Homeschool co-ops encompass a variety of different styles. Generally, homeschool co-ops are groups of homeschooling families who join together to make a better homeschool experience for their students. Moms and Dads pitch in to make it work. Students have fun playing and learning with their friends; they get to do activities that are better enjoyed ina group situation. Parents make friends with other parents, and share the joys and difficulties of homeschooling.
When our children were young, we had a KONOS co-op with three other families. All four of us moms would get together once or twice during the summer to make decisions about what to study, length of time, group activities, and such. Most co-ops are some variation on this theme. Someone has to decide what to study, when, where, how long, and who will teach.
There are many highly organized co-ops. Locally, there are Classical Conversations groups which use a specific curriculum and method of teaching. There are other local co-ops where teachers are hired, curricula are selected, a location is secured, and a schedule is set. Families contract with the teacher, and students are accountable to the structure of that co-op. Parental involvement may be minimal which often means that the cost of joining the co-op increases. These co-ops generally meet 2 days a week, and provide assignments for the other days to meet requirements to complete an entire subject in the school year. A few co-ops may provide an entire course load for all subjects for an entire year for all age students.
Other local co-ops are more loosely organized, perhaps run by a group of families who want to provide something for their own children. Every parent (usually the mom) must teach or assist in teaching. If a co-op requires extra assignments, reading, or projects to be completed at home, you need to determine if you have time to oversee these projects and fit them into your daily schedule without falling behind somewhere else.
A big advantage to co-op classes is having access to courses that are difficult to teach at home. A co-op teacher may be able to provide instruction in areas that may not be within the parents’ areas of expertise, like art, music, sewing, or cooking. Upper level maths and sciences, or English and history may be offered. Group learning in PE, drama, public speaking, or literature discussion are more effective with a larger number of students. Having another adult teach gives your child experience with different teaching styles. It’s important to consider the location of a co-op, since you will be driving your students to classes. Many parents find joining a co-op worth the extra effort and expense.
Crossroads has had a variety of co-ops throughout its history. Currently, we have a Friday co-op which we call an enrichment co-op. Most of the classes are for social interaction and fun, as a supplement to what you are teaching at home. We offer classes for all ages, we recruit parents who want their students to be involved with other students, and who are willing to teach other students in exchange for other parents teaching their own children. We do offer some high-school credit-worthy classes, usually for ½ credit (drivers education, health, financial literacy, ACT test prep, etc.). Most homeschool co-ops that require parental involvement offer classes for all ages, because if a parent has to be there, their students have to be there too!
We offer a two-day-a-week co-op called GAP. Two of our moms volunteered to coordinate it; they recruited teachers, and cobbled together an offering of good classes aimed at meeting academic course requirements for junior high and high school classes. They designed this co-op to try to keep costs down. Teachers offered classes that they were planning to teach to their own children, and included other students. Monies charged only to cover basic expenses for each course; parents purchased the curricula agreed upon.
If you would like your student to be involved in Friday co-op, or with GAP co-op, please let us know at the March faculty meetings, or by e-mail or phone in the school office. GAP classes especially need to be planned by June, so our Crossroads families can make decisions based on class availability.
Co-op classes are not a requirement for doing a good job homeschooling. If God has not opened the doors for you with extra money or time, or you live in an area without good options, then don’t worry. You can provide a good education for your students. There are many video and on-line courses available; you may find a family member or friend who may tutor your children in certain subjects. Crossroads has two used book sales a year where you can find quality curricula at bargain prices. I believe the most important thing is to seek the wisdom of the Lord for His direction for you and your homeschool, and trust Him to work in your children’s lives.