How to Find a Homeschool Co-op in Your Area
Homeschool co-op has been one of the best things about homeschooling for us. We love the community aspect and I love that it lessens my load of subjects that I need to teach at home.
Finding a co-op can be so challenging, especially if you live in a rural area. If you're looking to get plugged into a co-op start by asking homeschool parents in your area. If you know someone who home educates, don't be afraid to grill them about every club or group in your area at they're aware of.
Ask around at sports, nature hikes or moms you converse with at the library! Follow their leads and often (with a little trial and error) you will get connected to a community that is a fit for you. Keep asking others.
Second, use the internet to source possible co-ops in your area. Join a homeschool facebook groups in your area or for your state and ask there if anyone knows of local groups. A quick google search might not lead you to the exact group you're looking for, but email the contact person and ask them. They are likely a wellspring of knowledge and even if they're not close to you they may know of someone who is.
If you don't find one that works for you, you can always start your own!
What Our Homeschool Co-op is Like
Our co-op is run differently that most others in our state and I feel so lucky to have found it. Since I know homeschool co-ops vary widely from each other in their offerings and set-up, I want to share a glimpse with you of ours, in case you would want to model a homeschool co-op similarly. Here are some Frequently Asked Questions and answers for you:
Who can attend? Homeschool children and their siblings ages 0 through 8th grade can attend.
How long is the co-op and how often do you meet? Our co-op meets for three hours every other week for large group/class gatherings. On the "off" weeks there is a monthly field trip and a monthly evening connection time just for the mothers. In the summer time we meet twice a month for park day meet ups.
What classes are offered? We offer nursery classes, preschool, kindergarten and then various electives for grades 1-8. Elective homeschool classes have ranged from science, gym, chess, drama, art, foreign language and others. Each year it's slightly different.
Who teaches the classes? We have a mix of volunteer and paid teachers for each of the classes for children. In some of the classes older siblings (high school age) assist the teachers, especially in the nursery, gym or preschool classes that need extra hands and crowd control.
Where do you meet and is it expensive? We meet at a church and it is one of the least expensive co-ops in our area. There is a huge range of what co-ops can cost, but most in our area are around $300-1000 per child, per year.
A Unique Model For Homeschool Co-op...
Most co-ops require many, many hours of service and don't offer anything for the mothers during the class time.
What makes our co-op so different (and what I wish every co-op would have) is that it is not just for kids. It's also for the mothers! While the children are in class, mothers have the full three hours to visit and to hear from speakers on many different topics.
Some of the topics we've covered in our co-op this year have been: talking to your kids about sex, a Biblical approach to fitness, food and body image, marriage, homeschooling over holidays, starting a book club, and so many more!
Moms are required to serve only a handful of hours per year and these service requirements can be fulfilled by helping set up or clean up our space or by being a teacher's helper for one of the three hours at co-op. They can also get their hours in by serving in a leadership role.
Everyone signs up to bring food and we make coffee and get to spend time together visiting and learning together. Add in the monthly moms-only evening event and the mothers really get to know each other well.
Why is This Important?
Homeschooling can be isolating for children, and for mothers. To have a community for whole families is so rare. It is such a great feeling to know that for three hours a week I can sit with other moms who can relate and who are more seasoned in homeschooling than I am. I learn so much from the other moms at my co-op and it's rare to have this kind of experience.
If your co-op is not implementing something for mothers, I can not more highly recommend this model for a homeschool co-op!