Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Choosing a Homeschool Co-op (Part 1)

What to Look for in a Homeschool Co-op
Part 1
This week we will look at “social” and “enrichment” co-ops. 
I will expound on each type of co-op experience.  Next week, we’ll wrap up this series by taking an in-depth look at “replacement” and “drop off” co-ops. 

            There are many reasons for joining a homeschool co-op. 

Co-ops can:
  1. Help our children find and spend time with friends.
  2. Allow our students to experience concrete deadlines, assignments, and academic expectations. 
  3. Let other adults evaluate our students’ work.
  4. Give us, as parents, the chance to have a more experienced or more qualified adult teach our children difficult subjects.
  5. Allow other adults to invest in our children’s lives and encourage their God-given strengths. 
  6. Give our children a taste of a more structured classroom environment. 

Co-ops may be highly organized or loosely structured.  However, for the purposes of this article, they will be divided into four basic types: 
1.     Social
2.     Enrichment
3.     Replacement
4.     Drop off

For most of our thirteen years of Homeschooling we have been involved in various co-ops.  As my children have gotten older, what we desire in a co-op has evolved and changed.  We have enjoyed all kinds of co-ops and still have friends we have met in each. 

A decade ago, as a mother of two early elementary students, we attended social co-ops.  They are, just as the name implies, groups focusing on socialization and having fun.  Most of these co-ops allow for a “drop in” policy and offer little in the way of structure.  Meetings may be weekly, but more often are scheduled less frequently.  Cost is minimal.  If there is a cost, you might be just asked to donate to a “thank you” fund for the local church brave enough to let a multitude of varying age school children invade their gymnasium once or twice a month.  

I was once involved in a group called “Relaxed Homeschoolers”.  They met once a month at a local church with a gymnasium and, basically, the moms drank coffee and chatted while the youngsters blew off excess energy in the gym for a couple of hours.  This was particularly nice for winter months, when active play was harder to attain.  For families already heavily involved in extra-curricular activities with older students, the social co-op gives younger siblings a special day when they can meet with friends and just have fun. 

The second type of co-op covers a wider-range than the first.  Enrichment co-ops meet on a regular schedule and offer classes to augment or supplement your homeschool schedule.  Classes may be offered on small engine repair, cooking, sewing, painting, or photography.  Typically parents are the instructors, although, it is not uncommon for community groups to be invited to teach a single class.  As a group, you may learn life saving skills from the American Red Cross, visit the local fire station, or take ice skating lessons for six weeks. 

Topics to be studied are determined by all of the parents involved in the co-op.  Schedules are designed in “blocks” of time, allowing several weeks for each topic.  Parental involvement is mandatory and each parent is given one topic to teach or may serve as a “class helper”. Other than planning for the weeks in which you are teaching, your involvement will be fairly limited in scope.  Students are typically grouped together in a wide range of ages so that older students can mentor younger ones.  If the topic or situation merits, girls and boys may be taught separately.  Costs are generally in the low to medium range, depending on which activities the group decides to explore.  However, if you choose not to attend certain segments because of added cost, this is generally considered acceptable.  If you have a large age-range of students and want your students to stay together in the same classroom, the enrichment co-op is a good choice for you.

Hang in there with me and next week we’ll conclude this series with an in-depth look at the last two types of co-ops:  replacement and drop off.  

Remember, do all to the Glory of God, 


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