No doubt, a homeschool co-op can be a asset to a homeschool experience, but it also adds to how often you’re packing up the kids and running around from one place to another. Can you be a part of more than one co-op? When is a co-op a vibrant activity in your week, and when does it become a drag? The following questions should help you determine how much time you have to fit in a co-op.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
Also, what about your kids? If it is rejuvenating to be with a group of people, a co-op could be a perfect place to get in some of that extrovert time. If you (or your kids) are an introvert, a co-op can still be a great addition to your week, but you’ll want one that is just a few hours and not the entire day.
Even if you tag yourself as an introvert, don’t immediately shy away from meeting at a group each week. It’s a great place to meet likeminded friends, even if you spend most of the time reading or knitting in a quiet place.
What is the schedule of the co-op?
The majority of co-ops meet weekly, but not all. Some meet bi-weekly, monthly, or any other period of time. The consensus in general is that two co-ops that meet weekly is overboard. It’s hard to want to go out and do spontaneous or one-time activities when 40% of your week is already accounted for. We have managed two co-ops for a couple years, but both of them only met half the day. Still, by the end of the year, it starts to feel like a chore to pack everyone up rather than an exciting time to meet friends.
What other activities are in the plans?
Be mindful of activities in your local community that you want to take part in. In our area, there are many opportunities for class series at the science museum, or the wildflower garden. If we are already planning on taking classes elsewhere, how much time will we have left for spontaneous trips? Unless you’re purely unschooling, you likely feel the need to spend some time at home to get some work done.
How much scheduling do you like?
Some people love having a schedule and knowing what they need to do next. Others would much rather have most days with no commitments and see how the day shapes up as it goes. If you’re new to homeschooling, it can take a year or two to figure out where your comfort level is. It takes a bit of trial and error.
Most people can fit in one weekly co-op, but some would rather have the entire week free to take advantage of outside activities as they come up. It also depends on the type of co-op (social vs. educational) that is available and what priority that is for your family.
My suggestion to anyone homeschooling is to have at least one activity for each kid where they are with the same kids each week so they can make friends, learn to cope with people they may not enjoy, and have some stability in their outside interactions. This can be in the form of sports, weekend school at the masjid, scouts, etc.
Most co-ops will let you come and hang out for a week or two to try it out. Go for it and see how it works!