By Amy Kirk
As a parent who homeschooled her kids, I can say with confidence that the decision to homeschool is one of the toughest choices you can make. It can be hard when the rest of the world returns to school and your kids don’t. Suddenly, the reality of “homeschooling” hits home. It can be lonely and scary for both the kids and the parent. Any time we go against the mainstream it can be tough; it takes a lot of courage to go it alone, so in this article, I’ll show you how to start a homeschool co-op.
The Basics of Homeschool Co-Ops
My family and I were fortunate in that we didn’t have to face it by ourselves; we had access to some wonderful homeschool co-ops. You probably know all about homeschool co-ops, but if you don’t, I’ll briefly explain. A co-op is usually composed of homeschool families—both parents and kids. They generally meet one day a week at an agreed upon location and each parent takes turns teaching the kids.
The amazing thing I found was the level of expertise among these homeschooling parents: architects, lawyers, nurses, gardeners and, yes, teachers. Within our community, and I’m betting, in yours as well, there were the makings of a top-notch group of educators happy to share their knowledge with all the kids and to be a part of this community.
The Best Parts Of School
The parents spent time talking about frustrations, challenges, what was working, what wasn’t, etc. The kids had the joy of friendships and wonderful classes that each parent couldn’t provide individually, but could as a group. At the end of each semester, the children had performances and a party where grandparents and other parents and friends would be invited to see what we were up to. In effect, we simulated the best parts of school and tweaked it to work for us.
If this sounds good to you, you may want to look for a co-op in your area to join. Or you may either want or need to start your own co-op. Even if your kids—or you—have special needs, there are probably others with similar needs as well.
How to Start a Homeschool Co Op:
- Explain to your children what a co-op is and ask them if they think it sounds like fun. If they say no, think it over carefully. You’re about to put a lot of time and effort into this and your kids need to benefit. If they say “Yes,” forge ahead!
- Determine if other families would be interested in joining a co-op. If you don’t know any other homeschoolers, join a Yahoo! group for homeschoolers, either in your town or in a town as close as possible to where you live. Post the question, “Is there any interest in ….” At this point you’re just gauging interest.
- Plan a get-together at a public location with interested responders. Do not meet alone with just one other respondent (safety first). Initially, you need to find out if the people who responded are similar to you and your kids in any way other than being homeschoolers. Once it’s been determined that the responders are a perfect—or a possible fit—start discussing details with them.
Agreeing To The Details
- Decide on the day and time you want to meet for your co-op. Determine if you want to rent space in a church or just meet at someone’s house for co-op. Decide what class each parent wants to teach. Keep in mind some parents may not be able to teach because of younger kids. They can be in charge of preschool activities for this age group, though.
- Decide on the schedule you will keep.
- Set into place a discipline policy that everyone agrees upon. Have everyone read and sign it. This is the hardest step and—hopefully—you’ll never have to use it, but it should be in place just in case.
This is just a simple guide of how to start a homeschool co op. No doubt there will be a few hurdles to overcome, but if you stick with it, you’ll have built a program that will benefit your family and friends for a long, long time—not to mention modeling for your kids the way to problem solve.
Amy Kirk lives outside Austin TX, on a small four-acre farm known as Novellas Farm, an educational demonstration farm catering to children. She is blessed to be the mother of three wonderful children, ages 20, 17, and 13—all home schooled. She’s the wife of an extremely gifted man who supports and encourages her in her many pursuits.