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Homeschool co-ops can be amazing for families who homeschool. We have been a part of a few over the years and I want to give you some tips on how to start a homeschool co-op.
Starting a homeschool co-op may sound scary and daunting, but it is easier than you may think! Most often people just are afraid to take on a project like this. But the point is that it is a cooperative effort! Find some fellow friends and build it together.
What is a Homeschool Co-Op?
A homeschool co-op is a group of families that meets together to hold activities or classes for their families. Typically they meet once a week, but that can vary depending on the group.
Co-ops can meet at parks, homes, churches, or rented spaces. Finding a space to meet is often one of the challenges of a co-op! In most states, churches tend to be a great option. Living in Utah, the LDS church that I am part of does not allow homeschool groups to meet in them. Churches of other denominations do not want LDS people to meet in their space, so we always run into trouble finding a large enough space to let us all meet there regularly!
Our homeschool co-op has used a community center, a church, a school that only has classes Monday – Thursday and currently we meet at a barn-type space that was built with a homeschool group in mind.
There are all kinds of co-ops. People start them based on their own needs and desires. Some co-ops are specific to a certain type of homeschooling. There are those that have whole families meet together and others that are a drop-off situation. Some groups are created for members of a specific faith. Other homeschool co-ops are just for a single subject such as art or science. Really, the sky is the limit on how to define a homeschool co-op. It is a group of people with a common interest who create an activity that fills a need.
How To Find a Homeschool Co-Op
If you are not quite ready to start your own homeschool co-op, find one that is already up and running! These groups are usually small and very local. It may be tricky to find your local ones, but I am sure there are some that exist! They are most often found through word of mouth, through local homeschool facebook groups, or meet-ups with other local homeschoolers. Most states and counties have their own local homeschool groups on Facebook. I would suggest starting there and seeking out information first.
Since co-ops come and go with the needs of the homeschool families, there is not really a big database of all of them anywhere.
How to Start a Homeschool Co-op
Starting homeschool co-op is all about filling the need you have. If you want a place for boys to get rough and play sports together, create it. If you want a rigorous highly educational day full of classes, create it! That sounds easy, but it really can be. If you have the desire to build it, there will most definitely be people who will come and join you in your awesome group.
Our Co-ops Over the Years
I feel like I have been on an evolution of homeschool co-ops over the years. We started with the most basic one and have evolved into a very structured co-op with bylaws, a board and a full day of classes, youth groups, and awesome mom events.
The first co-op I joined was a group of families who met once a month. We rotated homes and each took turns hosting and planning the activities for the whole family. There was no specific theme, just whatever that family wanted to teach us. We did games, crafts, had snacks, and learned skills. It was a perfect starting point for my young, new-to homeschooling family. My first homeschool friends were made in that group. Our families are still the best of friends! I believe this group started from non online chat group. Someone expressed a desire, and the families who needed that joined in to create the group.
After that initial group, I joined a fun group called Friday Fun Classes. This was much more structured. We met in a community center once a week. Here each mom had the responsibility to teach a class. We brought our whole family and there was a class for each age group. In that group, I remember teaching a preschool music and movement class. There was a choir, there was an art/ craft class, history, science and more. It was a great group of friends and many of us have stayed in contact and continued on to build other groups together. This group dissolved when the community center no longer wanted us to use their space. (Like I said… one of the hardest parts of co-ops!)
We were a part of one more similar to the previous mentioned one before joining our current one.
Our Current Homeschool Co-Op
The group I am in now is the biggest and most structured that I have been a part of. Due to the structure, bylaws and rules, it has lasted the longest. If you want to organize a co-op like this, I’ll help walk you through how we set up ours.
We have a mission statement a vision and a standard of conduct. There is a board of directors a board with seven moms serving on it. The board consists of a President, Vice President, Education Director (builds schedules), Communications Director, Secretary, Treasurer, and Youth Director.
We currently have 30 families who are part of the group each year, with a wait-list for those who would like to join in the future.
Our group is for entire families and we want them to be ALL IN. This means, that each family is there for the whole day teaching and assisting in classes. Our schedule has fluctuated a lot over the years based on the needs of our kids and the group as a whole. We do a lot of the fun things that are harder to do at home- choir, dancing, art, science, group discussion classes, team-building and friendship-building classes, sports, Lego Robotics, theater, and more!
Class Schedule Samples
Here are a few sample schedules. We have done both full day and half day classes over the years. During the past year, we reduced to a half day schedule to accommodate for possible sickness during COVID.
Also check out my post with the ULTIMATE list of Homeschool Co-Op Class Ideas!
This half-day schedule is the current schedule we are using.
We do a homeroom class for each age group. This serves the purpose of helping kids build friendships with the kids of their own age group. In homeroom, have an opening time. The little ones have toys and games as they begin the class and trickle in. During homeroom we do songs, poetry memorization, games and activities. We typically pick a theme for the year. When I taught it last year, I based everything on friendship. We read stories about making friends and being a good friend. We did activities that help encourage friendships.
The rest of there day there are two options for each hour. This allows for choice and variety in the schedule. It also allows the class sizes to be smaller and easier to manage.
We have worked really hard to build an awesome program for our youth (12+). This tends to be the core of the group. We have a student government group who lead activities and make everything awesome. The youth choose a yearly theme that we print on our t-shirts. They have dances, monthly parties, a play, a yearly retreat, and more! IT’s pretty awesome.
For our classes, they are mostly parent led- moms and dads help teach. We also have outside teachers come in from time to time to lead classes.
Expenses for Running A Homeschool Co-op
To run our co-op there are a few expenses. This will vary based on your meeting location and desires. We charge all of the members a yearly registration fee of $60. This is non-refundable. This helps cover insurance, cleaning supplies and other small items that may be needed.
We have a building that we rent and pay monthly. We have a renters insurance policy to cover damages and other problems. The building and insurance fees are divided out among the families and paid monthly or by semester.
We also charge for classes. We try to keep these costs low to make it more affordable for our families. Each mentor or parent that teaches, chooses the cost of the class based on their supplies needed.
Set Up Your Own Homeschool Co-op
If you would like all of the documents we use to run our co-op, I have them available to purchase here. This file includes the following:
- 6 Pages of Bylaws that can be edited and customized for your own needs. This outlines the mission and vision of the group, what the set-up is of our group, expectations of members and teachers, board responsibilities, member meetings, etc. This is customized to our specific group, but can be edited as needed.
- Member in Good Standing Qualifications
- Standards of Moral Conduct- this is what we used. It is based on the standards of our faith, but can be modified to fit the needs and desires of your group.
- Parent Off-Site Agreement (this is just an agreement for parents to understand that they stay with their families at our co-op. If they need to leave while children are in class, they have to have a point person in charge of their children.
Buy These Documents Now:
More Homeschool Help:
Listen to the Called to Homeschool Podcast Episode about Co-Ops