Monday, February 22, 2010

Blog Cruise: My limited experience with Homeschool co-ops

Okay, so this week's question is HARD:  What do you think about co-ops?

My gut instinct right now is to write a really negative post, because at the moment, my opinions on co-ops are colored by recent experiences, and things I've read lately.  But that isn't fair.

Homeschool co-ops come in all kinds of shapes and sizes.  Some are pretty school-like.  Big building, lots of classes, most teachers are certified, there are well-defined registration procedures.  They may meet multiple days of the week, and they may not actually require the parent to contribute in any way aside from the payment of the class fees.  

Most co-ops I know of are slightly less formal than that, meeting once a week and having a couple different class options per time slot, and requiring mom to teach, assist, or otherwise make a pretty significant contribution of her talents.

And some co-ops are really laid back, maybe meeting every other week, with families alternating who is "in charge" of each session, and not necessarily focused on specific "classes" but more on enrichment.

Some "co-ops" are merely a couple of families who have something in common (a child doing biology this year, for instance), and the kids get together once a week to do labs.

I'm sure all of the above types of situations (and others I didn't even think of) have benefits to homeschooling families.  The last two sound far more appealing to me.  If I could find a homeschool co-op that was just focused on PE, for instance, I would seriously consider it.  I'd LOVE for my kids to have the chance to get together weekly with other homeschoolers and play kickball, or dodgeball, or baseball, or practice on a balance beam... as long as totally non-athletic me doesn't have to do a lot of the organizing.  Or a co-op that did art, or music... I'd consider that too.  

But the really formal settings?  I don't think so.  

We did participate in a co-op a few years ago.  It was a wonderful experience.  It met weekly for a half-day.  There was one class choice per age range in each of the 3 or so time slots.  Every mom was expected to be helping.  We did some really neat things in that co-op... but I'm not completely sure it was really worth our time.  It was on the far side of town, so that meant roughly 3 hours of driving on Fridays.  Some of the course work was excellent.  The people were wonderful.  I'm glad we did it.

But if we are to participate in another co-op (or really any other regular outside activity), it is going to have to meet a couple of prerequisites:

  1. it cannot completely interfere with the rest of our schooling
  2. it needs to specifically meet a need of at least one of my kids in a way I have not managed to be able to do at home
  3. it needs to be generally positive for the rest of my kids too

How about you?  Have you had wonderful co-op experiences?  What would a perfect co-op do for you?

The TOS Crew Blog is sponsoring a question of the week every Tuesday. How Do You Know if your kids are keeping up with their peers? is planned for 2/9. I plan to participate as often as possible.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


Jodi said...

It was nice reading your thoughts on this topic. Every family's needs are different, and only you know what's right for yours. Sounds like you've got a good idea what that is. Great post!

Melissa said...

We have been doing co-ops for 7 semesters now and we love it. We go once a week for 8 weeks and the kids have three class periods in that time. It is completely parent led and I teach every semester, usually two classes a semester. Our co-op offers three class choices for each period for 6 and up, and then usually 2 choices for pre school. It has really enriched our homeschool and my children (14 and 11) love it. We count the three hours at co-op as 1/2 a day of school as long as they are taking "learning" classes. My children look at the classes offered and tell me their preference. But in the end, it is my husband and I who choose what they take.

Debra said...

Jodi -- thanks :)

Melissa, your co-op sounds lovely... I do keep thinking I need to look into co-op options here again. I know there are a couple that do sound like they would be good. I need to really look at the details. Maybe in the fall I'll join the "using a co-op" crowd again.

berrypatch said...

Good post. I agree with what you posted at the end about what to look for in a co-op. I've yet to find one that truly fits any need for us. Although we are starting a new one this week. We'll see how it goes.

Laura O in AK said...

Knowing what YOU expect in a co-op is definitely tops on my list for having a good outcome. While I've loved the enrichment ones, as the boys get older I know that I may seek out ones that do cover a core subject I feel inadequate teaching. Although with my eldest, it could be a subject HE needs someone else to teach.