If you are thinking about home school as an option for your kids, you may have wondered, “How do I home school?” There are many answers to that question. Homeschooling is like a jig-saw puzzle. There are many pieces that go together to make one picture. Joining a co-op is just one possible piece in the picture you’ll create for your kids.
My experience: My family chose to belong to a home school cooperative about 6 school years ago. At first, I was seeking to add a social component to my children’s lives. It turned out to be much more. Read on to find out why.
In 2006, we joined a co-op that met at a church and the group itself has Christian values. We still belong to the same co-op. The co-op itself is not affiliated with a school or a denomination, though we respect the church’s beliefs even if we believe otherwise. Some of the families were traditionally home schooling their children, while other families, like mine, belonged to a cyber-school.
Other ways our co-op is diverse: Some children have studied in a brick-and-mortar school in the past. We live in an area where there are multiple military bases, so some of the children have lived in a variety of places- even out of the country.
Curriculum: Our home school offers history, science, art, music, and P.E. When I first joined, the co-op board didn’t require that everyone had access to the same curriculum. Now we are required to have the K12 history and science curriculum so that there would be no copyright infringement.
Our co-op purchased its own music curriculum, which is followed most of the school year. As the end of the semester approaches, the kids stop using the curriculum and focus on either a Christmas program or end-of-the-year program.
The PE teachers decide their own activities. There are many resources available online as well at the library.
Class size: The kids are divided by grade into groups that are 12 students or smaller. PE and music are the exception because multiple grades combine: Kindergarten through second grade, third grade through fifth grade, and sixth grade through eighth grade.
The Teachers and their assistants are the parents of the kids attending the cooperative. Each class has a teacher and an assistant. This allows a good teacher-student ratio as well as ensures the safety of both students and the adults. Each parent is required to serve at least three hours. Many parents, myself included serve the duration of the day.
Also, parents are discouraged from leaving the building that way if something happens, the parent is easily accessible. Should the need arise that a parent needs to step out, he/she will sign their kids out to another adult. We have a desk set up at the entrance to the church with a door monitor who makes sure that only co-op members enter the building. They also keep an eye on the notebook where parents may sign their kids in and out.
The board: Our group has 3 board members. They meet regularly to discuss issues that come up, maintain communication within the co-op, help resolve problems that occur, act as liaisons between the cooperative and the church, etc. Also, one is the treasurer who oversees background checks for adults in the co-op.
Our co-op charges $1.50 per child per week to reimburse the church for utilities, toilet paper, and other maintenance costs. There is an annual registration fee of about $20 that covers supplies for day-to-day materials such as crayons, markers, construction paper, scissors, table cloths used on days when students paint, disposable dishware for quarterly potluck lunches for the adults, field day, holiday (Christmas, Valentines, etc) parties, etc. The treasurer also shops for these materials or delegates that responsibility to a person who provides a receipt for reimbursement.
Schedule: Our co-op meets once a week from 8:45 until 2:30 PM. Announcements occur from 8:45-9 AM during an opening meeting that includes a prayer and flag ceremony.
Field Trips: Our co-op has many field trips. Some involve the entire co-op while others focus on just one grade. For instance, my fourth grader just went to the Denver Art Museum and The Mining Museum on two separate occasions. The co-op has also toured the Olympic Training Center and the Museum of Nature and Science. We have received group discounts due to the size of our group and the number of families who chose to attend the field trip.
Other Perks: The members of our co-op have chosen to have a preschool and nursery. This allows parents with little kids to participate.
I mentioned at the beginning of this article that my family joined to add a social component for my kids. We got a lot more. I have other adults to talk to. We talk about our schedules, challenges, successes, motherhood, tips, and many other topics.
When I first joined the co-op, I had only one child I was teaching at home and three kids total. I now have three in school (soon four) and six kids in all. Now, I can spend the other four week days focusing on grammar, using the Barton Reading and Spelling program, literature, math, writing, vocabulary, and scripture study. My kids have more hands-on time for art and science because the time is set aside each week for such things and nothing, except illness, ever gets in the way.
How I participate: I have chosen to teach first grade history this year and make sure that the preschool and nursery run smoothly. I’ve learned how to delegate as well as communicate effectively in these roles. In return, my children have been exposed to many important lessons by people who have similar values as myself.
Some say that belonging to a co-op set up similar to what I described is too difficult for their family. Perhaps, it is due to the time commitment and the inability to do other things that one day a week. For my family, the benefits outweigh the challenges. We get a lot more done in a short amount of time, my kids learn how to interact in a classroom setting, and I get time with other adults (refreshing!). I also make sure that our schedule revolves around the co-op schedule. The best part about our membership is that my children look forward to their day of “school.”