HOW TO BEGIN A HOMESCHOOL CO-OP
This is a 2-part guest blog post written by Carreen Schroeder from newyorkadventuresinhomeschooling.com.
In this two part post, I will attempt to guide you through the process of beginning your very own homeschooling co-op, either independently run or with the assistance of other homeschooling educators and parents. If you have been wondering how to begin a homeschooling co-op, this may just be the incentive you’ve been looking for.
Part I: Lay Out The Groundwork
So, here you are. You find yourself either at the beginning of a homeschooling adventure, at the tail-end of one homeschooling year and already thinking about the next step, or are just looking for other approaches to your homeschooling curriculum and programming. Lucky for you, so am I and I am happy to share all that I have discovered along the way and what I plan on doing as my youngest daughter winds up 5th grade and gets ready for the middle school years!
As homeschooling families, we are always seeking new programs, reaching out to connect with educational institutions, museums, libraries, art galleries and the like, to keep our children fully engaged, entertained, and, of course, intellectually stimulated! I am no different and each year, we have revised, completely changed, have added on, and have completely cut out different programming, activities and adventures. As our youngest daughter grows, so do her interests and perspectives. A homeschooling lifestyle allows us to be completely flexible in order to meet these changes and keep our curriculum and programming fresh, interesting, entertaining and challenging.
Over the years, we have jumped on homeschooling educational forums and have signed up for an educational trip here, an outing there, a 5-week program here, and a quarterly commitment there, and overall, it has been amazing. We have looked carefully at the descriptions of offerings and have worked hard to sculpt our weekly, monthly, quarterly adventures to not only match Niamh’s interests, but also compliment our state curriculum requirements. However, there are drawbacks to all of this. To try to keep up on the day-to-day happenings in several different cities, to register for events all over the place, and to organize the time, gas money, and program payments for all of these events, can prove too much. There were weeks a year ago, when we were running to so many programs every week that I couldn’t even ground ourselves long enough to fully determine what Niamh had discovered and learned. Our minds were just overwhelmed and although in theory, daily events sound wonderful, in reality, overload amounts to a lower quality of learning – at least for us. We needed to ground ourselves a little more and try a different approach.
This past year, we decided to do just that and enrolled in regular, weekly classes from September until May. The classes either ran throughout a semester or throughout a quarter and this stable, steady, weekly commitment was just what we were looking for. Niamh took classes in Jewelry Making, Sign Language, Government, Physical Education, Chess, Reading and Research, and Theatre. Overall, the experience was a positive one as Niamh is now at the age where she appreciates routine as well as regular socialization with her peers. If there are co-ops that exist in your area that offer programs you and your children enjoy, it is worth checking out. However, co-ops can also come with their drawbacks. The distance to travel may be a problem, the costs associated with the programs may not be in your budget and/or the classes offered may not be what you and your children are looking for. So then what? What is there left to do if you do not want to start running from one place to another every day or week, and another organization’s co-op doesn’t work for you? I’ll tell you what you can do – you can do what I plan on doing next year. You can start your very OWN co-op! Did I overwhelm you? Do you feel intimidated? Nonsense! You can absolutely build your very own co-op. Here is what I plan on doing and I hope it encourages you to try to begin your own homeschooling co-op.
- Sit with a lovely hot cup of coffee or tea, a notebook, trusty, reliable pen or two, and yes, the social media goddess, that IS the Internet.
- If you can, and feel comfortable enough, join LinkedIn, and begin to connect with educational centers in your area and with other homeschooling families – they are out there waiting for you!
- Join other social networks as well such as Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and the like, and begin conversations with homeschooling families about shared interests.
- Now here’s the fun part. Once you have a number of people in your social network that are also looking for programming, start to connect with various educational institutions – your local library, museum, art gallery, nature centers, 4H club, zoo, non-profit programs for children, the YMCA – you name it, the sky’s the limit. Explain that you would like to meet with them to develop a weekly program at their institution for a minimum of 4 weeks, or 8 weeks, etc… Then make plans to meet, and with that notebook and that trusty pen, begin to work out a partnership plan on how to develop an educational and entertaining program for children (remember with me, ENTERTAINMENT is always part of the learning process!)
- Once you have worked out your programming and scheduling, you are ready to put together a flyer, and promote your co-op among your social media contacts. The benefits are you do the organizing and coordinating and the facilities run the programming. In Part II, I will provide you with concrete examples of co-op scheduling and specific approaches that I hope will help encourage and inspire you to begin your very own homeschooling co-op adventures!
Watch for Part II coming tomorrow!