For some parents who homeschool their own children, most of the experience is working just as they want, but they’d like:
- their children to have more opportunity to play with other children
- their children to have more opportunity to see how other children approach the learning situations they’re in
- opportunities for their children to work in homeschool co-op groups
- a chance for their children to play games or sports that require more participants
- their children to experience instruction from other teachers
- opportunities for their children to participate in a music ensemble, whether vocal or instrumental
For these parents, a homeschool co-op that meets, say, once a week and supplements their individual schooling efforts can be a great way to extend their homeschool experience.
For parents with several children, it can be difficult to keep up with all the separate lessons that must be prepared for each day. By joining with other homeschooling families with children at the same level, several parents can divide up the duties, so that each teaches one grade and has less preparation.
Of course, the responsibilities can be divided up different ways as well. For example, one parent could teach science and math, while a second handles social studies and homeschool English, and a third could be responsible for electives, some of which, like an introductory foreign language, introductory music or art, or physical education, might be able to be taught to all students at once.
Shared homeschool equipment
Another reason homeschoolers may want to cooperate is to share expenses of supplies, equipment, textbooks, or other costly items. For example, let’s say you’d like to have laboratory equipment like a microscope and its accessories; a Bunsen burner, flasks, and test tubes; or a lever and pulley system. Or you’d like to build a marionette theater, purchase cross country skis; buy several textbooks that cost $100 each; or get an easel, oil paints, and brushes. All of these are expensive items, but they’re also items that your student will only be using for portions of their school time, and hence, items that are easy to share.
It’s extremely important in homeschool co-op situations that all participants have a shared understanding of the goals of their cooperative venture and the roles each person is to fulfill. This mutual understanding includes, but is not limited to:
- any beliefs or philosophy with which curriculum is to be imbued, for example, Muslim beliefs, Christian beliefs, or conservative, traditional beliefs
- the pedagogies that are to be used
- any disabilities that any of the students have
- general strengths, weaknesses, and preferred learning styles of all students they are responsible for
- responsibilities for record keeping, such as attendance, grading, etc.
- approaches to homework (if any), such as how much homework it is reasonable for a student to have in each subject, and what types of activities are appropriate for homework (for example, if a family chooses not to have a television, their children would be hard pressed to complete an assignment that involved watching the local evening news).
In addition, it is crucial to have agreement and flexibility in scheduling, both to allow enough time for each parent’s interactions with the children, and accommodate each other when a special project or field trip is in the works.
It’s also important to have a plan in place to cover any emergency situations that either prevent a parent from teaching or that involve a student during school time. A phone tree or similar arrangement for situations that occur outside of school hours is also a useful tool to have in place.