Homeschool Co-ops: Why We Haven't Joined One



Gone are the days when you are the only person in the world to homeschool, where there is only one curriculum to use, and there's no support anywhere for your decision.

Now, a simple search of "homeschooling" online will yield a ton of results that can leave you feeling overwhelmed. That's great, in the sense that there are so many options, methods, and curriculum choices so parents are able to tailor their children's educations. But it can become overwhelming if you are trying to keep up with what everyone else is doing.

This is where homeschool co-ops fit in for my family. I know plenty of families that thrive with the homeschooling/co-op life style. But, it just wasn't a fit for us. Here's why. . .

1. Time and Place
You have to meet usually weekly (possibly twice a week, depending on the ages of your children), at a certain time, at a certain place. This was a no-go for my family. When we began homeschooling, we had just left public schools to homeschool our children and we just wanted to be at home. No deadlines, no commitments, no being on someone else's schedule. For the last 3 years I had been waking the kids up and rushing them through morning routines so I could get them to school on time. I didn't want any part of that sort of thing, even if it was weekly.

We wanted every ounce of flexibility that homeschooling offers a family. Plus, we began homeschooling when I was about 6 months pregnant with our 4th child, so maintaining our flexibility was important for major life events like that.

2. School Zone
Coming out of public schools ourselves, my husband and I were ready to "detox" our own brains, as well as our daughters', about what education should look like. The co-ops we found mimicked the traditional school environment: classes grouped by age, teachers/leaders/tutors in charge of those classes, meeting for a specific day and time, pledge of allegiance to begin class, etc.

Now, I have no doubt that wonderful things can be learned in this environment. They most certainly can--in fact 3 family friends of ours have their children in different co-ops and their children are learning some pretty AMAZING things! However, the setting was all too familiar for us and we wanted to school our children away from that traditional set up.

3. Curriculum Choices
This was big for my husband and me. We'd already been down the road of having no say, no choice at all in what books we'd use to teach our children. As a matter of fact, my girls rarely brought school books home; it was always a worksheet ripped out of the book, so we could never quite tell what book it was or what the scope and sequence was. So, choosing for ourselves what we would use was important, and we didn't want to be bound by what the co-op had chosen.

The other thing that concerned me was the rate of learning with those curriculum choices....what if my child needs to slow down to really be able to master a concept? What if my child needs to move ahead because he or she has already mastered a concept? I didn't want to be told that we must be on such-and-such lesson, by this day, because that's how the program works, or because that's more convenient for the group.

4. Cost
Many co-ops are on par with the price of private schooling. So, put very simply: it was not an affordable option for our family. And, that became even more apparent to us as the Lord blessed us with more children. Co-op costs are just not in the budget.
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Now, I realize that all co-ops are not created equally and that each one is run a bit differently from the other. Therefore, this is not meant to be an all inclusive run-down of how every co-op is structured. But these seemed to be the recurring themes that concerned us most amongst the popular ones in our area.

Now, lest you get the wrong impression, I don’t think a co-op is necessarily a bad idea.
Let me tell you about the co-op of my dreams. . .

  • Meeting with two or three other like-minded families, maybe once a month or every other month
  • Relaxed environment, like my home or theirs, or at the park, or where ever we decide
  • Doing one or two subjects or projects with all of our kids, together, no matter the ages
    • For example, I might teach a health lesson with a hands-on activity one month, while the next mom might choose arts & crafts for the next
    • More enrichment based, rather than curriculum based
  • Maybe we get together to go on a field trip sometimes
  • Other times we get together to simply fellowship, to talk over a potluck lunch, to let the kids play
  • Share our tried and true tips and tricks of parenting, homeschooling and family life

I don't know if this would technically qualify as a co-op, maybe it's more of a support group.
Whatever it is, it is what I would call ideal.



Have you decided to use a co-op for your family's homeschooling? Why or why not?

**Originally written here for Our Homeschool Forum.**

14 comments:

  1. Your reasons are great. We are very like minded on this. We did a few co-op classes over the years. I found the ones that worked out the best were for high school, such as Latin. Sometimes math is a good co-op for highschoolers as well. Other than that, getting together with some other families worked great for our kids for things like Lego Mind Storms, or Chemistry and of course field trips. :)

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    1. A couple subjects for high school sounds like good idea....I'm praying my dream co-ops. :)

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  2. Oh, I wish for the same thing! There is a local homeschool group that I've heard is really flexible. It's just that with babies and toddlers always around, I just feel like most things are too much for me to handle. However, now that my olders are older, it seems more doable. I'm considering going on a field trip to the post office with them in a few weeks.

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    1. I totally understand! Babies , toddlers and pregnancies make a big difference. I hope the field trip goes well and that things are a good fit, if you decide to give it a try.

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  3. Right there with you! We tried co-ops in the early elementary grades and it was not worth the hassle. Then we found a group that is exactly like your dream co-op. It was family centered. We would have different sports throughout the year. For example, every Friday night in June/July would be family baseball at the park. Dads would play with the kids on the field and the moms usually sat on the side lines cheering, talking about the week etc. and just being refreshed. That's just one AMAZING example of the things our group did. We would do the same thing for FEB/March with basketball at a local church to help the long winter pass.:) I could go on and on about how relaxed and informal our group was. I say was because we moved so now we are dreaming, like you, of that dream group again. We are thinking of starting our own because all we can find are just very formal co-ops. We had it real good. I know you would have joined our group. :)

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    1. Yep, I would've been right there in your group. Lol That sounds exactly like what I'm looking for...even something where the husbands coukd fellowship sometimes, too. Wished we lived closer! :)

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  4. I am trying to navigate and not fall into the trap of co-ops. I am not totally against them, but I appreciate the freedom of not having to dedicate additional time to homework or being somewhere every week at the same time usually for an extended period of time. This year we've been able to get together with another family to do art and science.

    I want something similar to what you are describing though. A time to fellowship and get feedback from one another.

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    1. I think getting together with another family for art and science is awesome! Those are 2 subjects families can totally do together, no matter the age range. Glad to know I'm not the only one seeking a more informal set-up. :)

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  5. We've been in co-ops, now and then, the past 10 years of homeschooling. What we are currently in is close to what you described as your ideal...and that's why we're there and not at the "traditional" ones anymore! Ha! I love the heart to heart stuff that goes on at our little meetings twice a month and I love that all the kids are integrated and enjoying one another's company---regardless of age.

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    1. Sounds great to me! The "heart to heart" as you said, is what I'm looking for. I'm glad you found your ideal! Thanks for sharing that.

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  6. If you see a need, the best bet is to create your vision. Don't wait for someone else to do it for you! I started & ran a casual, play based co-op. We only met twice a month. Minimal fees -- just enough to comp the parent/teacher for supplies & many classes were free. No homework. We did offer classes by age though. No structured classes led to chaos. Asking sixth graders & first graders to do the same topics left everyone unhappy and feeling like their needs weren't met -- especially the older kids. My biggest challenge was families who wanted to come but not help out. Everyone needs to contribute for co-op to be "cooperative". ;-)

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  7. I agree, starting something myself is a fabulous idea....just gotta find some families that want something informal and small. How kind of you to start a play-based co-op, though! It can be tricky to have older and younger kids together. However, that is how I live...my oldest and youngest are 12 years apart, with 4 more kids in between, so they are used to comfortably interacting with a range of ages. Takes some work, but it can be done.

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  8. Yep, us too. I looked forward to my kids turning 14, which was the required age to start the co-op for all the "hard" big kid classes. The year they turned 14, we moved! But now, with my second set of kids (adopted), we have little desire to co-op, partly because they are all special needs, but mostly because we don't want to be scheduled. I would love a support group like you mentioned. It would be great to, for example, get together and make a volcano. One simple page could be handed out the week or month before, with info about volcanoes. No pressure to keep up with others in a text, it would be fun, even if you aren't studying volcanoes. Art projects, character Bible lessons, etc, could all be done regardless of what individual families are studying at that time.
    Found your blog through Rainbow today, you are great breath of fresh air for this mom who's been schooling almost 2 decades. =)

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    1. Janet, thank you for your comment. Your ideas are exactly what I'm talking about!! Something low-key, but enriching, and above all, an environment of fellowship. Glad you found me!

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