As a homeschooling parent, you’re often seeking out ways to help your student better prepare for college. Maybe you’ve followed an in-depth curriculum at home, your student has joined multiple extracurricular and service-oriented activities, and he or she has excelled academically. What else can you do to help him or her get ready for college?

One great way to give your student’s homeschooling experience a boost is to join a local homeschool co-op. A co-op is a collaborative group of homeschooling families who meet regularly (often weekly or biweekly) during the traditional school year. These families come together to offer special classes, events, field trips, and additional socialization for themselves and their students.

There are three types of co-ops:

1. Traditional

Traditional co-ops give your student a chance to learn in a classroom setting with their peers—and from a set of different instructors who may have expertise in subject areas that you either don’t teach or don’t feel comfortable teaching. Your student will have the chance to explore subjects and take classes that may not be available to him or her otherwise. And as your student gets older, he or she will need an increasing amount of accountability outside your home in order to prepare for college.

2. Tutorial

Tutorial co-ops offer your student a chance to strengthen knowledge in specific subject areas with the help of a one-on-one tutor. This is especially helpful if your student needs help getting motivated or is struggling in one or more subjects, like math or writing. In those cases, it can be helpful for the parent-teacher to step aside and let a third party—who likely has a fresh, different perspective on the subject—help teach.

3. Parental-support

Parental-support co-ops exist to offer a support system to homeschooling parents, rather than providing a structured classroom-style educational system for students. Parents who attend these regular gatherings with fellow homeschool parents can opt to attend child-free, but as an alternative, parents may choose to let their kids play together while they exchange tips and discuss topics like curricula and homeschooling challenges.

Will a homeschool co-op help prepare my student for college?

While it’s not required, joining a homeschool co-op can dramatically enhance your student’s college preparation through the high school years. A co-op can prepare students for college by offering them:

  • A structured classroom environment
  • The opportunity to learn from and be accountable to teachers other than their parents
  • A chance to practice handling homework assignments and develop study skills they can maximize in college
  • The opportunity to dig deeper into challenging and advanced high school courses such as calculus, physics, trigonometry, and foreign languages
  • Accountability away from the home structure
  • Clubs or organizations aligned with their particular interests
  • Time management skills
  • Friendly competition with peers

Being part of a homeschool co-op may be just the motivation your student needs to take his or her academic performance to the next level. You may also find that a co-op creates a smoother transition from an exclusively home-based education into the high-demand college years.

The Ultimate Homeschool Guide to Creating a High School Transcript

Can joining a co-op boost my student’s high school transcript?

A homeschool co-op can absolutely bolster your high schooler’s transcript. Not only does a co-op give your student the chance to delve more deeply into difficult subjects, it also provides him or her with a chance to include these class credits on a transcript. You may add classes and labs taken at the co-op to your student’s transcript with the notation that those studies were completed with the co-op group.

Adding co-op studies to your student’s transcript will show prospective colleges that your student was able to excel not just in his or her coursework inside the home, but also outside the home. Course credits from a co-op show admissions officials that your student functions well in advanced studies, alongside peers, and with instructors other than you or your spouse.

What other college prep options does my student have?

In addition to joining a co-op, you may also opt to outsource some of your student’s education during the high school years. Two popular methods of outsourcing are to enroll your student in online courses or dual enrollment at a community college (sometimes, dual enrollment coursework is offered online).

Online education and dual enrollment will give your student added motivation, increasingly difficult work, and access to expert help from an instructor in the course’s subject matter. As an added bonus, dual enrollment that involves taking college courses in a physical classroom will give your student excellent real-world preparation for the upcoming college years. What’s more, dual enrollment will save you money on tuition. That’s a win-win all around.

The bottom line

Joining a homeschool co-op can provide your student with fresh, challenging opportunities, a peer group with whom to study and grow, a structured classroom environment, academic experience to bolster a transcript, and so much more. The collective experience serves as excellent preparation as your student enters the college years.