At the beginning of this year we joined a homeschool co-op. After several weeks I determined that this co-op was not a good fit for our family, so we quit in the middle of the semester. It wasn’t a rash decision or one that was made lightly. I really agonized over what we should do and if we should continue with the co-op for entire semester. In the end, my husband and I decided that the stress of participating in the co-op was too much. We decided that it would be best to focus on our family and our homeschool which meant withdrawing from the co-op.
I had a few reasons for wanting to join the co-op:
- Form friendships – both for me and the kids
- Participate in group projects – basically anything messy that I wouldn’t have to do at home
- Learn from other teachers – allow my kids to have a bit of a break from my teaching style
Here’s why it wasn’t a good fit for me:
Planning and prep – I did not enjoy all the planning and prep time that I had to put in to the class where I helped teach. I found myself spending too much time on Pinterest searching for ideas, making homemade playdoh, and lugging supplies to and from co-op. I wanted to spend my planning time preparing for my own homeschool rather than a 3-hour co-op.
Disorganization – The co-op I joined was fairly new and there was quite a bit of disorganization and change behind the scenes before it even began for the semester. Even several weeks into the semester there were more changes, more costs added, and lots of confusion. I found it very stressful.
Discipline policy – There wasn’t a well-thought out discipline policy or structure in place. When I had issues in my class, I wasn’t sure what I should do to handle the problems. No one else was clear on what to do either. Dealing with the discipline issues and tantrums was extremely disrupting and time consuming.
Different learning levels – The kids were at vastly different learning levels in my class and I wasn’t quite sure how to plan for our teaching time. Did I teach to the top, bottom, or middle? How did I decide who would be either bored or left-out? And it took weeks to try to assess the levels of each child which meant lots of changes to the lesson plans.
Wide variety of homeschoolers – This co-op had classical homeschoolers, academically rigorous homeschoolers, laid-back homeschoolers, and unstructured unschoolers. When you put the kids of all these types of homeschoolers into one classroom it’s quite confusing. I found that everyone had a different idea of what a co-op should be for their kids. Basically, no one was on the same page.
Here’s why it wasn’t a good fit for my kids:
Chaos – The discipline issues, confusion, and disorganization was very chaotic. My kids noticed and found co-op days to be very stressful. They weren’t enjoying co-op the way that I hoped they would.
Learning Levels – The classes that my kids were placed in were determined by age, not by interest or ability level. This was not a good fit for my family because some aspects of the classes were not on target for my kids academically. I found that they were not challenged and I felt like co-op was not a wise use of our time.
Boredom – My kids found some aspects of the class to be somewhat boring. They lost the initial excitement of co-op and found the classes to be more of a chore.
I learned a few things in our short co-op experience. One of them being that I just might not be much of a co-op person.
However, if we ever do consider a co-op in the future, here are a few questions I’ll ask in the future:
- What is the homeschool philosophy? In other words, what type of homeschoolers are members of this co-op? I’m looking to find like-minded homeschoolers.
- Are the classes more academic or strictly enrichment, or a mix of both?
- How do I choose what classes my kids participate in? Is it determined by age, interest, or ability level?
- What is the discipline policy and how is it enforced? How are parents notified of any issues?
- What are the expectations of the teachers and helpers? How many classes do we have to teach? Do we have any type of break period in which to plan for later classes?
I hope I can be better prepared if we do decide to join a different co-op. Maybe next time I’ll know what to expect. Or maybe I will just enjoy the freedom of homeschooling completely on our own schedule.
In my video I describe how the co-op was structured, why I joined, why it wasn’t a good fit for me or my kids, and what I’ll look for in a co-op in the future. Hopefully this helps you if you are debating whether or not to join (or continue) in a homeschool co-op!