What is a Homeschool Co-op Group? (2024)

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Last Updated on April 20, 2024 by Sarah McCubbin

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If you are are new to home education, you may be wondering what is a homeschool co-op? The short answer is that a co-op provides a way for homeschoolers to take classes and do social activities together through the cooperative efforts of parents!

I was homeschooled myself 40 years ago and when I compare it to all the options available today, there are very few comparisons! Homeschooling has flourished as an amazing option to alternative schools or private schools offering a personalized learning journey tailored to a child’s unique needs.

Within this growing movement, homeschool co-ops are key pillars to success providing a wide variety of opportunities where families come together to improve their homeschooling experience. 

Of course not all homeschool groups would be called co-ops. There are many kinds of homeschool groups…some with volunteers and some with paid employees. They all serve a need in the homeschool community. But when you see a “homeschool co-op” they are usually parent run volunteer organizations that provide classes or activities one more days a week. Some meet for a whole year and other meet for only part of a school year. 

What is a homeschool co-op group?

What is a Homeschool Co-op?

A homeschool co-op, or cooperative, is essentially a group of families who come together with a common goal: to work together to provide an education of their children. Co-ops vary widely in size, structure, and focus, ranging from small, informal groups meeting at a community center or local library, to larger, more structured organizations with a dedicated space and a board of directors. What unites them is a shared commitment to providing a broader range of educational experiences than a single homeschool parent might be able to offer on their own. 

Homeschool co-ops exist to meet academic, social or interest based learning. They are usually run by volunteers and may or may not have fees to participate depending on the organization structure and expenses. 

The co-op my family is a part of started almost 20 years ago as a mom’s play group. The next year, they got more organized and started offering some elective classes in a church one day every other week during the school year. Eventually it changed again to offer academic classes in the morning and elective classes in the afternoon.  

Why Join a Co-op?

When people start homeschooling, they usually start looking for a co-op when they realize that their kids need more social opportunities or when they want to add some structure to their week. Not all co-ops offer classes…some do field trips or social activities and some do all of the above. 

  • Field Trips: Think zoos, museums, and science centers. The more, the merrier (and cheaper)!
  • Social Time: It’s a win-win; kids get friends, and homeschool parents get to chat with folks who get the lifestyle.
  • Special Classes: From foreign languages to coding, your kid can learn things you might not be able to teach at home.
  • Accountability: Many homeschoolers find that by adding structure to their week and “outside teachers” they feel more accountable to stay on task during the rest of the week.

Co-ops are NOT for Everyone!! 12 Pros and Cons of Joining a Homeschool Co-op

homeschool co-op and hybrid checklists
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Finding Your Perfect Co-op Fit

Beyond academics, homeschool co-ops serve as a crucial social outlet. They offer homeschooled children and their parents a sense of community and belonging, which can be especially important in areas where homeschooling might be less common. Co-ops organize field trips, social gatherings, and special events, allowing families to connect, share experiences, and support each other on their homeschooling journey.

But of course, not all co-ops are a great fit for every family. There are many different types of homeschool co-ops. Often times there are a few local co-ops in a community and it is wise to find what is available in your area before deciding to join the first one you find. 

  • Before you join a Co-op, consider these elements: 
  • Does their mission and values align with yours?
  • Are you willing to volunteer?
  • Are you looking for academic co-ops or one with fun classes?
  • Does it offer classes for younger kids and older children  (if you need more than one age group?)
  • Do you know any homeschool families in the group? 
  • Is the co-op comfortably near where you live?
  • Does the co-op offer some things that are hard for you to do at home on your own?
  • Does it fit your budget?
How is a homeschool co-op different from public or private school?

Types of Co-ops: There’s Something for Everyone

There are different kinds of co-ops to suit the myriad needs and preferences of homeschooling families. Some focus specifically on academic subjects, offering classes in areas like foreign language, science, and math, often taught by parents, certified teachers, or outside experts. Others may emphasize extracurricular activities, from physical education to book clubs and art classes, providing vital socialization opportunities and a chance to explore new interests in a group setting. 

In general there tend to be these basic types of co-ops: 

  • Playgroup Co-op: This is great for families with preschool or early elementary focusses on fun or outdoor activities
  • Field Trip Co-op: A group that is organized around going on field trips together
  • Elective Co-op: One with a variety of interest based classes that may or may not be academic. It is usually run by volunteers.
  • Academic Co-op: A co-op that offers academic classes…usually for all ages and meets one or more days a week. 
  • Homeschool Hybrid Program: This usually uses paid teachers to offer classes in academic subjects 2-3 days a week with some elective options. Tuition is charged. 

Not every co-op will be a good fit for every family, and finding the right one involves considering your family’s needs, your educational philosophy, and the specific offerings of the co-op. Some families may thrive in a large co-op with a wide range of activities and classes, while others might prefer the intimacy and focus of a smaller group dedicated to specific subjects or age groups. The best way to gauge whether a co-op aligns with your values and goals is to review its mission statement, attend parent meetings, and talk to current members about their experiences.

Activities You Might Find in a Homeschool Co-op Group

  • Elective or Fun Classes
  • Academic Classes
  • Social Gatherings
  • Parties
  • Field Trips
  • Dances
  • Gradution Celebrations
  • Homeschool Parent Support
  • Drama Productions
  • Science/Art/History Fairs
what is a homeschool co-op?

Getting the Most Out of Your Co-op

  • Ask Good Questions BEFORE you join: There are no dumb questions…ask them all
  • Participate: The more you put in, the more you and your child get out. Teach a class, organize field trips, or host social events.
  • Be Flexible: Some days are all about learning, others more about making friends. Both are equally important.
  • Give Feedback: Co-ops thrive on communication. Love something? Say it! Want something to change? Speak up!

Start Your Own?

For those new to the concept, joining an existing co-op can be an excellent way to integrate into the homeschooling community. Social media and local homeschooling groups are great resources for finding co-ops in your area. If you’re considering starting your own co-op, connect with like-minded families through local homeschool support groups, community centers, and even through social media. Remember, the foundation of a successful co-op is a group of families united by a common goal and commitment to the collective education of their children.

If you decide you want to jump in, starting a small co-op can be a good way to start. It can grow and change over time to become more formal or legally organized but it doesn’t have to start big! 

How to Start a Homeschool Co-op!

Whether you’re a seasoned homeschool parent or just embarking on your homeschooling journey, a homeschool co-op can offer valuable resources, community support, and enriching experiences for your children. From academic enrichment to social engagement, the benefits of joining a co-op can significantly enhance the homeschooling experience. As you explore the various options, keep in mind the importance of finding a co-op that feels like the right fit, one that aligns with your educational philosophy and meets your family’s unique needs. In the diverse world of homeschool co-ops, there’s a place for every learner to thrive.

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

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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