One of the reasons some families opt out of Christian homeschooling is the fear that their kids’ academics and child development will suffer due to lack of variety and outside stimuli. But there is an alternative to this: integrate a co-op group(s) into your homeschool. A simple internet search geared toward your area will likely provide several nearby options. Sometimes co-ops are full, however, leaving you without a choice. At that point, you may opt to start one of your own. But if you’re just getting accustomed to the idea, let’s look at a few more details.
What is a Homeschool Co-Op? And will it be worth the experience?
There are many homeschooling resources that will give you an explanation of what a co-op is. Here is one such description from The Homeschool Mom: “A homeschool co-op is a group of families who meet together and work cooperatively to achieve common goals. Co-ops can be organized around academics, social time, the arts, activities, crafts, service work, or projects — or some combination of these.”
By this definition, a homeschool doesn’t have to be an isolated room where the only people you and your kids see are yourselves; it can be a living, breathing entity that provides your kids with a rich learning experience. Not only does it help you with homeschooling, but it can also help your Christian parenting by involving others in the spiritual development of your kids. After all, sometimes they just listen more if someone else is saying it instead of you.
To ensure the best experience with a co-op, it’s important to choose the one that’s right for your kids. Not all co-ops are the same, so be choosy when interviewing them. Ensure their values match yours, both academically and spiritually. Think of integrating into a co-op as you would the start of a relationship: it’s important to know what you want. This will allow you to focus and to set your expectations.
Advantages of a Co-op
No matter what type of program you are involved in, it’s vital that you have a support system. Co-ops provide many different types of support, such as a thorough understanding of the homeschool year. They can work with your flexible structure instead of questioning why you do things a certain way.
Co-ops can also ensure consistent curriculum usage and tracking. If you are a new homeschool family, the wisdom and knowledge of a more seasoned homeschool parent could prove invaluable. They can let you know what pitfalls might come your way, as well as give you some pointers for ensuring your schedule isn’t too busy. Christian families with homeschooling experience under their belt can share those experiences with you, making your homeschooling much easier and smoother.
Co-ops can also help make legal requirements simpler. When you are working with a co-op, the pressure of satisfying state instruction requirements lowers since you have others who are helping you reach the appropriate numbers. Your co-op can also help validate the hours spent teaching certain subjects in case you ever need to do so. Asking others how they keep records can help you determine how best to do your own tracking. The best learning comes through collaboration.
Co-ops are also a great fail safe for the “in case” situations. If you need to take care of a sick family member and won’t have as much time to instruct, being involved in a co-op provides backup – both for you and for others.
And this leads us to the most beneficial part of co-ops: they provide community. Learning isn’t simply about reading, writing, and arithmetic. It’s about learning how to work with others, how to play with others, and how to pray with others. When you involve your kids in a co-op, you are providing them with multiple beneficial factors for their education, as well as the probability of close friends. Not all siblings become each other’s best friends, but by integrating others into your educational world, you can expand your kids’ relationships exponentially.
Determining whether to become part of a co-op is your decision. When it comes time to choose, remember to involve your kids in the process. They might notice things you overlook. In the end, choosing the right co-op can enhance the homeschool experience and make learning more enjoyable.
If you’re on the hunt for homeschooling resources, be sure to check out a variety of other postings about these topics on our blog. And if you’re looking for kids Bible stories or other inspiring ideas for family devotionals, our catalogue is always a great place to start!