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’ve seen formal co-ops that are run like private schools. I’ve participated in parent-led co-ops. I know many homeschoolers who do very specific, curriculum-based co-ops. And lately, online co-ops seem popular.
Many families homeschool for different reasons with different methods. We homeschool because I am anti-school. My husband and I are capable of teaching our children all academics and life skills that they need. I am raising critical thinkers, not conformists.
I’m sure co-ops are a wonderful resource for many homeschool families.
Homeschool 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 decor 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 require registration fees, materials fees, cleaning fees…so much money. At the high school level, I could see how sharing a lab cost could maybe be a frugal option. I have four kids and the fees add up so quickly.
I’ve seen that many co-ops require training for the parents. And that’s another cost for a trainer and materials. I was a certified teacher. I have a master’s degree in education. That’s a Nope.
In Ohio, a local Christian school offers a homeschool co-op that requires uniforms, completing forms including which church a family attends, and signing a statement of faith. Tuition is more than $1000 per child per year. There are additional fees for art, sports, drama, and other extracurricular activities.
Of course I want my kids to socialize with other kids.
When we participated in co-ops, it reminded me of the reasons why we homeschool.
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. My eldest daughter 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 our family.
Most of the co-op families attended the same church. And it was not a church I would attend. We were left out.
The negative influences upset our family and it wasn’t worth it.
I found I was getting physically ill the evenings before co-op days and I knew we shouldn’t continue. No one in our family was enjoying it midway through second semester, so why bother signing up next year?
Most co-ops want conformity and that is literally what I don’t want in my family.
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.
I’m all for schedules and routines and I know many families do grades and tests, but 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 and learn to mastery.
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.
Parents complained when I made a joke they felt was inappropriate. They didn’t like my book selection for February for my story art preschool class. I never realized how strict some people are about things that shouldn’t matter.
I can stay home. Or take a relevant field trip. Or go to a movie. Or take a fun day to play in the snow or sunshine.
Whenever we want.
I like to be home for lunch.
When my kids were babies and toddlers, I liked to be home for mealtime and 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 or looking for tadpoles or just a fun park day. I had two babies at the time, so I went for my eldest daughter so she could play and learn with other kids her age. She loved 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 corralling them while my eldest daughter was on her own with the other kids and moms. I felt lost and alone.
When we did a more formal co-op in Utah, I had to pack 5 lunches and snacks each Thursday for the day-long 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 cold floor and that drove me nuts. We felt degraded and less-than because we couldn’t even sit at a table for lunch. I tried to make it fun like a picnic but I really hated it.
When we last participated in co-op, Alex was almost 4 and he was completely 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 playing 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 yet. We missed his sisters.
Most of the online co-ops weren’t at a time that worked for us when we lived in Germany. I don’t feel comfortable committing to or scheduling my life around an online class.
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 to that school model. That defeats the whole purpose of homeschooling. My kids are all great readers and typically at least one grade level ahead in most subjects, by school standards, but many homeschool parents running co-ops don’t care about any of that.
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 apply to some but others got in trouble, like skinny shoulder straps on tank tops. My girls were only 5, 6, and 11.
Some co-ops require extensive 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 don’t align with the statements.
Some of the parents who manage co-ops and teach courses don’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 my daughter out of that class. It was a waste of an hour.
I protect our time.
We homeschool, therefore I want us to be home. We’re developing relationships with our family members. We seldom even do field trips with local homeschoolers because they often embarrass us with their behavior or make listening to the guide virtually impossible.
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?
You might also like: How We Do Homeschool and Life Series.
Oh, thank you! We haven’t been homeschooling very long. I considered a co-op in the area and just couldn’t make myself do it. Almost all the reasons you wrote about are mine. I’d been feeling guilty about not trying, but not anymore.
The guilt hasn’t gone away. But our local group is starting one and I refuse to look at their planning posts, lol.
I see your trouble with the co-ops you described. I have been a part of two Christian co-ops that we loved!
These were lovely families and we thankfully had good experiences.
Our main reason for not attending now though is that I have 4 kiddos under 4 and the stress of getting everyone out the door by 8 just isn’t worth the benefits for my two older children.
Plus lunchtime was simply annoying, our co-op was only until 11, but by the time we got home I had 6 cranky children with one needing to nurse. I suppose I could do a crockpot meal…but I just don’t see the benefits being enough to make so much efforts
The other issue I had with co-op was that putting my littles in nursery exposed them to snotty little noses and coughing littles ones, even though the rules said to keep ill children home. I had a asthmatic at the time we attended so this was a real issue.
Anyhow, despite those complaints I really did enjoy fellowship with the other moms. It was encouraging to see others moms “like me”, especially those who had older kids. Seasoned moms were a great insight.
If we are still in this same area in a few years I would consider attending again
exactly. The very few benefits just were outweighed by all the negatives.
If I have 4 teens, it might be very different, but my one teen is doing college-level work right now and has few peers.
Just stating facts though it sounds like bragging. Why do we always have to apologize for something good?
I am so glad to read this. We have homecchooled for five years and never participated in a co-op. I felt guilty, but not anymore. I like the freedom we have to go at our pace and learn what we want, when we want, and take as much time as we need. I really don’t want to be responsible for teaching other people’s children…that is not my calling.
isn’t the freedom thing WONDERFUL?! :)
We have been homeschooling for 6 years and we’ve never participated in a co-op for some of the same reasons you’ve listed. I love connecting with other homeschool families but I have a lot of responsibilities outside of homeschool that homeschooling allows me to fullfil.
sure, we often have different priorities that being stuck with a co-op wouldn’t allow us to fulfull. And we get socialization. We’re all ok. :)
Thank you!!! Great post. We don’t do the co-ops either. I feel you get the” why do you homeschool” question enough and then once you’re “in” ,you get the”why don’t y’all do co-ops”. I love how you explained this:) !
yeah, I love the feeling that I have to justify what we do with our family to other people.
Erin @ Nourishing My Scholar says
We don’t do co-ops either for many of the same reasons as you! Thanks :-)
They’re a LOT of work…someone mentioned I should start my own…um, NO.
The Natural Homeschool says
Good points. I’ve been in a mix of loving and hating. ;)
A mix is always expected, but when the bad outweighs the good…it’s time to reconsider :)
I think the beauty of homeschooling lies in being able to make your own choices. That suit your children and yourself and I can totally see why you’d rather stay away from the negativity or co-op groups. Of course, you won’t be able to protect your children from negativity or bullying for all their life, but while you can it would be insane not to do it! Thanks for linking to Parenting Pin It Party x
yes, I want to protect my kids while they’re young. Their hearts are more important to me than those other homeschoolers and their legalism.
Of course, that is the beauty of homeschooling — we can all choose what is the best fit for our families!
In my experience, our co-op has been a great addition to our home school and my kids absolutely love going. It allows my kids to participate in extracurricular-type activities that I wouldn’t have the time or money to do otherwise.
It also gives me a way to expose them to people and ideas that are very different in a fairly controlled atmosphere — which is a priority for me.
The only drawbacks for me are packing lunches and missed naps… But the bigger kids miss out on other events so that we don’t miss naps. For me, one day a week is manageable.
yes, I am not advocating at all against co-ops…they just haven’t worked for us. I feel there is great pressure withing the homeschooling community at large that all homeschool families should participate.
I enjoyed this post. Happy I’m not the only one who thinks a co-op is more effort than it’s worth.
Distance would be another one for us. We don’t live close to anything, so just the travel time would interfere with other things we could be doing.
Great thing is we’re always free to change our mind if we decide at some point that a co-op would be worth the hassles.
yes, we all must weigh our priorities. Perhaps when my kids are older and we live somewhere else, we will attempt it again. But most likely not since we had such poor experiences. I have found many alternatives online, at the library, in books. I would rather keep my kids home as much as possible and learn alongside them.
Thank you, thank you for writing this! We have homeschooled for 10 years and the first 6 or so I tried SO HARD to make every type of Co-op work. Half day, all day, church based, PS enrichment, one class at a time, 5 classes day etc. We had some good experiences but mostly difficult. I taught art at many of them, and my hours and days planning took away from what my kids needed at home. My kids have some special needs that always made it feel more difficult to “fit in” and were not embraced by many of the families we spent time there with. I always have struggled with the guilt of not doing them. My kids finally said they did not like the massive Co-op we last were a part of with 200+ families. So for the past 3 years we have not done one….and every semester I look at the local co-ops and courses offered and feel a resounding NO in my spirit. I know many families thrive and love their co-ops. and I have had so much guilt over not doing one. This article helped me to feel I am not the only one choosing a different path. We live in the country and its such a long day for us to go into town and spend hours at a Co-op. Two of my kids are introverts and its painful for them to be in a classroom, but they love the small, intimate, casual gatherings we have started up with friends. Its good to embrace our family focused lifestyle and still find opportunities out there for my kids to study the things they like outside of a Co-op offering. Thanks again!
yes, exactly! I love our “family focused lifestyle” too. I did feel that all my prep took away from our homeschool and family time the rest of the week, and our recovery day every Friday. It was getting ridiculous.
Shecki @ Greatly Blessed says
The word co op comes from COOPERATE. I’ve been involved with the leadership in a co op, and it’s amazing how many people don’t get that. Some families want everything to go their way. Well, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. I’m glad you chose not to do co ops any more. You’d be surprised at how many people keep going, and try to force the rest of the group to change to their whims.
wow, nowhere did I mention that I expected the entire co-op to change to my whims.
I taught two classes completely along and helped in my daughter’s science. I attended the preschool time with my son. The other parents were overbearing and argumentative. There were so many complaints about the choices for books for my Story Art class that I had to cancel one of the classes completely. I stressed SO MUCH over trying to be the cooperative one.
Let’s show some grace for individual family decisions…you weren’t there, didn’t know my situation, didn’t witness the lack of COOPERATION within that group. I’m glad I left too!
I left because my children’s hearts were more important than that group’s legalistic ideas.
Always love connecting with other homeschool families! So glad you joined us for “Tuesday Talk”~
We have tried several co-ops and I have felt the same way as many of the things you listed. With many families choosing to teach differently or having differing theological views it often ends up being a judgmental mess. My kids typically enjoyed the classes but they did’nt get along with many of the kids. Bullying is’nt just a public school issue.
yes, the differing theological issues were a huge problem. They mostly hid behind legalism and it wasn’t worth arguing. Thank God we have freedom in Christ and not a bunch of arbitrary rules.
I found your post so refreshing. I accidentally started a co-op with a friend this year…whoa, what a mistake. There have been some good things. I enjoyed teaching some of the classes (about 3 of the 6 I taught) but, my class prep took over our life and felt like a prison sentence. There were some interesting classes…though my kids could have gotten as much or more out of classes at the art museum or local Parks and Rec. I hate packing lunches…though, after reading your post, I am thankful that we were able to sit at small, awkward tables. The part I regret the most is the social impact on my son. He has hated it. I thought he was just being overly sensitive (kicking myself for thinking that) but, I now realize that he was basically being bullied. Thankfully, this terrible co-op year is almost over. I will never join another co-op again! Thank you for your post…it has helped me process my bad experience and helped me feel more confident about not joining if we homeschool again (I am feeling so burned out that I might have the kids try public school again).
oh, I’m so sorry about your experiences! I remember feeling that burnout, but we vowed never to “threaten” with school. Homeschooling may not be for everyone for the long haul, but it is our way of life. Hopefully, the warmer weather with spring and summer will help or you can lighten the load something fun or maybe take a break. Praying for your family to find the right path!
Thank you for this post. I found your blog while searching for folks that don’t do co-ops.
I agree with your reasons. Just recently got in trouble by the “in-crowd” at our local co-op because I had the audacity to suggest people actually show up to events they create.
I’m near 40 and have been out of high school for 20 yrs so I’m not thrilled to have to deal with the popularity contests and drama. I think we are going to quietly slip out the back door and not return. Thanks for the encouraging post.
Just found this post and it’s so refreshing! I’ve been homeschooling my girls for 5 years now and we’ve tried two different co-ops. Thankfully, two years ago I knew I’d had enough. I came home every co-op day with a massive headache and more drama to sort through than I ever imagined possible considering all the “Christian” moms/parents we were supposedly in fellowship with.
Needless to say, life is much more peaceful when we are home/family focused and I actually stay on track with our curriculum much better without the distraction of a co-op!
We get to focus on building relationships with our family at home and our family at church. They also have time to pursue the things they really love.
Anyway, thank you for expressing so clearly what I have often struggled to when asked about why we don’t participate I co-ops.
So glad to help! We still don’t do co-ops. They really can be a headache!
carrie ann says
This was a good post. Thank you. I have homeschooled a very outgoing, only child for 5 years. It’s tough with an only child. We’ve done various class and social activities, all with varying degrees of success.
We tried to do a hybrid Christian classical school two days a week this semester and it was a disaster. I was looking for support and social. I thought this would be the perfect fit.
Last year, we toured. The teacher in our grade was a very talented woman. This year, the degreed teacher was a disaster. There was barely any interaction with the students — and there were only 7 of them — she talked at them. She was also ill prepared and dismissed anything I had to say. The curriculum had also been changed. It was cumbersome, boring, incomplete and behind grade level. There was a bully. I didn’t so much mind, because it was subtle and eventually every child growing up has to learn to deal with it. When I mentioned the bully to the director, she made a big deal about what the handbook says and the teacher had not noticed anything. No. That teacher would not have noticed an elephant hanging from the ceiling.
We were on the hook financially for the whole year. When we’d had our family interview, we understood that but there was a verbal agreement that if we moved or had some other extenuating circumstance, they would let us out of it. After a flare-up of ulcerative colitis for me and an emergency room visit for my child, thinking he had appendicitis, both mostly due to the stress of the whole thing, I decided that no amount of money would be worth staying. Despite our health issues, they did not let us out of the tuition.
Just feel sad and disappointed for having drunk thel Kool-aid. It seems so very un-Christian.
We now do one day a week at a Montessori school. It’s just right academically but it’s still lonely.
We will never do a co-op again. But I find it unfortunate.
It is unfortunate and lonely. Every single time I try to participate in even field trips anymore, I feel so excluded. My kids just stick together. They’ve tried to engage other kids but it’s really hard. I think it’s just the way of the world and it is so sad. And it feels unChristian.
Kids aren’t the only ones who bully. We enjoyed our co-op for years until a few women decided it was theirs. It didn’t feel like a “co-operation” anymore, and when the rules kept piling up and the gossip started I made the mistake of saying something. I was made quite an example of and chased away. Our kids were heart-broken. It has left quite a scar on us, but I know God will use it for much good.
I know this is an old post, but I just found it and thought it was interesting.
I joined a co-op at the beginning of this school year, but only stayed for one term. The children were just out of control and no one ever corrected them. Parents were actually reprimanded when they would ask the students to pay attention. It was about 30 minutes from my house, and although some people were very nice to me, some people seemed really “clique-y” and there were so many people that it would have taken the whole year to learn everyone’s name. I was never excited for co-op day.
A couple of weeks ago another homeschool mom contacted me about starting a local co-op, only 5 minutes from my house. I am really excited about it, because my oldest is 5 years older than his little brother, so he doesn’t get to play with other children very often. I think it will be good for him, and since I am in charge of planning (along with two other ladies) I can have him in my classes or classes with parents I trust, and make sure he is behaving appropriately.
Reading this post and the comments has been very helpful, to look for ways to make sure our co-op is successful. The most important piece for me is to make sure that all the families feel welcome. I don’t want any moms leaving because they feel like they are outsiders. I think it is good that the three of us on the leadership team all go to different churches.
Thank you again for this eye-opening post.
Yes, I think there are ways to make a co-op successful. Thanks for these important points!