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Have you ever wondered about a homeschool co-op? Wondering what they are and how to join one? Maybe how to find one in your area? Well, today, I am going to tell you ALL about homeschool co-ops!
Want ideas for co-op classes? Check out my Ultimate List of Homeschool Co-op Class Ideas.
What is a homeschool co-op?
Never heard the term co-op? A co-op is basically a local homeschool group. They offer classes for kids and families.
The co-op part stands for co-operative, meaning the homeschool parents all help with the teaching, planning and running of the group.
It is a group of homeschooling families that work together to plan activities and share in the education of their children.
A co-op is usually something that the whole family participates in- you don’t just drop off your children. However, it can take on many different forms depending on the needs of the families. Some co-ops are drop-off places that parents take turns teaching on different days.
A co-op will have a broad variety of topics taught. They can have a variety of enrichment classes that often get neglected at home. Or , they can be specialized one for one area such as sports, dance, legos, nature, etc…
The one that I am participating has evolved a lot in the years that I have been a part of it. Even the membership has changed a lot over this time. But, for the most part, it is a place to get to know other home school families and work with them.
Our homeschool group has been such a wonderful thing for my family because I have created some lasting friendships for myself and my children.
It is more than just a place to learn, but is also a homeschool support group for me. I have learned so much from the other families that are a part of it.
I also love having a regular outing that we all enjoy! It gives your kids a chance to learn in a group setting and explore new things that you may not teach them at homes.
How do you start or join a homeschool co-op?
We found our co-op group through a local Facebook group. However, if you cannot find one in your area, or haven’t found one that fits your needs, just start one!
Most homeschoolers have other families that they know in the are who also homeschool. Network with them and find other people that want to participate in similar activities. It is easy to build exactly what you want, then seek out others who want the same thing.
How a Homeschool Co-op is Organized:
We have been part of a couple of different ones over the years. I’ll explain how they have worked to give you an idea.
Monthly or Weekly Rotation Co-op:
The first co-op we did was a weekly rotation at homes. We each took turns hosting at our own home. This one was small and had about 5 or 6 families I believe. When it was your turn to host, you were in charge of leading an activity teaching the group something fun and educational.
This group was mostly young families. My kids were quite young at the time. It was a great starting point for us as we were just learning about homeschooling. We met our first homeschool friends this way.
Mid-sized Homeschool Co-op
The next one we joined was more organized and had a larger group.
We met weekly on Friday mornings for 2 hours.
Each week we rotated between different activities including: hands-on art or science projects, field trips, service projects, book club meetings and family events- like spelling bees, a talent show, geography/history fairs, and holiday parties.
We also had a monthly Mom’s-Night-Out where the moms got together for planned activities. The year began and ended with a family potluck or barbecue so we got to know each other better. We continued meeting together throughout the summer with a rotating park schedule, a family camping trip, and occasional field trips.
There was a director and three board members who headed up our co-op. I was on the board for our group. This just means that we organized the building rental, cleaned the facility, took dues (to help pay for supplies, and building rental), oversaw membership and wait-list, planned the calendar, etc…
The building that we rented was a small community building. We paid a monthly fee and divided that among the families.
All of the moms participated in our co-op group by helping with teaching the different classes each week and taking turns cleaning the building. We met in a small community center and pay a monthly fee to rent their facility. There was a park just outside the building, so most often the families stayed to play and brought a lunch.
At the weekly meetings we had an opening time where everyone is together. During this time we have announcements, family spotlight, spiritual thought, pledge, a prayer and song.
All of the families took turns being in charge of the opening time so that we got to know each family. Then we split into groups organized by age.
The youngest group- nicknamed the “Littles” is birth through age 4. They had fun little activities, stories, play time, snacks, and a little craft of some sort.
The next two age groups (5-7, 8-11) split up and rotated between 2 different classrooms where they participated in the different learning activities planned for that day.
The oldest group- the teens had their own separate activities. They help organize and plan these on their own.
Larger Homeschool Co-op Group
When my kids got a little bit older, I wanted something more formal and with more structure. We joined the one we are now a part of. This co-op has about 30 families. We meet weekly from 9 am to 2:30 pm.
We have a board directing it that includes 6 board members: President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Public Relations, and Youth Director. These are elected positions and change up each year as desired. I have served on the board for most of the time I have been in this group, so I have had a huge part in the leadership and organization of this homeschool co-op. We have a set of bylaws and rules that members sign each year to keep things orderly and running smoothly.
We divide the kids into 4 age groups- preschool, 5-7, 8-11, and 12+. However with our youth group having over 40 kids now we are splitting some of the oldest group into 12-14 and 15+ allowing the older kids to have some deeper classes.
The structure of our day is as follows:
We have 40 minute classes with the exception of one 30 minute youth-led hour just before lunch. This class period has the teens teaching the younger kids and allows the moms to have a mom class, too. This has been so great!
Each hour there are 2 class options for each age group, except for the preschool age, they always just have one option.
The first period of the day for the younger kids we make it double long and call it “homeroom”. During this period we do more of an opening time and all of the kids for each age group are in one class. We organized it this way to help the kids build strong friendships with their age group. In this class, they are doing poetry memorization, kids take on leadership roles and help plan different activities, they do spotlights of the kids, play some games, and have little lessons on character and other such topics. It’s been a wonderful thing for the kids!
The older kids have a youth leadership class. The youth elect a youth board as well to help run things and give them opportunities for leadership and service. They plan different family activities- we have crazy days (crazy hair, socks, etc.) Halloween carnivals, Valentine exchanges, family dances, a yearly kick-off with a new theme each year, a service project, and other activities that the youth board decides to plan.
Check out my list of Homeschool Co-Op Class Ideas for some of the fun things we have done over the years.
For the moms, we have monthly evening meetings so we can teach each other and learn new things. We are an amazing support group and this group has some of my very best friends in it. The relationships my kids have formed in this group has been incredible, too. We also have a yearly mom’s retreat where we do an overnight with speakers and fun. Forming deep relationships is a huge part of what helps it run so well, I think.
In the Summer we meet at various parks around the county each week. Our families come from several cities, so we rotate locations for variety and ease. We always have a big kick-off celebration at the start of a new year. We have games and activities, we do t-shirts with our new theme each year and just have tons of fun!
The hardest part for us with this group has been where to meet. We have some specific needs and it has been tricky to find a space that will allow us to meet. We have switched buildings a few times over the years using community centers, receptions centers, churches and now we are in a “barn” that a homeschool mom built on her property for this very purpose. It is an awesome space and we are lucky to have it!
I am so glad we have found a homeschool co-op that we love. It has really enriched our homeschooling experience. If you are new to homeschooling, or have never joined a co-op maybe this will inspire you a little to see what may be available in your area- or to begin one of your own.
Want More Homeschool Info?
Check out my Podcast Called to Homeschool