I know many homeschoolers participate in co-ops and love it. I know many parents who utilize co-ops for homeschool courses they don’t feel comfortable teaching – art, upper level math, writing, foreign language. I’m sure co-ops are a wonderful resource for many homeschool families.
I’ve seen formal co-ops that are run like private schools. I’ve participated in casual, parent-led co-ops. I know many homeschoolers who do very specific, curriculum-based co-ops. And lately, online co-ops seem popular.
Co-ops are not for us.
Why We Don’t Do Homeschool Co-ops
Most co-ops charge fees. I get that there are expenses. When I taught school, I spent so much of my own money on my classroom and supplies.
Of course, the drop-off co-ops need payments for teachers, materials, teaching space, cleaning fees, whatever.
Even the parent-led co-ops required registration fees, materials fees, cleaning fees…so many fees. At the high school level, I could see how sharing a lab cost was actually a frugal option. I had four kids and the fees added up so quickly.
Lately, I’ve seen that many co-ops require training for the parents. Just no.
Of course I want my kids to socialize with other kids.
When we participated in co-ops, it reminded me of some reasons why we homeschool.
I can’t filter friendships in group environments.
Too much of my time after co-op day was spent in deprogramming my kids from the negative behaviors they learned from the other kids and parents at co-op. Liz was bullied by several girls her age. I felt bullied by several homeschool moms who thought they were way more Christian than we were.
No one ate lunch with us.
Most of the co-op families attended the same church. And it was not a church I would attend.
The negative influences upset our family.
I found I was getting physically ill the evenings before co-op days and I knew we shouldn’t continue. It just wasn’t worth it. No one in our family was enjoying it.
I like to be free to teach at my own pace. I want my kids to learn at their own paces.
I don’t want them stressing over learning some timeline song or some ridiculously confusing method to write a notes outline each week.
While I’m all for schedules and checklists and I know many families do grades and tests, we don’t. I don’t feel it’s necessary when I have four students. I know what they know. I know their strengths and weaknesses. We complete portfolios.
I don’t want to have curriculum or information or values dictated to our family. This is why we homeschool. I have the freedom to choose our learning styles and topics.
I can stay home. Or take a relevant field trip. Or go to a movie. Whenever we want.
I like to be home for lunch.
When my kids were babies and toddlers, I liked to be home for naptime.
We attended a couple very informal co-op events when we first began homeschooling in San Antonio. These were only an hour or two long, more like field trips that were topical – like arts and crafts. I had two babies at the time, so I went for Liz so she could play and learn with other kids her age. She love it, being the social butterfly she is.
I tried to participate in a classical history co-op in Hawaii. I had two toddlers and I spent most of my time corraling them while Liz was on her own with the other kids and moms. I felt lost.
When we did a co-op in Utah, I had to pack 5 lunches and snacks each week for co-op. While of course we eat lunch every day, I had to make sure we had food items that didn’t need to be warmed up for co-op since there were no facilities and lunch time was only 20-30 minutes long. Most of the families sat on the floor and that drove me nuts. We felt degraded and less-than because we couldn’t even sit at a table for lunch.
When we last participated in a co-op, Alex was almost 4 and he was exhausted by the time we returned home about 2 in the afternoon. And that exhaustion rolled over to the next day, so we lost so much time catching up.
I spent lots of time preparing for my turn to teach classes (and I wasn’t too impressed with some of the preps from other parents). Some days, I helped in the nursery and didn’t see my kids at all. Other days, I spent the entire co-op in the preschool room with Alex because he wasn’t completely toilet trained. We missed his sisters.
Most of the online co-ops aren’t at a time that works for us since we live in Germany now.
Groups have to have rules and regulations. I get that.
Despite the fact that it is a homeschool co-op, most group kids by ages and not abilities and refuse any exceptions. That defeats the whole purpose. My kids are all great readers and typically at least one grade level ahead, by school standards, but many homeschool parents running co-ops don’t care.
Some of the co-ops we participated in had bizarre and arbitrary rules and few consequences. My girls were confused about the dress code that seemed to not apply to some but others got in trouble.
Some co-ops require applications and signatures on statements of faith. I don’t often feel comfortable agreeing to these forms. And too often, the outward behavior of the co-op families didn’t align with the statements.
Some of the parents who managed and taught courses didn’t have a clue about the curriculum or how to teach children. This was quite noticeable to my eldest when she took a writing class and could have taught the course at age 11. When I asked the teacher-parent about some of the methods in the course, she couldn’t explain anything to me. She was either ill-prepared or ignorant. I pulled Liz out of that class. It was a waste of an hour.
I protect our schedule. We homeschool, therefore I want us to be home to learn. We’re developing relationships with our family members and with Christ. We seldom even do field trips with local homeschoolers because they often interfere with our lessons. These are hard decisions but almost every time I second-guess myself and enroll the kids in a class, I regret it.
Does your family participate in a homeschool co-op? Why or why not?
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