|10 Ways To Make Co-op Work for You|
Some families absolutely love co-op and some families cannot make it work. That is okay; co-ops do not necessarily "fit" every family. However, after comparing families who sign up every semester with those who breathe a sigh of relief on the last day, I have determined a few tips that may help co-op fit your family better.
1. Make co-op subjects an integral part of your homeschooling. For example, at our co-op, my own children take creative writing, P.E., history and science (pictured at left). At home, my high school students read the material and do any homework in preparation for those co-op classes and, additionally, do math and Bible. However, my elementary children do only grammar, math and Bible at home, and they do co-op subjects such as creative writing and science exclusively at co-op. Similarly, if your child takes world history and biology at co-op, don't have him do U.S. history and physical science at home too. Being at co-op one day a week limits the remaining days for "book learning," so make those co-op days count! Follow the co-op subjects or curriculum, and use your time at home for other subjects not offered at co-op.
2. Relinquish some control. Understand that another parent may not teach a certain subject the way you would. If that will bother you, don't sign up for those courses. Better yet, volunteer to teach those subjects about which you feel most passionate. For example, I knew I wanted control over how my children learned to write essays, so I volunteered to teach their composition classes.
3. Make attendance a priority. Don't let anything, except illness, interfere with going to co-op. If at all possible, schedule appointments between co-op dates and plan vacations during co-op breaks.
4. Arrive early. Punctuality is noted and appreciated no matter where you go. Besides, many co-ops start off with a little fellowship time before classes begin, and that's a good opportunity for you and your children to develop friendships.
5. Participate in as many other activities as possible. Sign up for field trips (such as our field trip to American Village pictured right), go on the moms' nights out, or organize an upcoming activity. Volunteer to team teach a class, work on the clean-up crew, organize the historical luncheons, or manage the storage closet. Sign up for group efforts, such as taking meals to a new mom, even if you do not know the person. Active participation will establish you and your family not only as part of the co-op but also as part of the community.
6. Find out what needs to be done, and offer to do it. Everyone welcomes a little help now and then, or you may see a need that others have overlooked and that you are perfectly suited to fill. The Lord has given you a different perspective and unique skills to bring to the group, so use those talents to teach a class, organize the storage closet, manage the clean-up crew, or plan the geography fair. All organizations welcome fresh ideas and new approaches, so share your ideas.
7. Introduce yourself and try to get to know two or three other parents. If you click with someone else or if your child makes a new friend, plan an activity together before the next co-op date. Invite another parent and her child over one afternoon to play or bake cookies or swim. The more you and your child get to know others, the more comfortable you will be at co-op.
8. Read any guidelines, FAQs, and online or printed materials the co-op may have about its policies and procedures. If you can talk to a current member, do that, too. Ask questions, and share what you find out with your children. Only by learning about the co-op can you then decide if co-op will be a good fit for your family. Plus, the more you and your children know about co-op in advance, the more likely it will meet your expectations and the more comfortable your family will be when classes start.
9. If you're not sure that you or your children will like co-op, start off slow. Perhaps sign up for only one class for the first semester, or no more than two classes, and pick subjects that you know your child will enjoy and that will not require much homework. If all goes well, sign up for an additional class the next semester, then gradually increase to all day. This way you and your children will get a feel for the co-op. If you end up not liking it, you can certainly fulfill your obligations for one class through one semester. On the other hand, if you realize right away that you do like co-op, then you can look forward to adding more classes next term.
10. Don't give up just because the co-op does not fit perfectly at first. For example, there will likely be parents with different education or discipline methods; you do not have to agree with them. Although you may be fortunate enough to find a like-minded group, you will expand your mind when you learn from those who are different from you. Besides, successful co-ops do not require members to have everything in common.
Just a little effort on your part will go a long way to make co-op fit your family. And if you can make co-op work for you, it will be an enormous blessing to your homeschooling. Good luck!
About the Author:
Carren W. Joye is the author of Homeschooling More Than One Child: A Practical Guide for Families (ISBN 0-595-34259-0), Alabama State History Curriculum for grades K-9, and A Stay-at-Home Mom's Complete Guide to Playgroups (ISBN 0-595-14684-8). A homeschooling mom of four children, she has founded four successful playgroups, a homeschool support group, homeschool covering, and homeschool co-op. For more information on her books and state history curriculum, visit her web site at www.carrenjoye.com.