Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tell Me About Your Co-op


In Oklahoma, the kids and I were involved in an awesome Homeschool Co-op. It was right up our alley. We met on Friday mornings. One morning it was "mom's meeting" with childcare for the kids. Two Fridays we had P.E. and Music class. And the fourth Friday we got together for a service project. There were various other class opportunities that met at different times, like art and writing. We went on  at least one field trip a month and the moms went out for dinner or a fun activity one evening a month. It was a large group so we carved out a smaller group of about five families that all had girls the same age. We did lots of fun things together. The parents even had an Ugly Christmas Sweater party one year. It was so much fun and we miss it like crazy!

Here in Missouri, we have to drive 30 minutes to our Co-op in another town. Most of the families that attend are military families with a major Air Force base nearby, so the turnover rate is high depending on length of stay at the base. The Co-op is set up more as an enrichment co-op with the kids taking classes. My two are taking "Holidays Around the World" and "Water World". They didn't get to choose which classes they wanted. These were the only classes offered for their age. So far we have met very few people. I have only really spoken to a couple of the moms and the kids haven't met any friends at all. We go in, go to class, and leave. There has been a lot of fighting going on between the moms, publicly on the Yahoo group forum, and the extra activities are limited. In a nutshell, we don't like it and are not planning on attending after this semester.

But we want to be in a Co-op! We live in a town of less than 3,000 people and there are other homeschool families here. We just don't know them. I am thinking of ... **gulp** ... starting up a small Co-op here. I kind of have in my mind what I would like it to look like, but I have only a limited view of Co-ops.

So, here is where you come in .... Are you in a Co-op? If so, how is it structured? What do you do? Do you like it? What are it's pros and cons?

I would really appreciate your input as I consider taking this step.

11 comments:

  1. Hey Nicole!!! Funny you should say, because I have been working on a series of posts detailing our Co-Op that we were in this year that a friend and I started!! The first post should be up by the end of the weekend!!!

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  2. We don't homeschool so I have no real advise for you but my friends that do LOVE Classical Conversations

    shannon http://lovingthesemicountrylife.wordpress.com/

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  3. I don't homeschool my kids yet, but I definitely think you should go for it!

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  4. We, too, are from a small town. We have another small town 8 miles down the hwy from us, so we often join together. We have 2 co op styles.
    1) only for 4th grade and up; offers 3 one hr basic classes ie Bible, PE, then usually choir, cooking, career exploration, etc. A parent offers to teach per each class, where as we simply drop off our child.
    2) Our science co op- all ages welcome, all parents required to volunteer somewhere. We started with 90 min science class, and this year we added another class to the mix to see how it would work. I, personally, teach the preschool age. The 1st hour I assist another teacher with sign language, 2nd hour she assists me with my science class.
    Why all ages (0-18)? Because if we didn't offer nursery and I didn't teach the preschool level, the high school chemistry teacher would not be available to our high schoolers (her kids are 2 & 4). It's all a win/win around for us all to participate. just how we do it~

    biggest pros for small town co op- inexpensive and fun.

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  5. When you say "co-op" are you referring to an actuall cooperative or a support group. We belong to both. The support group has all the stuff available that you mentioned above with your group in Oklahoma. We do field trips, mom's night out which is called Friday Frolic and happens on the months that have a fifth Friday. Also the normal stuff like Valentine's parties, some community service, etc. The cooperative that me and a friend started this year is a fine arts cooperative and is strictly classes that are offered. We teach drama, choir, art, and legos. There was not one available in our small community so we decided to start one with no money at all. We are in the second semester and have almost 60 kids involved and they all have become good friends. Families pay a small monthly fee to cover rent at a local church and liability insurance. Teachers are offered free classes for their kids in lieu of money. So far it has worked out great. So I guess I would first say which would you rather have - the support group or a cooperative. Let me know if you want to talk further about it and we can talk better via email.
    Blessings
    Diane

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  6. When we first started homeschooling (in a small town in West Virginia) I got really lucky and found a co-op that worked well for us. We met every other week during the semester. My elementary son did not get to choose his classes, but there were several short classes, and he loved it. He had art, music, FIAR and science. Middle and high schoolers were offered a few different choices each hour, but they had to take at least one Bible course. They sometimes organized activities like Bible Study or gym/park days, but the larger support group for the area mostly organized the field trips and major events.

    We moved to Ohio recently, but because of the move, holidays and a newborn joining the family, we didn't look for a co-op right away. I found ONE in the whole area and it's going to be nearly a 45 minute drive back into WV. We are considered a metro area, along with two cities in WV, and apparently this co-op services the whole area. They have 4 sessions every year, and meet every week for 8 weeks at a time. We are joining for the last session, and from what I understand, each class has a "theme" for the session. My three year old's theme is Oh The Places We Can Go and each week they will "visit" places like the symphony or museum. My 6 year old's theme is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and the description says they will be putting on a production. It looks like many of the classes are putting on plays, but I suppose that's because it's the last session of the year. So it looks different than what I'm used to, but it's only 8 weeks if we don't like it. It's not going to be much time to get to know others, but I'm hoping to find out if there are other groups or homeschoolers CLOSER to me.

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  7. Hi Nicole- you could totally do that! Our local co-op started in my house! Once word got out we grew and we were able to use a local church that one of our members belongs to. We are a small group compared to other co-ops, but we usually have more than one course choice per hour (except high school is only one class the entire 3 hours).

    Our rules are that all parents must teach a class or assist a class. If you aren't doing that, then you do childcare for the littles that don't do classes.

    This semester some of our classes are: Health/PE, doing presentations, spanish, chemistry (high school, art, memory work, horse science, home economics and bible explorers.

    We meet Fridays from 8:45 to Noon - three class hours.

    The pros are we get to meet and socialize with our friends regularly in an academic setting, rather than just meeting for park day and the occassional field trip.

    The cons are that it takes times to prepare to teach a co-op class and it can be frustrating when some parents don't treat it seriously (ie the kids don't do their homework or come unprepared).

    Our co-op is an offshoot of our main homeschool group - the main group sponsors the field trips, holiday parties and science/history fairs. The co-op is just for those parents that want to do classes.

    Hope that helps! You can email me if you have more specific questions.

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  8. We are in the UK where home education groups tend to be smaller. I'm never quite sure exactly what US co-ops involve but for what it is worth, we go to two groups. Both groups meet once a month. One is quite a young group with children up to 12. The younger children play and have a craft. The older group have science and history. The mothers who aren't teaching or running craft bring a snack for the end of the group.

    The other group is more well established and larger. This has two groups: up to 7 and 7 and older although 14+ students tend to stay at home studying for exams. The younger group has a separate session with music, stories and craft around a theme. The older group has an annual theme with speakers. There are also field trips and a couple of evenings a year for parents-one just for mothers and the other for both parents.

    We find that it is good to meet other home educators. The biggest challenge for me has been to know to what extent I need to change what we do at home to fit with the group. For the second group, I haven't really changed anything although the children would probably have got more out of the sessions if I had done this. For the first group, we changed our history curriculum to fit in with the group. The history was very high standard and there was work to do at home so it made much more sense. I run the science so my younger children mainly study the things that we study in the group. I think that others have started to use the book that we use for the group.

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  9. We have a pretty formal co-op that meets once a week for 30 weeks during the school year. It runs 8:30-2pm with 5 class periods & lunch in between. We have nursery all the way up to 12th grade. Each period has at least 2 if not 3 different class choices for each grade, including both academics & electives. The moms either have to teach 2 classes or help in 3 classes. We have minimal fees that cover the rent of the building, copy fees, etc. And I could go on & on but just wanted to give you a rough idea of how ours is. :)

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  10. This is the first year that we have been involved with a co-op. We LOVE it!!! It is very well run and have made so many friends. It was just started this past Aug. by 3 or 4 homeschool moms. It is a Christian group and hosted by a local church (about 45 min from me, but worth the drive).
    The thing I like best is that classes are held every other Monday. Field trips are scheduled once a month and held on an off Monday. At the first planning period, parents were told that they would be required to teach one class, be a helper in one class, and the 3rd hour can be spent in the "mom's retreat room" enjoying a time of fellowship with other moms. Each parent was asked to make suggestions about what classes would be taught. Last semester I taught 1st/2nd grade PE. This semester I teach 1st/2nd grade literature with hands on activities. My 6th grader is in Boys Club, Missions/Geography, and Remember me pockets (made by two of our co op moms). Older kids take public speaking, german, advanced math. Most classes are free. Some have a small fee. We pass a donation basket each week to give to the church.
    There is a subteam in place for moms who can't attend. Enough rambling. If you want more info, just ask me. :)

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  11. I love that you're getting so many responses. I am sad the group you are in has so many problems. I adore our co-op! I would first say to try to get local homeschool families together to get to know one another. Plan a couple of park days as we're coming into spring. Or skating day or something where the kids can have fun and moms visit. Out of that you may all make some like-minded friends and decide to do something regularly. But it lets you know other people before any huge planning and commitment.
    Our co-op is Monday mornings (that's the day the building is available) and we have three hours of classes ranging from kickball to biology dissection for high school to basically anything a mom or dad volunteers to teach, including nurseries and preschool classrooms. We have over 100 families and we've only been going for four years. We have two ladies that run and organize it, one lady on our homeschool group leadership that specifically works with co-op and then every child in attendance must have a parent in attendance (guarantees enough helpers and means we don't need insurance). Our leaders work super hard encouraging moms to teach classes and makes sure we have multiple choices in each grade level for each hour! We divide our year into 4 - six week blocks so a child could take up to 12 different classes in a year. There is a $5 per child registration fee which covers basic supplies, 2 parents' nights, donation to the church for the space and field day. The class fees are set by each teacher, so each class costs differently. They range from free to $50 (a very nice art class one time) and you can always choose inexpensive classes. We always have versions of pe and various music and drama, plus all sorts of other. Often we will have parties (V day, Christmas) right after co-op - co-op ends and we all go to the gym to eat pizza and have the party. Other times people leave co-op and picnic at the park together. We are somewhat rural so we have people that drive up to 30 minutes and it is their day in town so they make a day of it. We have monthly skating days on 3rd Monday and people go from co-op to picnic to skating. And so on. Our homeschool group is the reason we live living where we live! (My husband works in another city and we go to church in another city...) So pray for God to bring you some like-minded friends that homeschool. It can make such a difference. It only takes one other family to form a small co-op! Find someone else that likes unit studies and you can make some great plans together!

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We all know that in this crazy world of homeschooling, we need all the (adult) support we can get. Please leave a comment if you so wish!