a co-op in the early days of homeschooling provides a ready-made support network.

6. It’s inexpensive. You get the benefit of (relatively) expert teaching without paying for private tutoring. Curriculum costs can be shared, and you can save money by bulk-buying craft or science materials.

Disadvantages of joining a co-op

1. Being part of a co-op means having, to some degree, a common educational philosophy. Most homeschoolers find their homeschooling style changes over time (or with the season). We also tend to be independent and love our autonomy. Establishing shared values with all members of a co-op can be tricky, and staying in synch over time can be even more challenging!

2. Time commitment. If you have a child that already wants to do a heap of activities, you may not have a day or half day a week free to participate in a co-op.

3. Availability.  Once co-ops successfully get going, they may not accept new members.  (Then again, with more and more homeschoolers out there, you could start your own.)

4. Your children may not be a match. Even if you do find a co-op which shares your educational values and which accepts new members, your children may still not be a match to the co-op environment, particularly if they have special needs. My eight year old son, for example, has Sensory Processing Disorder and still relies on me to help with his emotional regulation.  A co-op class probably wouldn’t work for him yet.

What’s the alternative?

What if you can’t or don’t want to join a co-op but would still like to experience some of the benefits of being in one? Here are some alternatives:

1. Joining your local homeschool group will offer many of the advantages of a co-op but usually on a more casual basis. I’ll be sharing next week about our experiences with our local homeschool groups.

2. Set up or join a homeschooling parents’ support group where parents meet without children to talk about homeschooling. I’m in the process of setting up a “Homeschool Inspiration Group” with four lovely local ladies. We all have slightly different homeschooling styles, which I’m sure will benefit the group. My plan is for us to share ideas and resources, to inspire each other by talking about what’s working for us, and to support each other with any homeschool-related issues. I’m very excited about this and will share more about it with you soon. This is a good option if, like me, you have a child with special needs.

3.Tutoring, either paid or on a skill-swap basis with another parent. Tutoring in small groups may not be as expensive as doing it individually, and can provide social and teamwork opportunities. Our family extrovert, C(9), loves her group guitar lesson, and both my children used to do group French lessons with a native speaker in a group of eight.

4. Workshops and clubs. For the social and collaborative benefits of being in a co-op, you could invite other homeschoolers to join your children in a workshop (or series of workshops). Patricia Zaballos’ Workshops Work: A Parent’s Guide to Facilitating Writer’s Workshops for Kids has me excited about starting a writers’ workshop for my kids and some of their friends at some point. Denise Gaskins, author of my favourite maths book Let’s Play Math, talks about how to start a homeschool maths club here.

homeschool help series

There’s a season for everything.  Just because we’re not in a homeschool co-op right now doesn’t mean I’m ruling it out for the future. But it’s good to know that even without being in a co-op, my children and I don’t have to miss out.

For more ideas about homeschool co-ops, head over to the other Homeschool Help ladies’ blogs.

Savannah @ HammockTracks talks about The Ins and Outs of Co-Ops and asks “Why are you participating?”

Hwee @ The Tiger Chronicle shares her afterthoughts about joining a co-op in  Our Co-op Experience

Julie @ Highhill Homeschool shares three different ways to run a co-op in How does homeschool co-op work?

Nicole @ One Magnificent Obsession talks about how to evaluate if a homeschool co-op is right for your family in The Co-op Question: Yeah or Nay?

In Creating Synergy Erin @ Seven Little Australians shares how she fosters synergy in a country where co-ops are not common

Bernadette @ Barefoot Hippie Girl talks about why she looks forward to organizing or joining a co-op in the next few years in Beneficial Co-op(eration)

Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses writes about moving forward in strength when she shares the load – Together Everyone Achieves More

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15 thoughts on “The Pros And Cons Of Joining A Homeschool Co-op

  1. Another verly clearly articulated post, Lucinda! It’s encouraging to read about your plans to run workshops and support groups in your local area. At the moment, we are also more inclined to participate in the less formal setting of homeschooling groups, rather than co-op. As you said, we’re not rulining co-op out altogether, but it’s just not the season for that at the moment. 🙂 I look forward to reading about your homeschool group experience next week.

      1. Oops, I just read my own comment and found a glaring typo. I meant to say we’re not ruling out co-op, not “rulining”….

  2. I really enjoyed the balance of your post. Thank you so much. I think you made a valuable differentiation between co-ops and home school support groups which is often over looked.

    1. Thanks, Chareen. Writing this really helped me focus on that difference, which I hadn’t fully considered before. (I’m so glad you stopped by, I’d somehow missed you off the list of links! sorry about that, I’ve updated.)

  3. As I said on Hwee’s post this is all very interesting. We’ve never been to anything like this in the whole 11 years of parenting. As usual a very well written post, Lucinda!

  4. We were members of a co-op our first year of homeschooling and it was not a good match for our family at all. Last year, we just did our own thing and this spring, we joined another co-op, which has been great! Some of the other moms are teachers and bring a lot to the table. Other parents are actors or fluent in foreign languages and it’s been a great, inexpensive way for my girls to be exposed to different things!

  5. This is really interesting for someone who doesn’t home educate because you always hear about how there’s no social inclusion with home educating (I know ignorance right). So for someone to tell you that actually it’s growing and there are these things available is really good and helps give people informed choices about what they want to do.

    1. Thanks so much for this comment – it’s a great reminder that I’m not just talking to the choir! I was amazed, when I started homeschooling, to discover this whole wonderful home-educating culture I’d had no idea existed. As you say, it’s all about choices, and the more we know, the more choices we have.

  6. Hello, I’m starting homeschool thus year and it was very refreshing to read about your point of view on the co ops.

    I also have a Sensory child, and I strugle with helping him regulate his emotions. I was getting a bit overwhelm thinking I had to join a co op but I was not convinced.
    Thank you for point out the fact that it may not be a fit for the child and my
    main concern should not be having a group but working with my children’s needs.

    Do you recommend any resources or advice to help me with my son?

    I really appreciate your time.

    Thanks again

    1. Hi Raquel, Thank you so much for taking the time to write – it’s so nice connect with parents of other Sensory children. Homeschooling is such a gift for these precious children.

      For me it’s an ongoing process, remembering to focus on the children I’ve got and not trying to follow the path that someone says I “should” be on!

      May I ask how old your son is? Does he have any other special needs?

      Lucinda

  7. I tend to hear other homeshoolers rave about co-ops. I’ve always been hesitant for a few reasons. Your cons certainly validated my feeling on co-ops. Good to know they’re not necessarily for everyone.

    1. Hi Lisa,
      I sometimes wish I was the kind of person who easily fitted into a niche and could join a real-life group of kindred spirits, but it’s never worked out that way. Perhaps I am just a bit too independent. My kids are similar. So the chances of all of us slotting easily into a co-op are slim! My extroverted 10 year old daughter now goes to a couple of homeschool groups/classes, while my son (9) still prefers occasional playdates. I feel very lucky that we are able to live and learn in a way that meets all our needs.
      I’m glad you stopped by – your blog is so uplifting. I love the idea of your happiness project.
      Lucinda

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