Join a Coop…Or Not? When I first started homeschooling I didn’t know anyone who was homeschooling and I think a few friends, and certainly most of my family, thought I was a little nuts. As I slowly entered the homeschool world I was introduce to the concept of coops within about a minute of deciding to homeschool. I jumped in full steam and joined one coop, then a second and at one time I believe I might have been in three. It felt like we were running all over the place. I started re-thinking all these coops and slowly started being a little more critical of our time and how it was spent. As my daughter’s grade level went up our free time became more precious. We both started being more selective on which coops we were willing to spend our time in and which field trips we attended. Our lives become more manageable and our homeschool experience more enjoyable.
My advice. If I had to do it over again I would definitely join a coop initially. My daughter met some of her current friends at the first few coops we joined and I was educated by the other homeschool moms on curricula, field trips, other coops, homeschool opportunities and activities in our area. I received so much support and I don’t know if I would still be homeschooling without these first few groups. They were as much for my daughter as there were for me. The mistake I made with coops was not finding the ones that worked best for us early on, spending time in ones that clearly didn’t work and spending time in coops when we could have been focusing on more beneficial school activities. The main thing to remember with coops is to find one that is age appropriate for your child or children. Make sure there are enough kids in your child’s age group and on your child’s educational level. Decide if you want to be in a coop only for socializing or if you want one that is focused on education. I personally found when in a larger coop that we enjoyed the enrichment activities the most The kids were engaged in activities most of us were not covering at home, i.e. scrapbooking, art, sign language. Educational coops were a little more difficult considering you used the curriculum picked by the teacher and the children were not always at the same pace. This is fine and why we homeschool; however, sometimes that might not fit with your schedule.
Not every coop is going to fit all of your needs, whether it be education or friendship, however, I found that whether or not my daughter met her best friend or she received some superlative educational experience, we always met great people and left with a little more knowledge.
I am now in a small coop with just two other moms and we focus on enhancing their education when we meet. We all agreed on the same curriculum for a few subjects and follow the same schedule. This is harder with larger groups, but it works great for us.
After homeschooling for a few years now, I am glad I jumped in and tried different coops and homeschooling groups early on. It has helped me afford my daughter a more tailored homeschool experience by focusing on what we learned worked best for us.