Chances are, you’ve heard of a homeschool co-op, but what IS a co-op? So many people in my personal life are confused when I mention our co-op. What is a co-op? What do you do? Where do you go? Is it just like a school? I thought you were homeschooling at home. Why belong to a homeschool co-op if you could just send your kids to school? Etc etc etc.
Well, a co-op is an AMAZING resource. If you don’t belong to one, I HIGHLY suggest you do! Of course it’s not necessary. But its wealth of information and life experience is abundant and I am grateful everyday since we joined one. We actually belong to two-one is a smaller, newer, free cooperative and one is a much larger and more established group that we pay an annual fee to be a member of. Both are amazing for different reasons and I’ll explain.
Our first co-op we joined was the free one. I wanted to see what it was all about and if it was the right fit for us. We joined two years ago when my son was only 4 and my daughter had just turned 3. Neither of them were really old enough for any ‘classes’, but there was a music class within the co-op that I thought would benefit my son. It was only $5 for the class for a 9 week semester, so I thought, no harm-no foul and I can find out what this whole co-op thing is. I fell in love with the endless possibilities right away and ended up registering as an educator through the co-op and have since taught 5 classes in the last 2 years with the group. It is essentially, a group of homeschooled kids and their parents as well as local teachers and volunteers who meet at a local park to educate together. The teachers are parents and they graciously spend their own personal time designing lessons and classes for all of our children. I have loved participating in this for both myself and my kids. First of all, my children have made soooooo many friends through our co-op, who are also homeschooled. They have formed strong bonds and get to learn and play with a large group of kids. The most wonderful thing about it, is by the nature of homeschool, the children are not boxed into an age or grade. So there is a scale, a variance in each class. There may be a 5 year old learning alongside a 7 year old etc. I find this to be a wonderful situation because my kids are learning how to associate, communicate, and be friendly with children both younger and older than themselves. It is an amazing sight to see a 9 year old helping a younger student, or a younger child emulating or being motivated by an older child because they look up to them. This will help them learn social skills that will carry through to adulthood. We are always told that public school prepares us for adulthood or real life. Some people chastise homeschoolers as anti-social or unsocialized or unprepared for adulthood, but OH CONTRARE! Public schools are set up with all of the kids associating with only their own age. But is that real life? NO WAY! I love that as my kids will grow, they will be able to carry a conversation with an adult, play alongside children their own age, or care for younger children, all because they have been in this harmonious, inclusive, melting pot of what we call a cooperative.
The second and larger co-op we are members of is amazing for a completely different set of reasons. They have so many classes offered, field trips, book sales (including homeschool curriculum books), sports, social gatherings, nature preserve classes, summer camps, competitions, the list just goes on and on. I have met so many other homeschooling families, many of which will be lifelong friends. We share ideas, inspirations, goals, resources, everything! I have learned about things I never would have known about otherwise.
I think the main benefit of belonging to a homeschooling group or cooperative, is that you’re never alone. You can share your thoughts and fears with other homeschool families and hear how they solved an issue or how they tackled a problem. You can find out what curriculums and strategies they’ve used and what worked or didn’t. You find out about sales, freebies, events, that may not be widely posted and accessible otherwise. The homeschool community is a wonderful network of amazingly creative and passionate people who are all striving toward the same goal. They are a safety net, a motivator, a mentor. And they all homeschool in different ways, or for a different reason, but it doesn’t matter. There is always someone to learn from or pass on knowledge to.