steps to start a Homeschool co-op

15 Steps to Start a Homeschool Co-op Group in 2024

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Last Updated on April 9, 2024 by Sarah McCubbin

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If you decide to start a homeschool co-op, you are making one of the best investments in your family’s relationships and education that you could possibly make. If done well, it will result in friendships for a lifetime!

As homeschooling has become a more common choice, the need for homeschool groups has grown exponentially. Unlike school, homeschoolers specifically choose to pursue groups that meet their unique family needs and wants. As such, an average community could benefit from having  a few different types of co-ops or local homeschool groups simply because people want different things. 

Some families want simple support groups and others want more complex homeschool co-ops with tons of activities. Everyone is unique!

If you want to start your own co-op, the process involves a variety of components. You have the people side…and the organizational structure. If you are starting from scratch, there are steps that you should follow but they may not actually happen in this exact order. At all levels of planning, homeschool leaders are wise to always prioritize communication. This part of the process is more time consuming…but absolutely worth the effort. 

Recommended Reading! Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out! by Carol Topp

Steps to Start a Homeschool Co-op Group 

1. Vision & Mission Statement

As you begin the process of starting a homeschool co-op….even if you are starting alone, it is a good idea to sit down and write out your vision for the group. At this point it can be informal and can be adjusted as you get more organized. But it will help you answer this question:

Why do you want to start a homeschool group? 

What Kind of Group will you start? 

  • Local Support Group
  • Playdate Group?
  • Field Trips Group
  • Elective Group
  • Academic Group
  • Hybrid Group
  • Virtual or In Person

Have you tried groups and didn’t like something? Have you looked around and found that there are no groups that fit your needs in area communities? What groups are in your area? What do they offer that is unique and how will your group be somewhat different?

2. Find Like Minded People

By its very nature, doing school at home is more isolated and customized that sending kids to public or private school. And even though doing school at home can feel like such a relief, eventually many people struggle with that need to find a community with a group of families to be a part of.

Being in a community is a wonderful thing if it supports the parents and the kids.  

So as you consider starting a group, you will want to find like-minded homeschool families who may want to start a group with you. The best way to find your core group is by talking to friends, family, moms in other homeschool activities and even by posting on local Facebook groups. 

3.  Pick Your Leadership Team 

When you start your homeschool group, you will need a leadership team of people willing to work together to make all the parts work smoothly. Some people want to start their own homeschool co-op and be the person that makes all the decisions. That might sound fun at first but it can quickly lead to overwhelm and burnout. Having a leadership team will distibute the workload and prevent too much from depending on one person. 

You can start with an informal leadership team if you have a small co-op, but if your group decides to become organized, you will likely need to become a registered non-profit in your state. In most cases, non-profits are required to have at least 3 board members typically with the role President, Secretary and Treasurer. If your group decides to formally organize, choose 3 individuals to fill those rolls.

4. Create Bylaws & a Handbook

Once you have a leadership team, you are going to need written organizational documents that spell out how your group operates. Bylaws typically explain how the board of directors operates and the rules by which leadership is chosen or replaced. Once voted on these can still be changed by a process that you should include in the founding bylaws. 

Here are Sample Homeschool Group Bylaws

In addition, a Handbook is another organizational document. Your group handbook is the rules, policies and expectations for homeschool group members. It should have information on the 4 W’s (Who, What, Where, When) of your group as well as information on other policies, solving conflict, parent and student requirements, costs and more. 

Once created, your handbook can be updated at least yearly although some group boards find the need to make changes mid year when persistent problems arise. 

Thinking of Starting a Homeschool Co-op? I Can Help!

5. Choose Your Communication Tools

Communication tools are one of the MOST IMPORTANT structural pieces of your homeschool community. When you are a play date group, a field trip group or one that meets for elective or academic co-op classes, you NEED an organized way for people to communicate. Someone wise once told me, if the information you are sharing is important, be prepared to share it at least 3 ways!

Here are valuable tool options: 

  • Group email list
  • Facebook group (private for members)
  • Facebook page (public for people to learn about your group)
  • Website (I LOVE Homeschool Life) but others use Wix to build a simple functional site. 
  • Phone apps (i.e. Remind, Group Me etc)
  • Voxer
  • Discord
  • Handbook
  • Weekly Announcements

6. Decide Your Goals For the Group

At some point in the decision making tree, you must decide what the goals for your group will be. These goals can change over time, but it will narrow the focus of your efforts if you create goals. You should have primary goals and secondary goals. In my current co-op, the primary goal is to offer academic classes with accountability for all ages and secondary goals are to offer elective classes and social opportunities to build friendships. 

Example Goals: 

  • Provide social experiences (perhaps similar to those available in school)
  • Academic classes
  • Elective classes
  • Create community
  • Build lifelong friendships
  • Provide homeschool support
  • Specific grade levels you will serve

7. Find a Meeting Place Location

Depending on the kind of group you want to start, you will need to find a location that your group can meet at. If your group is virtual, your location may even start as a Facebook page! But for most groups that meet in person, a group location will determine many factors including price, number of classrooms, bonus opportunities and more. Finding a group setting that meets your overall primary and secondary goals should be a top priority before setting  a budget or opening registration.

Common Locations Include:

  • Homes
  • Community Center
  • Library Room(s)
  • Churches
  • Local Park Shelter or Building
  • YMCA or athletic facility
  • Business space

The price of these spaces can range anywhere from free all the way up to many thousands of dollars per year. Your facility price and insurance (if you need it) will likely be the biggest factors to affect your baseline budget. 

15 steps to start a homeschool co-op group

8. Set a Budget 

You will need to set a budget once you decide what kind of group you are creating. If you are a small homeschool co-op that meets informally at a park, you may not have a budget at all because there are no large or recurring expenses. However, once your group grows and needs to pay for things like a buiding, insurance, supplies, activities and more! 

Costs to Consider: 

  • Building
  • Insurance
  • Supplies
  • Parties
  • Events
  • Bookkeeping
  • Paid Teachers

9. Set Your Schedule

Your group schedule should facilitate the goals of the group. Are you a low or high commitment group? If low…start with a shorter term commitment. If you are a high commitment group, consider a semester or a full school year.

Common group schedules include:

  • One day every other week
  • Weekly
  • 2-3 days per week
  • Weekly for 8-12 weeks in the Fall and Spring
  • Weekly for 24-30 weeks 
  • Field Trips (Scheduled on a consistent day…or randomly

10. Choose Your Registration Tools

Once you have families ready to register, you need to choose your registration tools. For this you can use: 

  • Google forms
  • Homeschool Life (my favorite for sure)
  • Jotforms 

11. Recruit New Members

To really get your co-op off the ground, you need to recruit new members. You can actually start this process from the very beginning by creating a “Waiting list” or “Information” form. Google forms can be used to collect info from people who “might” be interested. Go ahead and get your basic structure set up…and then when you are ready to begin…contact those who are interested. 

When you are ready to recruit. It is helpful to have a general idea of how many members you want in your group, and any parameters you have. Then begin to spread the word using friends, family, social media and online Facebook groups. 

Oftentimes as part of your recruiting process, it is helpful to have a meeting for interested families At parent meetings, be prepared to talk about classes, volunteer responsibilities, your membership fee, any class fees, opportunities for younger siblings and more. 

15 steps to start a homeschool co-op group

12. Register New Members

When you begin to register new members, consider having a registration rollout. One way to give perks to members for leading or teaching is by giving them early registration. Having a gradual registration rollout can also let you catch any registration errors without affecting the whole group. Generally our group registers leaders, teachers, returning members and then we contact each new group member to ask them to register. 

13. Set Up a Bank Account

If your group starts small, you may find that you don’t actually need to set up a bank account like larger co-ops. However, if you want to take any kind of payment digitally by Paypal, Venmo, or Zelle, then you will need a bank account. It is not advisable to have someone use a personal bank account because large amounts of money coming into a personal account can be reported as “income” and affect that person’s personal tax liability. 

If your group is very small the first year, consider operating with cash. Or if you don’t collect fees, you may consider having families provide their own supplies/snacks etc when they are teaching classes or lessons. 

Before your group can get a Bank Account, you will need: 

  • EIN Number from the IRS
  • Possibly a ficticious name or DBA
  • Possibly incorporation as a non-profit with your state (some banks require this…others do not)

14. Choose Book Keeping Software

Once your group does have a bank account, you will need to choose book keeping software to track expenses. You can spend a lot or a little on this depending on your group needs. 

Here are some options: 

  • Quicken
  • Quickbooks

15. Create Systems For Long Term Stability

Once your group is set up and running for the first year, you will want to look down the road to see what other systems you need to create stability. Things to consider are: 

  • Filing for a 501c3
  • Update the handbook policies annually
  • ​Keep updated financial records
  • Maintain a good relationship with the church (or facility) that you are using.

Sarah McCubbin, founder of Ten Minute Momentum, is dedicated to helping parents confidently parent their kids by teaching life skills, social skills and leadership skills. As a child she was the kid that never quite fit in and is on a mission to help others understand the building blocks we all need to be successful adults. She lives in Ohio with her husband Mike, and 9 kids ranging in age from 5 to 21 where they use homeschool, private school and public schools for their kids education!

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