This is the third post in our series, Homeschool Co-ops 101. We’ve covered what co-ops are and what they aren’t, the advantages and disadvantages of getting involved in a homeschool co-op, and the main types of co-ops. If to this point you have not found a co-op suitable to your family’s needs, this post on creating your own homeschool co-op is for you!
During many of our homeschool social meet-ups there is often a lot of talk about the co-ops in our area, and how they don’t fit the philosophies or needs of these families. If this is also your experience, you may want to gather with these folks into your own co-op. There are some basic steps to take in organizing your own co-op, which we detail below.
Who Will the Co-Op Serve?
You will need to decide if your co-op will span from preschool through high school or be limited to a certain age group. If you plan to cover all age groups, you will need more teachers and assistants. If you limit the ages, such as a high school only co-op, you will also be limiting the number of parents who can be involved.
What Will the Co-Op Teach and Who Will Do the Teaching?
In order to plan the classes you will offer, you and the other people who want to be in the co-op need to decide what the focus of the co-op will be. The focus could be a single topic or subject area, as in a Shakespeare co-op or the co-op could cover a variety of subjects. You will also need to decide if every parent will be required to teach or assist in a class, or if only a core group of co-op parents will do the teaching.
When Will the Co-Op Meet?
Will you meet weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly? There are advantages and disadvantages for any of these. The availability and needs of the co-op members will be the main factor in your meeting schedule.
Where Will the Co-Op Meet?
Finding a place where multiple families can meet will be your next step in creating your co-op. Depending on the community, you may be able to use a library meeting room, a church meeting room or building, a co-op member’s home, or even a local park. Be aware that some places will want you to have liability insurance which can be fairly expensive. Some facilities will allow you to meet at no charge, where others will have a building rent that you need to pay.
How Will the Co-Op Run?
You will need to decide on the rules of the co-op and have them in written form so that everyone is on the same page. You will also need to figure out what the costs of the co-op are and how they will be met by the families in your co-op.
Once you have these details hammered out, you will be on your way to enjoying the co-op experience with your homeschooling friends and their children. Jennifer at The Organized Homeschooler also has some in-depth tips for creating a homeschool co-op.
For a practical look at how this all comes together, I spoke with Jennifer Jones, one of the co-hosts of The Happy Homeschooler Podcast, about the co-op that she created in her central Texas community.
Jennifer and her friends created the Texas Hill Country Homeschoolers (THCH) co-op seven years ago because they wanted to enjoy learning together with other people. She and her friends each thought about what they would each want to see for their own children. Then they decided who would like to teach those classes. Jennifer told me that it’s important to have your motivations and mission clear from the beginning to create a rewarding experience.
The THCH co-op is a not a traditional co-op in that not all of the parents teach. There is a core group of eight volunteer teaching parents. They only charge supply fees and typically meet at an area park once a week. The students in the co-op range in age from 4 to 16 years old and grew to 50 students in 2022. The co-op teaches a mixture of academics and electives, which changes from year to year based what the families of the co-op leaders want or need.
When I asked Jennifer for her advice on starting a co-op, here is what she had to say.
“Some of my first advice that I would give . . . a co-op does not have to follow typical rules, you can create what works best for you, your family, and the community of families it is serving.”
So, if there are no co-ops in your area that are your cup of tea, go ahead and start one! You’ll build a community of like-minded homeschoolers as well as lifelong friends. Please let us know if you have created your own co-op and how it is going.