What is a Co-Op?
The word “co-op” is a catch-all word to describe a group of homeschoolers who get together for a purpose. In practice, co-ops are as varied as the homeschoolers who put them together. Some co-ops meet occasionally and irregularly just for field trips or special activities. Others meet at least weekly for elective or core courses. Some function similarly to a school, while others are very fluid. In some regions, these variations go by different names. For instance, the word “association” may be used in place of co-op in some regions to refer to the more fluid groups, distinguishing co-ops as definitively academic.
It is not necessary for your family to join a co-op to successfully homeschool. If you would prefer help with some subjects, would like the social interaction of a homeschool group, or just want to change things up a bit, a co-op might be just the thing for you.
Points to Ponder
Are you interested in exploring or joining a co-op? Here is some information that might help in your search.
Finding a Co-op
Unless you live in a rural area, there is likely to already be a co-op near you. You can find one by exploring HomeschoolConvention.com, contacting your state home education group, or asking at your local library.
Creating a Co-op
If you don’t have a co-op in your area, you might be able to find another homeschool family or two that would be interested in taking trips or getting together for activities.
Urban areas often have large, well-organized homeschool groups. Some even have their own sports, speech or debate teams, or other organized extracurricular activities.
Organized co-ops that offer classes generally ask you to sign up for the year (or at least the semester) ahead of time and may charge a fee to join.
You will want to be aware of the rules before you join a co-op. Some allow students to be dropped off, while others expect parents to remain on the premises at all times. A co-op may require parents to teach or assist with classes.
A Few More Thoughts
Before joining a co-op, you will want to carefully consider your current season of life and determine whether the benefits of joining a co-op, such as fellowship and specialized classes, outweigh the work required. Committing to a weekly co-op requires more time and energy than belonging to a fluid, field trips-only group. Families with many other outside activities and responsibilities may not need the interaction of a homeschool co-op. While a co-op may not be necessary for your family, it can be a fun way to make connections with other homeschoolers in your area, connections that will become more important over your homeschooling years.