A homeschool co-op can be a tool that a family uses for their children's education instead of just relying on the parents to teach. However, there are dynamics of a homeschool co-op that family's need to be aware ofa decision to join one.
Recently I talked with veteran homeschooler and speaker, Sade Tagbo, about her experiences with co-ops and how they impacted her family. She shares tips and things to consider in your decision process.
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Or you can just read the transcript provided below!
Sade: Yes, I’m here. Hello everyone. Hi Chante.
Sade: My pleasure.
Sade: Thank you.
Sade: Okay, well, a homeschool co-op just works like any other cooperative out there. You have your food co-ops where families put money together to purchase food in bulk and then divide it amongst themselves. A homeschool co-op works pretty much the same way. It’s home school families coming together and pooling their resources to provide classes for their children. It usually takes place in a local area. It’s not usually online. I haven’t seen any online yet that I know of. Most of them are just families coming together and saying, “Hey, can you provide this class? Can I provide this class?” or “Can we put our money together to hire someone to provide this class for our children?” Homeschool families are saying they have a need in an area and they decide to pool their resources to provide that educational resource for their children. That’s really what a homeschool co-op is.
Sade: Yes, there are several different kinds of co-ops. It’s interesting. I’ve observed quite a few of them. We’ve only attended one. In our families’ experience we joined a support group. Let me just say that a co-op is different from <b>home schooling support groups. A support group is really just a social network for the homeschool families. So in a support group what you do is, you come together, have a Moms meeting where you share ideas and you have a picnic or a potluck. You might go for a field trip together. It’s a really casual, laid back kind of thing. That’s a support group. That is different than a co-op, because a co-op is usually very formal. It’s a formal signup. You make a commitment to that process.
So, there are different kinds of co-ops. The most basic type is when a few families come together and they hire, say, a music teacher to teach their children piano or violin. So maybe four or five families come together and say, this music teacher is really great but we can’t afford her, but she’ll do a group class for us and it’ll be maybe $20 each per month. So they do that and that way they can afford the teacher. That’s a real basic co-op that’s not too formal.
That concept can get a little bigger. We have a co-op in the Saint Charles area called The Learning Center. In that center, the homeschool support group hires teachers and tutors for different high school classes. You just pay the fee and buy the book and send your teenager to the class and that’s it. That’s one kind of co-op where you’re just hiring teachers. The parents don’t have too much of a say in who gets hired, or how it’s done. It’s set up for you to take this class, but it’s a home school class.
The more common type of co-op is where the families themselves are in charge of the classes. That is the kind of co-op we participated in for a few years. In this co-op, the mothers come together or the fathers (we actually had fathers that were available to teach several classes which was wonderful) to teach the classes. So each person who wants to teach the class says, I have expertise in Art and they say I will teach an Art class and it’ll be drawing 101. I taught a public speaking class for three of the semesters that I was in the homeschool group. I also taught a drama class for one semester. So those things like talking and acting are my strengths so that’s what I did.
Other parents taught geometry, or if they had a background in math, art, or cooking (that’s what they did). We had a wonderful lady who taught the Science classes and she just did a great job with the kids. She did Science and animals. We had teachers who taught math, they taught the preschool, not teachers, parents. It was really great. We had about 50-100 families. I would say it was about 70 a the high point. The families have responsibilities. Each family has an area in the building that we would clean up after the co-op was over. If you weren’t teaching you would be a teachers’ assistant, or you were at the sign-in desk, or you might be with the preschoolers, or you might be a monitor for study hall. It was great. So that kind of co-op has a lot of responsibilities. You’re there all day and you have something to do.
The fourth type of co-op I’m familiar with is curriculum based. This is a fairly new concept. I heard about it through the Classical Conversations Curriculum. I love Classical Conversations. I use a lot of classical material for my kids. When I heard about Classical Conversations I loved it. I bought Leigh Bortins book, the Core. I bought her Foundations memory workbook to teach my kids something they could memorize.
Later I heard about the co-ops where you can go in with the Moms and they would practice the memory work together and do classes in Science and different experiments together, but it was really expensive. I think it was $300 at the lowest level or $325 a semester. You still had to go home and have your Language Arts, Math curriculum and homework. I started to think, ‘Oh wow. It would be great, but I don’t think it would be affordable.’ I didn’t want to give up one whole day a week for it. So, we have not participated in that yet. The people who have (participated in this co-op) say it’s wonderful and they say really good things about it. So those are the co-ops I’m familiar with. There might be some others out there, but those are the ones I really have an idea about.
Sade: It really does turn out to be like that.
Sade: A little bit. What we did was we met in a church because we needed so many classes. We needed one class for the newborns and babies, one for the toddlers, one for the preschoolers. There’s three classes right there. Then you need classes for each subject going on and different grade levels going on. In all we used 10-12 rooms or that were required for our co-op. Then we had to have a place to eat lunch together We had a church that was kind to let us use their building during the week because they didn’t use their building during the week. So we got to use it and that was really wonderful.
Sade: It can seem a bit intense. The women who put our co-op together, I don’t know how they did it. They did an awesome job keeping it organized, making sure all the kids needs were met, everyone was disciplined and in order. It was just really great and the Moms were wonderful who did that as well. It was a little intense. When I taught a class I would find myself late on Thursday night, staying up late preparing the schoolwork for the next day. One year I decided not to give grades. I decided to let the parents give the grades. But when I did the grades, I had to take their homework and give them grades so it got to be a bit of work. On Fridays when we went, we got up at 5am just to make sure I had all the worksheets and whatever else I was using ready, make sure the kids were up and dressed, lunch was packed. It sounds like we were going to school because it took the home out of homeschool.
Sade: There are three ways I would do it if I were looking for a co-op.
Sade: I think they really enjoyed it. They had a good time. The first year they really loved it. They met new friends. Like I said, when we joined that support group, we had just moved to the area. So it turned out to be a great blessing. We didn’t do the co-op the first semester, but the next semester we joined the co-op. That really helped us get settled in our area with homeschool. We met so many homeschoolers, the kids made friends at the co-op, I made friends, people invited us over for dinner, we invited other people over for dinner that we met at the co-op. We had playdates together, we went to the park together. It was a real blessing in getting us settled in our new neighborhood and city. For us it worked out beautifully. It was a real blessing. My kids enjoyed it.
They didn’t enjoy all of the classes. Some of the classes were boring to them because they had already done what was being offered in the class. They had already done that at home. That’s one of the challenges. I guess we’ll get to the pros and cons.
So, some classes they really loved. We did this excellent literature class when they were in 3rd or 4th grade on the book Caddie Woodlawn. That was wonderful. They had a great time. They loved the vocabulary and grammar. The book was really exciting. It was a living book. They had a great time doing that. There were some other classes that they did. It was a Language Arts class. They had a writing class. The kids made these little books where you make up a story and draw something and you type a little story. My daughter had been writing stories for three years at that point so she was bored to tears in that class. She was happy to be with her friends so that part was nice. She would write and draw and just sit there and wait for the next thing to be done. That’s one of the challenges we had with the co-op. In all, the classes that were good made up for the classes that weren’t good. We had an excellent Science class. An excellent Literature class that we took. The Language Arts class, big deal I guess.
Sade: The benefits of a co-op are
We had a wide variety of people. We had a Mom who was really into the outdoors and she knew everything about hiking, fishing and wildlife conservation. That was a blessing to my family. When I taught public speaking I heard other Moms say, ‘I’m so glad we got this in before they graduated from high school. We didn’t know anyone who could teach public speaking.’ That part of it is really cool. You tap into their expertise.
On one hand there’s a cost. It usually costs money. You have to pay for books. You have a fee. You have to pay for the building and things like that. That fee, however, is usually lower than what you would pay on your own. When my kids needed textbooks, the textbooks would cost less than if I had bought it on my own. So if theres Apologia which may have cost between $30-$35 if I purchased it online. We bought them as a group and I only had to pay about $25 for a book. You can save money by pooling your resources with other families.
I think those are some of the big benefits of a homeschool co-op
Sade: No, let’s just skip the downside. I hate to highlight the downside because it makes it seem like I really shouldn’t do this. I think you should give it a shot if you think you could benefit from the pros. Give it a shot for one semester and see how it goes.
For the cons:
I hope those cons didn’t put you off co-ops. They are a good resource. You just have to make sure it’s right for your family.
Sade: It was a teachable moment for our family. I got to explain to my children this is what people believe and this is what we believe. I hope it helped them to see why one opinion was better than another in my opinion. It could work in the sense that you get to see a lot of views.
Now I don’t agree with the criticism of homeschool that there is only one way or homeschoolers see things in a traditional way. There’s nothing wrong with being firm in your principles and in what you believe. The people who changed our world were generally very opinionated. They tended to believe in things they saw was right. They always had a strong idea of what was right and what was wrong. What I think would be helpful is when that sense of right and wrong is passed on through true moral judgment where you’re really right. Not like Hitler who believed what he believed but he was wrong. I don’t think having a wishy-washy opinion is very world changing. I do understand people criticize homeschooling for that. I don’t think that criticism holds water. People who say homeschoolers only see things their way and need to get out there and have many different views. You need to be knowledgeable about the world, but you can’t succeed holding many different views of one item at one time. It just doesn’t work.
Sade: I know, I know.
Sade: You’re welcome! My pleasure.
That's all for this 5 Days of Blogging Back To Homeschool Blog Hop! I do hope you enjoyed all my entries. To go back to an entry you can simply click on one of the links below to take you to that day's post.
I wish you well in your homeschooling this year as you go Back to Homeschool!