Pros & Cons of Co-ops and Support Groups
by Kim Jaworski, Homeschool Resource Specialist
When I was homeschooling my sons, co-ops and support groups were just getting started as an option for homeschoolers. We participated in an activity group for a couple of years with several families coming together to share a gymnasium space and do the kind of activities none of us had room at home to do- indoor basketball, climbing ropes, playing dodgeball, etc.
We participated in outside classes through Community Education, Parks & Rec, and a few other sources, but never found a co-op to be a good fit for us. It’s perfectly acceptable to homeschool completely on your own, even if everyone you know is in a co-op. Independent homeschooling means you choose your curriculum and supplies and lay out your learning plan. That part of homeschooling was important to me. You also remain in control of your family schedule and can make last minute changes for funerals, doctor appts, grandpa’s surgery, and other life events with minimal complication to your homeschooling. Your children will still have friends and be busy with whatever other activities you might choose on a more shortterm basis (like through Community Ed, Parks & Rec, your library or church). We participated in 4H with several other homeschooling families, took swimming, fencing and tae kwon do classes, among other things.
Some families prefer a co-op or support group that meets weekly for the sense of belonging to a homeschool community, sharing ideas, and access to classes and activities that might be difficult on your own. Maybe math isn’t your strength and you’d feel better about someone else covering that topic with your child.
Other co-ops meets 2 or 3 days a week and run like a small school. You sing up for classes, share teaching and supervision of younger children, have holiday parties, pay tuition and keep it all working together. Homeschooling today means there are MANY MANY choices, depending on where you’re located.
As you consider your options each year, weigh the costs, schedule, control over curriculum etc for each option and choose what feel like the right fit for you and your child. Some families do the co-op plan for a couple years and then take a year off to do other things. This can be especially helpful in the first couple years of homeschooling, as other parents can share their resources and knowledge. But it can also be overwhelming and you might get swept into a homeschooling style that doesn’t fit you very well, but seems to be what everyone else is doing.
There are also yahoo groups, Facebook groups and other resources for information and support. Homeschooling exists across a wide spectrum of social interactions and physical or virtual gatherings. Don’t be afraid to try things out and find where you fit best.