I'm looking to create a homeschool cooperative in my local area with a handful of other families. We're trying to figure out how best a cooperative could serve our families with so many variables. Some children are older than others, families using different curriculums, and how can we include those families who have both parents working yet they still want to homeschool and need childcare?
How do other cooperatives work with so many differences? Any thoughts and suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Please and thank you!
You will never be able to please everyone. If you and a couple friends plan to be doing the heavy lifting, you should figure out what you hope to get from the coop, and plan that coop. Otherwise, you'll end up jumping through a thousand hoops to satisfy the requirements of someone who either doesn't sign up anyhow, or still isn't happy, and meanwhile your kids aren't getting what you hoped they would from the group. IME, groups that last are groups that meet the needs of the organizer. Groups where the organizers work too hard to meet everyone's needs at the expense of their own burn through organizers and disappear.
Having said that, we have done two kinds of coops. The first was a super-casual cooperative book club type group. Every year we picked a theme and the kids would read a book every month related to that theme and get together for activities and field trips. Moms would take turns organizing. One year we did US history of the 1800s. Another year we did geography. It was fun, and it was a way to get the kids excited about a topic and impose some external structure for the Moms.
The second kind of coop is more formal. The organizers have arranged to rent space with classrooms, and we share the expense of space rental and pay teachers to teach classes. People enroll their kids in the classes that appeal to them. We have a wide variety of options-- some are curriculum based academic courses, and others are fun extra-curricular things.
I would love to hear more people chime in on this! Another mom and I have kinda started a casual coop and were thinking of extending the invitation to a few other people. So far we've done the first thing tightrope described. We picked a subject and have taken turns organizing materials/crafts on a particular day (it also makes field trips twice as fun :) ) We have totally different styles of teaching so it works. She's more of the paperwork kind of teacher. I'm a learn by experience kind of person. So the kids get the best of both worlds. My fear is the more people we involve the more complicated it will get.
attached to DH 10/03, DD1 8/06, DD2 12/07, DD3 5/09, DD4 11/12
People have very different priorities when they organize or join a co-op. Some want school-like group social connections for their kids. Some want to inspire or encourage interests. Some want to divest themselves of full responsibility for teaching certain subjects and benefit from others' expertise. Some want to support and encourage interests their children have by mixing them with like-minded kids. Then there's the whole issue of age, and academic level, and how well the kids adapt to differing behavioural expectations, and literacy level, and younger tag-along siblings. The variety of goals and visions can be a huge challenge.
My kids have often wanted a group of similar kids with which to explore their interests. We have never been able to fill that desire from within the homeschooling community. We've found homeschool classes that are predominantly about providing socializing opportunities, encouraging interests, and/or providing nudges. We've never found opportunities for kids with well-established interest and motivation. Nor do we have the population size that would support developing our own such co-op.
I helped start a fairly successful co-op that ran for a couple of years with that low-key social-time and encouragement of interest as a goal. That was what I wanted at that point, and so I gathered around me a few families who had similar desires. We had a huge range of levels, ages and abilities. Huge. But it kind of worked, because our aims were to encourage exploration and give our kids some regular social contact with each other -- beyond that we were flexible and willing to adapt. We thought: let's try this, let's make an effort to do it regularly for a season, see how it evolves, and see how our kids like it. If it didn't work well for a couple of the kids, or if enthusiasm waned or changed direction, we were totally fine with responding and adjusting.
The first year we focused on sciences and traded off week by week in terms of who was leading/organizing the session. Whoever was leading it would choose a topic, and develop three or four activities / challenges / explorations around that topic. We would team the kids up in multi-age groups and try to make roles for the older and younger kids in each group. The next year we did a geography program focused around food preparation: my kids informally called it "Kitchen Club." One family would choose the country for the next session's focus, and each of the families would research food and other information, and bring the ingredients and recipe for a representative food which we would prepare together. We'd end up with a lovely three- or four-course lunch. We'd also try to each bring a craft, a bit of knowledge about the language, a song, an art book, a game, or something similar to share from the country/culture of the day.
Eventually our co-op fizzled, because the challenge of appealing to the high schoolers, as well as pre-literate inattentive 6-year-olds, became too wearing on the moms. But it seemed to work reasonably well until the older siblings kind of outgrew it.
Mountain mama to three great kids and one great grown-up