Whether you've been homeschooling for 10 minutes or 10 years, you've probably thought about joining a co-op of some sort. Co-ops are great for many reasons, but there are also a lot of things to consider before joining, such as scheduling, costs and flexibility. Some of the groups out there are very well established and well organized, but those are typically much more structured, too. For our family, I wanted the group time and fun that a co-op provided, but I also didn't want to be tied to a weekly meeting time or a certain curriculum. I was very happy when a couple of friends decided to start a small co-op that was just what I was looking for! This was a great thing for our family so I wanted to share a bit about our group for those of you who might be thinking about starting your own group.
Who is going to be in your group? Maybe the most important thing to consider when starting a co-op is who you want to be in your group. Our group is made up of six different families from our larger Charlotte Mason group. Because we've known each other for several years, we knew the kids and moms would get along well. We also knew that while we didn't all use the same curriculum, we all shared similar educational philosophies.
What kinds of subjects will you cover? Are you wanting to cover traditional academic subjects like math and literature, or do you want to have enrichment classes? Our group has 18 kids ranging in age from 5 to 13, so we decided that enrichment activities would make the most sense. We cover hymn study, picture study, artist and/or composer study, Spanish, Shakespeare, science experiments, and art techniques. We also end each session with a show and tell time based around a specific theme. (The picture here is of my daughter telling the group about a drawing she made.)
What jobs will moms have? Is every mom going to teach? If not, will every mom have some kind of responsibility, maybe planning or watching younger siblings? In our group we've each taken on a different area to teach and each semester we meet ahead of time to decide on the specifics.
How often will you meet? This is another really important thing to think about if you're looking for or starting a co-op. I couldn't see making a commitment to a group on a weekly basis because we have other outside classes we're involved in and we also like the freedom to travel when we can. Our group decided to meet six times a semester on Friday afternoons.
Where will you meet? This is a consideration that depends on the size of your group. Our group meets at different homes, but if we added any more families it would be a really tight fit. You may want to check with your library, church, or community center to see if you could use space for a small cost.
If you haven't found an existing co-op that meets your family's needs, I'd like to encourage you to take the initiative and start your own. I am so glad my friends did this because it has been such a great experience for my kids. If you're interested in reading a little more on the subject, here are some links you might find helpful: