The C’s of Co-ops

Joanna Bindon

Over the 10 years of home-educating my three youngest children, my family has been almost continually involved in some type of homeschool group, which are now more commonly termed “co-ops”, short for “co-operatives”. Some have simply been groups meeting for a social play with an activity or two thrown in; others have been family groups where we shared in a regular activity for a particular subject, such as art or history. As my kids have grown older, we have been involved in more structured co-ops with regular classes and activities, and kids of similar ages participating in shared activities. These groups have been very beneficial to our home-education journey, and have contributed to my kids’ social connections and varied opportunities for learning. 

So how could a family benefit from being a part of homeschool group or a co-op? 


A dictionary definition of co-operative is “involving mutual assistance in working towards a common goal”. A co-op involves parents sharing their skills and talents, and their time to the benefit of those participating. For example, one parent might take on an art session, another science, and yet another may love history. In other groups, it may involve recruiting a professional to run a class or an activity, and sharing the cost among involved families. Such an arrangement gives kids access to skills and learning they might not otherwise have at home, and often has parents sharing in preparing activities and cleaning up the resulting mess. Kids also learn co- operation by participating in a group activity. 


One huge benefit for us has been the building of
a reasonably local community of home-educating families, that our kids meet up with on a regular basis. Homeschool groups and co-ops can provide families with friendship opportunities for both adults and kids. 


Participation in co-ops does require a regular commitment. Whilst it may sound daunting, this regular attendance commitment is very helpful in building relationships with others, and quells the oft- asked question, particularly as the kids get older,“But who else is going?” 


Being able to share your skills outside of your family can be particularly important for mental health and overall well-being. Co-ops provide opportunities to share your knowledge and talents. It can be organising an occasional class or activity, or preparing and teaching a series of weekly sessions – the choice is up to you. 


Because parents share their skills and contribute without having to pay hefty fees for outside instructors, a co-op can be a very cost-effective way of accessing a variety of activities. Depending on fee structure chosen by the group, it can be a very affordable, particularly for larger families (and especially compared to signing your kids up for different classes individually). 


Being considerate when a parent who volunteered has fallen sick, and having others step in their place, or being considerate when a session just didn’t happen as planned, are important in helping things run smoothly in any group. Taking into consideration different families’ needs and desires in a co-op group can be challenging, but the benefits of arriving at
a mutually satisfying arrangement, with a variety
of affordable activities that might not otherwise
be accessible to those families, and resulting in a friendly and supportive community, are well worth the effort. 

If you wish to participate in a co-op, finding one that fits your family may mean asking lots of questions before joining an existing group, or driving a distance to access one you like, or creating your own group or co-op in your local area that meets your particular requirements. The choice is all yours! 

Otherways 155 (2018)

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