What is a homeschool co-op, and how does it fit into a home school?
Well, there’s a few answers to that. First, by definition, a co-op is a group of people that work together for a common purpose. In this case, it is for the purpose of supplementing the homeschool environment.
Now, there are a couple different types of co-ops, or groups. Not all co-ops have the same focus, but there are two main groupings:
This is a group that meets for the purpose of conducting classes. Typically there is a reserved meeting space, classrooms, teachers, and an area for parents and siblings to hang out. The teachers can either be independently hired, or parents of children in the group. Most groups that have the parents as the primary teachers remain quite small (less than seven families), but this adds to a very intimate learning environment. Hiring can add to the cost considerably, but allows for nearly limitless class options.
Most academic co-ops I’ve encountered cover some core materials (writing, science, fine arts), and some electives (photography, foreign language). Some choose to require everyone to take all classes while others allow people to sign up ala carte. A co-op does not aim to cover all needed materials for a complete education because, well then, that would be a school, not a homeschool co-op. The aim is rather to join hands for some educational pieces, and to build community in the process.
Of course, within an academic co-op, the kids still have time to meet new people and make friends. As much as homeschoolers dread the “S question” (socialization), a co-op is a great place for kids to have time with other kids that are not their siblings, plus it helps ease the nay-sayers in one’s life.
Sometimes parents just want kids to get together for fun, without a set curriculum in place, or the group doesn’t have the size yet to conduct classes. Families may meet at a masjid/church/community center, or set up park days, and/or set up field trips. A social co-op may have classes from time to time, but there isn’t an expectation that some subjects can be outsourced and one can rely on the co-op for that piece of the child’s education.
A social co-op can be great if kids already have a full plate, the parents don’t have any desire to have classes done by an external resource, and/or for kids to make like minded friends. As any Muslim in the homeschooling communities knows, being a homeschooler is a niche community, and being Muslim is a niche community, so it can be a little more work to get Muslim homeschoolers together, let alone have regular organized events.
Why be part of a co-op?
A co-op is not meant to be a school. The majority of learning still happens with mom typically facilitating. A co-op though can introduce kids to friends they see regularly, that have like minded families, and add some enrichment to their curriculum. At times a co-op can be a resource to outsource a few subjects. Of course there are the social reasons like learning classroom etiquette, interacting with others that might be different than you, conflict resolution, etc.
We have both a secular academic co-op, plus a Muslim social co-op we attend, and while sometimes the schedule feels quite full, we enjoy both for different reasons.
Do you use a co-op? What have you found to be beneficial of the different types?
The rest of the series to check out!
- Q&A: Homeschool Scheduling (February 20, 2013)
- Q&A: Homeschool Time Management (March 7, 2013)
- Q&A: Keeping Track of Grade Level (March 18, 2013)
- Best Kids Islamic Resources (April 1, 2013)
- Q&A: Planning the High School Years (May 7, 2013)
- Q&A: What is a co-op, and why have one? (May 28, 2013)
- Q&A: Pros and Cons of Virtual School (June 10, 2013)
- Q&A - I'm not patient enough to homeschool (June 26, 2013)
- How Do You Check Academic Performance? (October 19, 2015)