Learning Through A Co-op

Like it or not, homeschooling can be a lonely existence. Your children don’t have the instant friends that going to school offers and forget the social events — no school plays to be a part of, no teams to try out for, no year-end parties.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Most of us make a conscious effort to get out and meet people, through local homeschool days or extracurricular activities — just to avoid the dreaded socialization issue.

Yes, there is the argument that the world is your friend and there is no need to remain in one peer group. But kids generally do want to play with other children their own age. They are likely to have similar interests and laugh at the same silly jokes.

One good way to meet socialization needs is through co-ops, a core group of like-minded folk who get together and learn.

Not only will it give your kids a chance to burn energy with others who can keep up, it’s also a chance for the parents to indulge in adult conversation. Whether that be a discussion of the latest vaccines, the state of the laundry, or homeschooling concerns, it’s nice to have someone who understands.

In the beginning, it’s good to just get out and meet people. Like any good relationship, a co-op doesn’t happen instantly. You may love the mom, but don’t like the kids–or vice versa. Give it time and you will find that core group of families who you love hanging out with and growing with.

There are no hard and fast rules as to how to get a co-op going, but here are a few guidelines to get you started:

  • Pencil it in — Meeting at a set time, preferably weekly, gives everyone involved a welcomed event to look forward to.
  • Learn something — Learning is more fun with friends. Pick a subject and have the kids study it together. This works especially well for science and art. Field trips are also great if you can squeeze one in here and there. For a wide range in ages, it may be a good idea to split the kids up into two groups — a less structured one for the younger kids and another for those with a longer attention span.
  • Location, location, location — Where to meet is as important as when. If you’re learning together with a large age range, it may not be ideal to meet in the local library. Likewise, if the weather is freezing or wet, outdoors isn’t going to work.
  • Common courtesy — Treat each other with respect. And if you’re sick, by all means stay at home. Nobody wants to share germs.
  • Relax — Remember, the co-op is there to help you, not stress you out. If it becomes a chore to meet and study, then something is not right. Re-evaluate your structure and see if you can get to the root of the problem.

Homeschooling co-ops can add another positive dimension to your students’ lives. Try an online search to find out what groups already exist in your area. If you can’t find one that fits with your family, don’t hesitate to start your own.

How do your kids learn with others?

Amida and her three kids meet up with a fantastic group of homeschooling friends on a weekly basis. You can see what they learn together at her blog, Journey Into Unschooling.

About Amida

Amida is the mom to three darn kids. She used to stress about state standards and test scores but has since come to her senses and enjoys blogging about her family's journey into unschooling.

Comments

  1. Kika says:

    I live in a small town with a vibrant homeschool community. We have weekly (free) ice skating and swimming times. Whenever anyone wants they can organize a class or field trip (ex. pottery, afternoon with a nature guide, writing workshop, get together at local beach…) and put it out through our email contact list. In this way, we regularly have opportunity to meet with others. Many times those of us in small towns may feel like we miss out on the larger “learning co-op” opportunities but actually, in a small town it is possible to have a wonderful sense of connection and friendship. In addition to this, I work hard at forming friendships with more like-minded individuals with whom my children and I spend time on a one-on-one basis. Finally, in our town there are many community sports – a mini-basketball program (grades 3-6), soccer, hockey, etc. which are not linked to any particular school. My kids are involved in these programs and we volunteer to help them run. No need to be isolated as homeschoolers!

    • Kika says:

      I want to add too that sometimes there are summer programs that allow homeschool kids to experience drama/sports, etc. that they might not be able to during the school year. My 10yr old daugther is currently involved in a 3 wk summer drama camp preparing for three productions of a mucial rendition of Peter Pan – and loving every second of it. This camp is run by four local women (two are homeschool parents).

  2. Mother of Pearl says:

    We live in an area where homeschooling is quite popular. We were blessed to get into a local co-op and we love every minute of it! We have 75 families and around 300 kids. We meet weekly at a local church and have classes for kids up to 8th grade. Our co-op offers choir and gym and enrichment classes like art, rockets, dissection, speech, or foreign languages. I can sing with my kids, but choir is something different; likewise team sports are hard to learn without a group. It is always amazing to see what the moms (and dads and grandparents) offer the group. So many people with so many gifts working together to enrich the education of each other’s children! I highly recommend co-op to any homeschooler.

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