Why You Should Join a Co-Op or Homeschool Group
If you're new to homeschooling or are a veteran but have moved to a new city or are looking to expand your support network, you may want to consider joining a co-op or homeschool group. Here's why.
Homeschooling is a huge commitment, and it can easily become very overwhelming. It goes without saying that having a good support system when homeschooling your kids is a significant part of keeping the experience positive and being able to tough out the more difficult obstacles that come along over the years.
Whether it's an in-person or an online group, being part of a homeschool support group lets you connect with other parents going through the same struggles and experiences. You can easily find other people who may have plenty of questions or concerns about the numerous aspects of homeschooling, allowing you to help guide others when you've conquered those challenges yourself or to receive clarification from parents and tutors who have dealt with an issue that you're just now coming across. Home education adds a whole other level to parenting and raising our kids that makes a good support system nearly essential.
What Exactly is a Co-Op?
A homeschool co-op is simply a group of families that meet up on a regular basis for the sake of accomplishing certain projects or activities, socializing, or even assisting with school work and particular lessons.
Co-ops do not have a set number of families required for them to be active, so you may be able to join a co-op with just a few families that meet up regularly or join a larger co-op that allows you to network with hundreds of different parents and children. This will vary depending on your location. However, the most notable aspect of co-ops is that they primarily work together on a very regular basis (sometimes even multiple days in a week) and fully support each other throughout the homeschooling experience.
However, in some locations, educational instruction by any individual besides a child's parent or guardian is not allowed, so co-ops may be restricted in some aspects depending on where they are located and what they local homeschool laws are in that region.
What is the Difference Between a Co-Op and a Group?
Homeschool groups are a bit more broad compared to co-ops when it comes to what they look like as well as their various purposes. These groups can be of any size, can be incredibly similar to co-ops in theory, may have varying schedules with optional activities, and they can exist for any number of reasons.
The following are some of the many possible group options you may come across:
Support groups (for parents)
Playdate groups (socialization for younger children)
Field trip groups (all ages)
Clubs (activities, sports, special interests, etc.)
Homeschool extracurricular associations
Special needs support groups
With social media making it easier than ever to connect to other people outside of your general area, you can likely find the above groups and more to meet any of your homeschooling needs.
The Benefits of Joining a Co-Op
Homeschooling can easily become an isolating experience, but co-ops are a great opportunity for homeschooled children to regularly get out of the house and interact with other families and children to socialize and build healthy relationships, which may be harder to do when a child isn't in an environment like a public school setting on a regular basis.
When homeschooled kids are able to regularly interact with these other students and families, especially pertaining to lessons and particular subjects, they also receive a good amount of exposure to the many different teaching styles they may encounter in later schooling experiences, whether choosing to enroll in a public school a few years before graduation or when pursuing a college education afterward.
Additionally, since many of these co-ops often engage in group learning environments or have parents with specific skill sets willing to help pass their knowledge and talents forward, these group settings allow homeschool students the opportunity to be exposed to many potential subjects or courses that they otherwise may not be able to learn in their primary learning environment or from their primary homeschool instructors.
The Benefits of Joining a Homeschool Group
With homeschool groups comprising of such a wide variety of different types of groups, there is a lot to be gained depending upon your needs and the groups you're able to find.
For parents, most of these groups provide a great opportunity for receiving support and knowledge from your fellow homeschooling families. Each family's experience is unique, but many of us eventually face some of the same issues. Whether you're seeing these folks in person or have simply joined an online support group, these individuals are often very open and willing to lend you advice on any aspect of homeschooling about which you may have questions or concerns.
Online homeschool groups are especially useful as they generally tend to have easy methods of communication along with group emails (when applicable) and resources such as searchable Facebook group pages. Additionally, many online homeschool communities and resource websites contain forums with a notable amount of information, especially for the sites that are state-specific, making your search for answers even more simple.
When it comes to the in-person groups—such as those for playdates, socializing, or field trips—these groups are invaluable when it comes to providing opportunities for your children to meet other homeschooled kids that they can easily relate to and with whom they can form good friendships. Socialization is an extremely important part of childhood, and these outings allow for plenty of bonding occasions with likeminded children of all ages. They are also great chances for your children to get out, explore the world, and have more time spent outside the home.
How to Find a Co-Op or Homeschool Group
If you're looking for a local homeschool group or co-op to join, this can often be done through social network, such as finding local Facebook groups, or you can also check out the great directory of support groups listed on Homeschool.com.
The Tired Mama Resources co-op/homeschool group directory will be coming soon!