What is a Homeschool Co-Op?
People mention homeschool co-ops all over the place, but what are they? And should you consider joining one? In this post, you’re going to learn the basics of homeschool co-ops and other types of educational homeschool groups to help you figure out what’s right for your family.
Finding friendship and enjoying group educational activities can be difficult when a family decides to homeschool their children. Or, at least, they used to be. Like anyone else, homeschool families want quality education and meaningful connections. But how do you get that when you’re teaching your kids at home?
Many parents faced this question decades ago and started forming organized groups to gather and enjoy classes, park days, fields trips, and tons more. Parents in the group typically help in teaching classes, organizing events, and contributing to the community. In a general sense, we call these “Co-Ops.”
With any parent looking into any type of co-op, I do have some general advice to consider that I believe will help you make the right choice for your family.
The Main Types of Homeschool Co-Ops
There are now several styles of homeschool co-ops with different educational philosophies, religious beliefs, and commitment levels. Homeschooling has become so wide-spread that parents have many more options than we used to. This is a great thing, but it can sometimes be tough to look at co-ops and understand how to frame them in your mind to figure out if they fit what you’re looking for. Here are some of the basic types of co-ops you might encounter:
Many homeschool co-ops have a strong educational focus. They often meet weekly for classes and educational activities, typically led by parents in the co-op. Some co-ops require all parents in the co-op to participate in leading/teaching a class, and some don’t. Educational co-ops often cover subjects like math, history, social studies, science, geography, and literature.
In terms of cost, educational co-ops can vary widely, ranging from free all the way to over $1,000/year/student. Generally there’s a pattern, though: co-ops with a high level of parent involvement will much cost less compared to co-ops that allow you to drop off your children for the day and provide structured curriculum to follow the rest of the week. Regardless of your budget, in most populated areas, there are almost always co-ops that will fit your needs and provide an opportunity to mix up your homeschool week and allow your kids to make more friends.
Something else to keep in mind is that educational co-ops often hold other events, too, like field trips, graduation ceremonies, and sometimes dances and other social events.
Social Homeschool Co-Ops
Some co-ops don’t offer educational classes but instead focus purely on social activities. These are a great choice for families who want to have full control over their children’s learning but want to have local friends and enjoy being part of a community. Social Co-Ops might hold weekly or monthly gatherings for:
- Park days
- Moms nights
- Field Trips
- Playing games
- Play dates
Cost for social co-ops tend to be fairly low. Some charge a nominal fee yearly, and some only charge for events where parents are asked to pitch in to cover the cost of food or tickets for the location you’re visiting.
Hybrid Homeschool Programs
For families looking for more structured help in teaching their children, hybrid homeschool programs can be a great choice. Hybrid programs typically meet 2-3 days/week, and many allow you to drop off your children and even provide guidance for what to teach your children throughout the rest of the week when you’re not meeting as a co-op.
Hybrid homeschool programs tend to be best for families who want or need more structure in their homeschooling. You can think of hybrid programs as somewhere in between a parent-led co-op and a private school. They typically will have a lot done for you in terms of weekly lesson plans and curriculum.
For families who struggle with the big-picture educational structure, this can be a big relief. Other families might want more flexible/catered learning for their children, though. It’s good to be mindful that while “done for you” sounds nice, for some families it’s not the best option because hybrid programs tend to have more of a standardized approach to learning vs. tailoring learning to each child’s interests and needs.
Cost for hybrid programs tend to range from a few hundred dollars to over $1,000 per year for each student. Most have various fees to cover registration, supplies, and the meeting location costs. Some programs allow parents the opportunity to lead/teach a class to cover or help with tuition costs.
Tips While Looking into Homeschool Co-Ops
The educational philosophy or religious framework of co-ops can vary widely, so I always encourage people to ask the co-op director lots of questions regarding what is taught, if parents are asked to align with a statement of faith, and what perspective they take on important topics like creation, discipline, etc. to ensure you know what you’re getting into before you join.
It’s also a great idea to schedule a visit after speaking with the co-op director, if possible, to see more of what your children might experience in that co-op. One of the wonderful things about joining a co-op is that there aren’t limitations on what area you live in like public schools, so if you realize on paper the co-op sounded great, but your kids just didn’t seem to fit in well or have a great experience, you can always look into another to see if you like it better.
Which Type of Homeschool Co-Op is Right for You?
When deciding what type of co-op is right for your homeschool family, I encourage you to start by trying to understand your motivation for participating in a homeschool co-op. Below are some questions to help you work through this as you explore joining a homeschool co-op. When you imagine what it might be like as part of a co-op, are you thinking mostly about:
The fun and friends your children might enjoy? (Maybe consider a social co-op.)
The help you’ll get teaching your children? (Maybe consider an educational co-op.)
A more consistent & done-for-you educational structure? (Maybe consider an educational co-op or hybrid program.)
Relief from one or two subjects that a co-op might cover for you? (Maybe consider an educational co-op that specializes in just a few subjects.)
Nailing down why you are considering a co-op and what your end-goal is for your family will help you discover what type of co-op might align with your goals and hopes. And I encourage families to evaluate these every year! Homeschooling is a constant learning process, not only for your children but for you as their parent, too! It’s good to re-evaluate what’s working and what needs to change each year to ensure you and your children are always getting what you need.
How Do I Find Local Homeschool Co-Ops?
The task of finding a local homeschool co-op can sometimes be difficult, but hopefully by now you have a better idea of what kind of co-op you are looking for. How do you find them, though? Fortunately, there are a number of resources to help you! Of course, more populated areas will have the greatest variety of options, but below are a few resources that will help you find a local homeschool co-op and get started enriching your homeschooling journey by participating in a local community:
Homeschool Hall’s Directory
We’ve been working hard to make finding local homeschool co-ops & resources super easy with our Homeschool Directory! You can also find local homeschool:
- sports teams
- music programs
- art programs
- and a ton more!
As of January 2023, we have over 3,400 resources in our Directory in 21 US states, and we’re planning to cover the entire US by mid-2023.
HSLDA.org’s Group Search
The HSLDA is a nationwide resource & legal defense association that does incredible work protecting and informing homeschool families all across America! They have a nationwide Homeschool Group Search to help you find a local co-op. Their search is limited to co-ops primarily, though, so keep in mind that they don’t list every type of group for homeschoolers.
The Homeschool Mom
TheHomeschoolMom.com is an overall fantastic resource for homeschooling and includes gobs of articles to help you on your journey! They also have a Local Homeschool Groups & Resources page to find local co-ops for your state, and it’s definitely worth checking out.