Homeschool co-ops are one of the most discussed items in my Facebook homeschooling groups. Almost as soon as someone begins their homeschooling journey they begin looking for a group to join that will help to support them and their children in their homeschooling endeavors.
What is a Homeschool Co-op?
The term “homeschool co-op” means different things for different people. In this series of posts, we aim to cover the ins and outs of homeschool co-ops – what they are, how they work, advantages and disadvantages of co-ops and how to create one of your own.
So, what is a homeschool co-op? A homeschool co-op is a group of parents that come together to create a group learning experience for their children. A homeschool co-op can meet weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or on any schedule that the group has decided is suitable. In a traditional homeschool co-op, the parents teach the classes to each other’s children. The families share in the expenses of the co-op and the fees are to cover supplies and building rent if a building is being rented. It’s a non-profit venture.
Enrichment Academies, Pods, Microschools, and Homeschooling Hybrids
Homeschool co-ops are often confused with enrichment academies, learning pods, microschools, or homeschooling hybrids (also known as university model schools). None of these are co-ops in the strictest sense because parents are not the instructors and teachers are hired to instruct the students. In some cases the teachers are also homeschooling parents, but not always. Many of the instructors in these entities are certified teachers who no longer teach in public school.
Enrichment academies generally meet once a week and offer the students a full day or an a la carte experience. Students have their choice of academic and elective classes. Parents continue to be their child’s main instructor, except for the classes their child takes at the enrichment academy. Some parents elect to create their own type of private school by utilizing various enrichment academies to cover all of their student’s instruction. Tuition varies but in general is much lower than a learning pod, microschool, or private school.
Learning pods gained popularity in the early days of the pandemic. Parents banded together to create a set of guidelines that everyone agreed to follow ,chose curriculum, and hired a teacher to instruct a small group of children. The parents in most cases were not the instructors. A search on Facebook for learning pods shows that this is still an option in some areas. The cost is similar to that of private school.
Microschools typically have a small enrollment, may or may not meet in a single location, and meet up to five days a week. Microschools offer a full learning experience and parents are not the instructors. There is tuition for the child’s participation in the microschool.
Homeschool hybrid or university model schools meet 2-3 days a week. Parents are expected to supervise their child’s studies at home on the days they are not on campus. Parents are not the instructors and they pay tuition for their child which covers the curriculum and instruction.
The advantage of these four educational options is that they give parents more control and choice over their child’s education than they would have with public or private school, while also allowing the parent to be able to work while their child is in class. The disadvantages of these options are the commitment expected and the expense. In some of these options, even if you decide the option isn’t working for your child, you have a financial obligation to fulfill.
Advantages of Homeschool Co-ops
Joining a homeschool co-op has many advantages for parents and students. A co-op offers support, socialization, and instruction while also being an affordable way to round out the educational experiences and offerings for your student. Physical education, sciences, fine arts, and field trips are all much easier to do with a group of students. Many homeschool parents are also former teachers so you may have the advantage of a certified instructor for your student. Parents are generally expected to teach at least one class each semester and/or assist in a class if they don’t feel comfortable teaching. Co-ops are usually set up to cover students of all ages, so they are a great option for families with multiple students.
Disadvantages of a Homeschool Co-op
When joining a homeschool co-op, you are usually committing to be involved for a semester at a time. You are expected to show up each week to teach your class. If you are a family with young children, honoring this commitment may prove difficult. You also want to vet the homeschool co-op well before joining as each co-op will have its own expectations for behavior, dress codes, or have religious or secular parameters to which you must adhere. Some co-ops will have a code of conduct that you must agree to before you will be allowed to participate. If you can have a visit day when the co-op is in session before you join, it will help you to know if the co-op is a good fit for your family and educational philosophy.
In the next post in this series we will discuss a variety of types of homeschool co-ops and how to create your own if none are available or don’t fit your needs where you live.