Have you been a part of a homeschool co-op? Are you considering it? I’ve had both positive and negative experiences with homeschool co-ops. I know that it’s easy to feel pressured into joining one. Your friend joins. Someone questions whether or not your kids have any opportunities for socialization. You worry about whether your kids are missing out on the fun school traditions — carrying lunch, Valentine’s Day parties, recess.
A homeschool co-op can be a great thing for your family. But it can also turn into a headache and something that the family dreads. So…how do you know if you should really join a homeschool co-op? Here are four reasons why you shouldn’t. If any of these fit your situation, don’t join. Even if you feel pressured to do it…don’t. A negative homeschool co-op experience isn’t fun for anyone. Trust me. And if the co-op you’re considering isn’t a good idea right now, don’t lose hope. Consider other co-ops or wait until a different season of life. A positive co-op experience is worth it, and you’ll be glad you waited.
Don’t join a co-op that doesn’t fit your homeschooling style.
I’m a flexible, laid-back homeschooling mama. We use less-structured curricula. We don’t use many textbooks. We use lots of literature. I need a flexible, laid-back co-op. I don’t want to be a member of a co-op that is going to require me to use certain curricula for homeschooling. I don’t want a co-op that has a structured, rigorous academic focus.
Maybe you’re the opposite. But, whatever your homeschooling style, don’t join a co-op that doesn’t fit. It will frustrate you. It will frustrate your kids. And you probably won’t have a good experience. Homeschooling definitely isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal. If you want to join a co-op, look for one that fits your style.
Don’t join a co-op if your kids are at a difficult age for a group experience.
The first time I tried a co-op, my youngest child was three. She wasn’t easy to leave. Even at our church, where she had been since babyhood, I sometimes couldn’t leave her in a Sunday School class or our children’s choir because she just wasn’t ready for the separation. She would be sad, and I would choose to take her with me instead of leaving her.
The co-op I joined had four time blocks. Moms volunteered to teach in two blocks, leaving each of us two free blocks for time to socialize or just relax. I decided to volunteer for one block with my youngest and one block with my middle child. But each week when I tried to leave my youngest, she cried. It began to be very stressful for her and for me.
Before you join a co-op, make sure that your children are at an appropriate age to make it a good experience. If you have very young kids, they may not be ready for a group experience. A baby may need naps and may get extremely fussy in an all day long co-op. Consider carefully to know whether or not the co-op you’re considering is a good fit for the ages of your kids.
Don’t join a co-op if you’re already too busy.
I always laugh when the age-old socialization issue comes up. People who think that homeschoolers have no social life obviously haven’t seen a homeschool mom’s schedule. The problem isn’t having too few opportunities to socialize, it’s having too many.
It’s easy to sign up for everything that looks like a great opportunity and then find yourself so busy that you’re constantly stressed, and you’re never actually home to do any homeschooling. No matter how appealing a co-op looks or how many friends you have who are telling you how wonderful it is, if your schedule is already packed just say no.
Don’t join a co-op with other moms who make you feel uncomfortable all the time.
Unfortunately, in the world of homeschooling, you’ll occasionally meet “those” moms. You know the ones I’m talking about. They’re the moms who think that they are super homeschool moms. Their kids are learning three foreign languages, playing four different instruments, joining quiz teams in every subject, building massive science fair projects, and winning prizes on their robotics teams, and they’re not even out of kindergarten yet. When you confess that you don’t start school until ten each morning and that your eight-year-old can’t read yet, they look down their noses at you with pity in their eyes.
Don’t join a co-op with those moms. Just don’t. Homeschooling isn’t a comparison game. There isn’t one “right” way to do it. And, if you are spending time with moms who make you feel as if you aren’t measuring up, stop. Those aren’t the moms you need to be with.
Thankfully, there are many, many more homeschooling mamas who are willing to share the homeschooling journey with authenticity, who will admit that they struggle with staying on task too, who will encourage you when you’re having those days where it seems as if nothing you do is working, who will understand when you admit that sending your child to school looks really good some days. Join a co-op with those moms. These are the people you need beside you as you navigate the ups and downs of homeschooling.
No matter what well-meaning friends tell you, joining a co-op isn’t always the best decision for your family. If you’re interested in a co-op, take time to find out more about it. Does it fit your homeschooling style? Is the time right for the stage of life you’re in? If you can schedule a visit to the co-op, do it. That’s a great way to find out if the co-op is a good fit for your family. Taking the time to find these things out, to test the water, can mean the difference between a great co-op experience and a co-op experience that isn’t so great.
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