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.