Friday, March 2, 2012

Home School Co-Op: Is It For You?

I visited a wonderful little co-op this past week. I was first introduced to the concept of home school co-ops by my friend Lorrie, who has been home schooling for about 10 years, I think. She had her kids attending the one at our church years before I had kids so it didn't register on my radar AT ALL. But now, roughly 7 years later, I am all ears and she is still attending a co op, just not at our church. Anyway, what are co ops?

Well, in my very own words, a co-op is a neat little hybrid of home schooling and private school. It is an opportunity for for families who treasure the idea of their children having regular interaction with other kids in an actual school setting. You generally pay a small fee for each class that you wish for your child or children to take and the classes can either be core subjects or electives and in some cases, with some co-ops both class types are offered and you can attend all or some of each or still choose between the two types of classes.

Within a co-op, usually the parents are the teachers and administrators. With the one that I am interested in, each position with the organization has points assigned to it and each parent of the co op has to sign up for at least a 5 point job and if you exceed 9 points you get a discount on your monthly cost for classes. Sounds complicated or ridiculous? It's not, it is just to make sure that the organization runs smoothly and so that every important function of the co-op is covered for the children's sakes.

Upon my visit to this home school co-op, I saw parents just like me. Moms and Dads who have a vested interest in their child(ren)'s education. It was wonderful.How do you know if a co op is right for you or if you are right for it? Here are a few questions you may want to ask yourself before you decide:

  1. Are you social enough? There will be several families all working together toward a common goal and in pretty close quarters.
  2. Are you willing to teach a class subject, help clean the facility, organize social outings or field trips? Sounds like a lot of work...something to think about!
  3. Are or can you be organized enough? I am not the most organized person but I have no problem organizing 1 or 2 areas of my life! As a co-op participant, you may be called upon to teach or assist a teacher in a class. With that responsibility comes, assigning, grading and recording homework grades. This may only be for accredited co ops but still something to consider.
  4. How important to you is it that your child have the classic "classroom" experience? Our organization's classrooms are anything but traditional. This kids sit in these really nice comfortable chairs around a really large table; large enough for projects, experiments and enough room to comfortably do schoolwork. It's a great environment for free thinking and learning.
  5. Are you willing or looking to share the responsibility of your child's education with other parents just like you.
  6. Can you afford it? You are still responsible for purchasing your yearly curriculums and now you will also have a monthly bill for the classes that your child(ren) are taking. Our monthly charge per class is 5.00-just to give you an idea.
These are just a few questions to get you started. I love doing all of the above so a home school co op fits us perfectly. We attend one day per week, all day, just as if it were a regular school day and then the rest of the week I school at home. My kids will have friends that when we go out on field trips, she'll already be familiar with. The cost to my family is nominal, the payoff academically speaking is enormous. We have some dedicated parents who love what they do, teaching each and every class of our co-op. It is exciting!

*Feel free to share your thoughts on Home School Co-Ops!

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