Both new and veteran homeschoolers often face a similar question at the start of every school year: Should I enroll my children in a co-op? If many of your children’s friends are involved in a homeschool co-op, you might feel that joining should be your next step. However, every family’s situation and needs are different, and what’s right for one family may not work as well with yours. Below are a few questions you can ask yourself as you look into the homeschool co-ops in your area.
1. Do my children need to meet new friends?
Co-ops provide a place where homeschooled students can meet regularly with the same group of people, giving them the opportunity to develop deeper friendships. This is true for the parents as well, as they get to know each other and share tips and ideas. Homeschooling can be difficult at times, and it helps to meet with others who share the same struggles on a regular basis.
2. Does the homeschool co-op offer classes I don’t know how to teach?
One of the biggest advantages of joining a co-op is having access to courses that may be more difficult to teach at home. If enrichment subjects such as art, sewing, or cooking aren’t your area of expertise, a co-op teacher can provide that instruction. Many co-ops also offer classes in academic areas, such as upper level math, biology, chemistry, and economics. Co-ops are also a great way to incorporate group learning, as classes such as PE, drama, public speaking, and literature discussion are more effective when a larger number of students participate.
3. Would it be beneficial for my children to be taught by another adult?
If there’s a subject area where you and your child are always butting heads, having another adult teach that subject can be helpful. Attending a co-op class would also give your child experience with different teaching styles.
4. How does the teacher handle discipline issues?
As in traditional schools, classroom management in a homeschool co-op depends on the teacher. If the teacher doesn’t require students to follow directions, very little learning will take place, and the class won’t be worthwhile. If you find a co-op that offers the classes your children need, ask if you can sit in on a class or two.
5. How many students are in the class?
One of the reasons many people homeschool is to provide their children with the one-on-one instruction that can’t be given in a classroom. As the number of students increase, the amount of time the instructor can spend with each student decreases. Check to make sure the homeschoolco-op you are considering has a teacher-student ratio that you are comfortable with.
6. How much parental involvement is required?
Some co-ops require that every parent either teach or assist in teaching a class, while others require no involvement at all. Often, however, as the amount of time you must commit decreases, the cost of joining the co-op increases
7. Does the co-op offer classes for all of my children, and do they have openings for all of them?
If you have more than one child, you might want to find a co-op that can accommodate all of them. Sometimes the upper level classes will have openings when the elementary classes will not. If the co-op is designed in a way that requires your participation every week, you’ll need a class for each child to attend.
8. Can I meet the cost of the classes?
As mentioned before, co-ops taught by parents often charge less, while those that hire teachers (and require little involvement) have to charge more in order to pay those teachers.
9. How much outside work is required?
Some co-op classes require extra assignments, reading, or projects to be completed at home. Do you have time to oversee those projects? Can you fit them into your daily school schedule without falling behind somewhere else?
10. Will the co-op classes take the place of a regular school day?
If so, you’ll want to make sure that your children still have time to complete their other courses at home.
11. Where is the co-op located?
Attending a co-op close to home is ideal, but not always possible. When the co-op is far away, not only do you spend the extra gas to get there, but you also spend extra time in the car. If your children do have close friends at the co-op, it will be harder to get them together outside of regular co-op days.
Many parents find joining a co-op worth the extra effort and expense. With some careful consideration, you could find one that meets your family’s needs as well.
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