There are aspects of homeschooling that can overwhelm many parents. Teaching every subject to various developmental levels is typically enough to trigger some level of overwhelm in even seasoned home educators!
Homeschool co-ops offer an interesting solution to homeschooling stress. Families gather together one day a week and parents divide up to teach various classes based on their skills, interests, and abilities. Students are then able to interact with other homeschooled children and learn from other adults besides their parents.
These co-ops definitely have their benefits, but does that mean that every homeschool family should be involved in one?
Thinking Through the Benefits
For our family, my husband and I had to revisit this issue before our school year began this year. A new homeschool co-op was beginning in our area, and it sounded more promising academically. There were aspects of it that I thought our children would enjoy and grow by.
But along with those benefits, we also recognized some downsides that for us needed examined and committed to prayer.
The benefits were clear:
- Meeting new friends (both the children and me)
- Interacting with more children different from them
- Learning from a different person with a unique teaching style who is more skilled or interested in an area than I am
- Having elective options that would be fun and imaginative for them
- Participating in learning activities that I perhaps would not initiate myself
And of course, every homeschool co-op is unique, and some provide even more benefits outside of the typical.
Questioning the Drawbacks
But even the best homeschool co-ops have potential downsides that need to be considered. While we debated on whether or not to join the new co-op, we considered a few questions:
- How well did we know the other families? Did we share a common faith foundation, or was it possible that there could be frequent and major differences?
- Would the material covered at the co-op be more thorough, engaging, and challenging than what I was already providing at home?
- Could I handle being gone from home every week for one day, having all the children dressed, having lunches packed, being on time, and then coming home to go on with our day?
- Would the day away from home disrupt our own weekly school schedule or enhance it?
- Would the benefits outweigh the effort it would take for me as the mom of a large, young family?
- Would I be more hesitant to do field trips on other days if we were already gone from home one day a week?
- Would my expected responsibilities at the co-op allow me to serve and encourage others, or would it add stress and a burden to my full plate?
For us, after considering the benefits and talking through the potential downsides we could see, we opted to not join the new co-op this year and instead focus on group field trips with a couple of homeschool local groups.
I don’t know the families of the co-op yet, I feel confident with the material we cover at home, and most of all, I wasn’t convinced that all the benefits would outweigh the effort it would take for me to get everyone there and on time every single week (and that would mean getting up earlier). A lot of our decision had to do with me knowing my limits at this stage of my life.
This year, with this co-op, and at this point in our family’s homeschool journey, a homeschool co-op sounds nice, but isn’t something that we absolutely need to do. We felt best to pass for another year, though we are certainly open to joining a co-op in the future if we feel the benefits win for us and that I can still stay balanced with all of my other responsibilities.
There’s certainly no one-size-fits-all answer to the homeschool co-op option. If you’ve considered a co-op for your family, did you decide on necessary, nice, or not needed?
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