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 usually find one by 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.
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, which 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.