Written by Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers
I heard this rumor that homeschooling families like to hear about what’s working well for other homeschooling families. So I wracked my brain trying to think of what I could share with you.
There’s Teaching Textbooks, which makes me so happy because I don’t have to teach algebra, but that would be a pretty short blog post. There’s the fact that my teens are now working mostly independently, but I’m not sure that would help moms of younger kids.
Then it hit me – our small weekly co-op!
If I had to pick just one thing that’s worked exceptionally well for us this year that could work just as well for other homeschooling families, it would be our mini co-op.
Why we started a homeschool co-op
From the moment I heard about Constitutional Literacy, I knew I wanted my kids to complete the course before they graduated. So I waited patiently for two or three years, until Megan was in 9th grade and she and Josh could take the class together for high school credit.
Although it was important to me that the kids take the class, I was worried it was going to be boring like my high school government class. (If you’re considering Constitutional Literacy, you’ll be happy to learn that it’s far from boring.)
Confession time: Around here, boring sometimes results in courses falling by the wayside.
I thought it might make the class more fun and keep us all more accountable if each of the kids invited a friend to join us. Megan invited her BFF and Josh invited his. They both needed the course for high school credit, too.
Our small weekly co-op has worked out better than I had even hoped. It’s fun, we all enjoy it, and it’s helped keep everyone accountable. It’s worked out so well that the moms are already talking about what course we can cover together next year.
How our homeschool co-op is helping
We’ve all agreed that our co-op has kept us on track much better than if our families had tackled the course alone. For the last several weeks, I’ve found myself thinking on Fridays that I wish we didn’t have co-op that day.
Translation: If not for our co-op, the lessons might not have gotten done on the weeks I was feeling busy and overwhelmed.
At the beginning, the moms agreed that we’d stick to our schedule even if someone couldn’t make it. That wasn’t to be inflexible, but to keep us on track. We built in a couple of flex days, but not many.
Megan had to miss one week because of a doctor’s appointment, so she had to watch the video and make up the work on her own. Another week, we picked up Josh’s friend for co-op because his mom was out of town. Because we’ve made co-op a priority, we haven’t gotten behind.
The co-op has also given the kids a chance to work in a group setting. They discuss the study guide questions together after each lesson. Then, we use the suggested questions for further research as homework. Sometimes the kids will pair up to research together, chatting over Skype or FaceTime during the week.
Some tips to make a small co-op successful
Decide where to meet.
Okay, so maybe it’s not location, location, location like real estate, but it probably is location, location. It helps that all three families live within a 10-minute radius of one another. Although I was initially willing to host each week, I didn’t complain when the other moms volunteered to rotate houses.
Consider meeting at a central location for your co-op. If no one can host or you’re spread out, consider meeting somewhere like a library. Many have meeting rooms that you may be able to use.
Include more than two families.
I’ve done small co-ops before, and I think one factor that has made this one more successful is that we included three families. When there are only two, it’s way too easy to cancel if someone can’t come. An attendance of four teens has proven ideal for us, so I suggest three or four families depending on how many kids from each family will participate.
Consider younger siblings.
For us, this hasn’t been a problem since my youngest two are in the class, and Josh’s BFF is the youngest in his family. Megan’s BFF has a slightly younger sister who attends the class and quietly occupies herself on her tablet. If there are several younger siblings who may be a disruption, consider meeting somewhere with a play area (even a home where the younger siblings can play in another room).
You might also consider hiring a homeschooled teen to watch the younger siblings during the co-op. Or let them have their own mini-co-op lesson that the parents could alternate teaching. Maybe they could do an art class, a nature study, or story time with a related craft.
A mini co-op can be a fantastic tool for keeping homeschooling families on track – and making a potentially boring topic a bit more fun.
Have you participated in a successful co-op with friends? What tips would you add?