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From both sides of the homeschool co-op coin
I’m still in the early stages of my homeschool journey with my six-year-old son. I found a curriculum I’m happy with and I enjoy showing him little things like how to make a bed and other useful lifestyle habits. I’m happy with his progress and I’m thinking maybe a homeschool co-op will be a great addition to his experience.
Moms and Dads if you’re anything like me, you probably have this gnawing feeling in the back of your mind that the isolation may affect your child’s social skills. I’m a work at home mom so my time is devoured by homeschooling, working full time as a customer care agent and building a business.
Sleep is for wusses.
I know he needs to be around kids his own age and I try to include fun time during my short breaks and lunch. Therefore, I keep the weekends fun and manage to slip in a learning opportunity without him noticing.
But is that enough?
When I first started thinking about homeschooling him, I took to Facebook to find an online group in my area. I’m being honest when I say they weren’t much help. I remained a part of the group, but I seldom posted because I didn’t feel anyone took me seriously.
I decided to homeschool because of an eye-opening negative experience with the public school system. I jumped back on Facebook determined to give them another chance. I still wasn’t feeling it so I looked for more groups. I found some wonderful people in my city and beyond who are fun and are willing to share without asking too many questions.
I’m naturally socially anxious so when someone asks me too many questions, I get suspicious. I know it’s not their fault, but if you’re already in the know, I think I should be the one with the questions.
Am I wrong?
Enough about that, let’s get back to co-ops. In case you’re newbie, a homeschool co-op is a group of families who meet together and work cooperatively to achieve common goals. Co-ops were created to build a community of families who homeschool.
These big groups aren’t just for churches and YMCAs anymore. You can find them online, word of mouth, or even start your own. Many have a Christian background but are open to all beliefs.
I’ll be honest with you. There’s a great debate in the homeschool community co-ops. Some people say they can’t do without their co-ops and others say it’s unnecessary.
If you’re on the fence about joining a co-op here are some things to consider:
First of all, a homeschool co-op isn’t like a club where everyone can join. By no means do they discriminate, but they may have a limit on the families they accept for the year. Sometimes, they hold an open house when a slot becomes available; if they do, take this opportunity to find out if the co-op is a good fit for you.
Next, some co-ops do have fees. They may be collected monthly, annually, or members are asked to pay per activity. This is to help everyone in the co-op participate as some families may be on a limited income.
If spending money bothers you, you should know the fees aren’t anything ridiculous. On average fees are less than $200 annually plus the money funds the co-ops. The fees may pay for books, field trips, and even emergency funds when families get strapped.
Bible studies, science fairs, field trips, tutoring, and dances, oh my! Some co-ops have organized sports teams and play against other co-ops or organizations. Children are grouped by age, not skill and teamwork not competition is the conveyed message.
Some co-ops are casual, but most of the ones I’ve seen run a tight ship. If you aren’t active, they will give you the boot. For the stricter co-ops, parents are expected to volunteer their time, attend meetings, and pay dues.
My request was denied for a mommy group because I work full time. Never mind I work second shift. Pfffttt!
Finally, the most important part of homeschool co-ops are the people who lead it and the children who benefit from it. In public school as long as you pay the PTA dues, you hardly had to show your face. You only had to play nice when your child begged you to volunteer.
Homeschool communities are built by people who have the same goal. I’m not in one right now, I won’t make the assumption it’s all rainbows and sunshine, but I believe there are some groups out there who work diligently to get provide a safe space for families to connect with their children and each other.
Also, there’s a co-op called FEAST I’ve heard great reviews. You may want to check to see if there is one in your city or town.
What I’ve Learned
Co-ops can be a valuable part of your child’s education. They can make friends without labels and learned to be valued as a person and not a number. Most importantly, I’ve learned there are flaws just like any other organization and unlike public school, isn’t a one size fit all thing.
In conclusion, homeschooling co-ops aren’t for everyone. There are some people who can’t live without it and others say it’s totally unnecessary. The good thing is you have a choice and isn’t that what matters most of all?
How about you? Comment and share your homeschool co-op experience below? Was it yay or nay? I’d love to hear about it!
Bonnie Harris Price
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