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The Benefits of a Homeschool Co-Op

2011 June 7
by Pamela

Be forewarned, my mind is bending from all the pressure of finishing our first year of homeschooling.  There will likely be lots of posts about the subject to follow.

We decided it would be a good idea to join a homeschool co-op as we entered into this little adventure.  Why now, I don’t really remember.  Maybe we thought it would broaden Mary Claire’s horizons or something. 

As you can tell, it was a carefully thought-out decision.

But we just finished our first year with the group, Downriver Christian Co-Op, and there were some real benefits to our membership.  A homeschool co-op is a group of families who gather together to teach classes and have special outings or events for their kids.  The classes are taught by parents and volunteers.  Our group was very organized and well-run, thanks to Susie, Dawn, and Mickey along with their husbands who serve on the leadership team.  I thought I’d share some of the things we liked about our group.

1.  Being the reluctant homeschooler I was, my main concern about home education was that Mary Claire was going to miss out on all the fun things about school.  I wasn’t as worried about the academics as I was the memories.  I wanted her to be able to have a lunch box.  I know, stupid.  But remember how exciting it was to get your school supplies and lunch box every year?  I also wanted her to be able to have class parties, field trips, and special events so she’d have those memories.  With a co-op, she got the experience of eating lunch with friends, carrying a backpack to various classes, and going on different outings.

2.  Mary Claire got a sense of what a traditional school looks like.  There are no certainties in this life and at any moment we might need to put her into a regular school setting.  For one day a week she had to sit still for an entire hour, move to her next class when the bell rang, raise her hand and wait to be called on by her teachers, be responsible with her books and homework, and interact with different teachers. 

3.  She was exposed to some great women this year.  Her teachers were all excellent and worked hard to prepare fantastic, interesting, educational, and fun lessons for her classes.

4.  My circle has become pretty small.  The people in my life now are mostly here by my choosing.  It was a great growing experience to work alongside women and men who started out as strangers.  It’s something you do and take for granted when you work for pay, but it really felt like starting a new job in some ways.

5.  Being part of a co-op gives you ample opportunity to meet others in a similar situation as you, but who also do things differently.  It would have never occured to me to grow earth worms as part of a science curriculum, but I got the idea from another mom there (thanks Megan!).  Nearly all of the curriculum I chose for 1st grade came as suggestions from other moms (especially Danese, thanks girl!).  Bottom line, it broadens your own horizons. 

6.  Mary Claire got to do some fun and educational things that I probably wouldn’t have thought of or had the uumph to do on my own.  She did hands on science projects with magnets, grew butterflies, practiced measuring by baking cookies, learned a proper push up, made great art projects, learned the life cycle of plants while planting flowers, and learned the different coins and their values while playing store. 

7.  If you work in your children’s classrooms, it is a good way to assess how they are doing academically and socially compared to their peers.  It gives you something like a window, enabling you to see them with a wider viewpoint than the myopic one we (I) often have at home.

Next up I’m going to write about the single biggest hot button regarding homeschooling:  socialization!  I know, this blog is getting so scandalous.

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8 Responses leave one →
  1. Kirsten Wheeler permalink
    June 8, 2011

    I’m excited to see your posts about homeschooling since I plan on doing it myself. It’s still a couple years off, but I’ll probably be bugging you in the future. :)

    • Pamela permalink*
      June 8, 2011

      That’s great Kirsten. When it gets closer you are welcome to come over and watch a school day in action. I did several observations last year and it helped me so much to see there were many ways to get to the same goal. It was freeing for me to see the flexibility. You are always welcome to spend a day at co-op as well. We have a preschool and nursery program.

  2. Paige Lloyd permalink
    June 8, 2011

    Thanks for sharing Pam. I have never really considered a co-op, but after hearing great things about it from you (and others) about this one I think I would consider it. As you say, it’s probably a great way to have all of us exposed to other children & families who are similar in values to your family but still do things differently, and also gives them opportunities to make great friends & memories. My concern is really committing to something like that on a weekly basis, and losing some of the freedom we have when we do it all at home. And how does it work when you want to go on vacation – can you just miss weeks, or do they have a strict policy on that? I don’t want to give up our freedom to come and go, it’s one of the greatest things about homeschooling! Thanks for sharing. : )

    • Pamela permalink*
      June 8, 2011

      Hi Paige – We rely heavily on the role of parents at the co-op so we are encouraged to attend as much as possible. We all have tasks we are assigned to for each of the three hours, whether it be a teacher, assistant or floater. But the floaters can help wherever needed so if any of us miss for vaca or illness, another fills in for us. I hope you will consider joining! It’s definitely hard to miss a regular school day so I understand your concern about that. But I think the benefits for both me and the girls outweigh the inevitable scheduling glitches.

      • Paige Lloyd permalink
        June 9, 2011

        So I just noticed in your reply to another comment, that there is a preschool & nursery program. Does that mean child care for children that aren’t old enough for the co-op? This is another major concern of mine, since we have 4 children (5 as of this coming winter) and I always thought, “What in the world would I do w/my younger children while one or two of my kids are at a co-op and I have to work there?” So how does it work?

        • Pamela permalink*
          June 9, 2011

          I didn’t know you were expecting! Congratulations! Yes, there is a fully-staffed nursery. Everyone who is a part of the co-op goes through a background check as well. The little babies, two and under, stay in the nursery during the class hours and you can go into that room to nurse or visit on your off hours. At lunch you are together as a family. The pre-school group is together all three hours and they have story time, craft, songs, games, etc. The leadership team is also very sensitive to nursing mamas and scheduled us to work in the nursery for at least part of the day so we could feed the babies. The day runs 8:45-1 p.m. with a five minute break between each of the three hours and time for lunch. We start mid-September, have breaks for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter and end mid-May. At least that’s the way it worked this year.

  3. Diane permalink
    June 8, 2011

    Great post, and much like the one that’s been floating around in my head, for, oh, say about a year now! LOL Maybe I should just repost yours! LOL

    • Pamela permalink*
      June 8, 2011

      Thanks Diane! It’s been great to get to know you.

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