What is a homeschool co-op? Are homeschool co-ops allowed in your state? How do you find a homeschool co-op? These are all questions that I'm asked when new homeschoolers are figuring things out.
A homeschool co-op is a group of parents that get together regularly to teach their children certain subjects. The most common homeschool co-op is Classical Conversations. This is a group that is typically religious in nature and has a set curriculum they teach kids each week. Most Classical Conversations co-ops meet once a week and study several subjects in one day. Students are then given reading assignments, copy work, memorization work, and projects to do at home.
Other co-ops can be more or less structured and can range from Wild & Free playgroups, to weekly fieldtrip meetups, to academic focused classes. It truly depends on your area and what people are looking for or wanting.
Typically, when joining a co-op there are time commitments, volunteer commitments, and financial commitments required.
For example, we joined our first co-op this year. There was a small fee for joining to help cover the costs of classes, supplies, and our meeting space. Within our co-op there are about 20 other families giving us roughly 40 children ranging in ages 5 through 17.
The children are broken up into age groups and the parents take turns teaching subjects each semester. So my son is currently taking a government class taught by one mother who has strong skills and understanding of government. Then his second class is about finance and is taught by a parent who is a CPA. Our 3rd period class is a rotation class taught by the rest of the parents and can range from yoga to sign language to art to music...it just depends on what the parent of the week has skills at and is willing to teach. In our co-op, EVERY parent must participate and teach at least one class a semester in order to stay in compliance with North Carolina laws and not be mistaken for a learning pod. Learning pods are different than co-ops and not allowed in our state.
Our co-op was formed by a mom who couldn't find a co-op that worked for her family. She was specifically looking for a non-religious co-op that would be open and inclusive of all people regardless of race, gender identity, or family dynamic. Since there was nothing around our area like that, she decided to create it herself. Now our co-op has a 6-month waiting list!
So, if you don't find a co-op that works for you....build one! There are more and more people choosing to homeschool every day for various reasons....if you build it, they will come.
How to find a co-op in your area?
The best way I have found to locate co-ops in your area is through Facebook. By joining homeschooling Facebook groups you'll learn about events and happenings in your area. This is also where co-ops typically find new members. Typically co-ops will open enrollment in the fall and spring....so be on the lookout in August and January for co-ops.
What's the difference between a Co-Op and a Learning Pod?
A co-op is when a group of parents get together to teach THEIR kids together. A learning pod is when a group of parents hire someone else to teach their kids everything. This is almost like having a "private school" for homeschooling. In many states, including North Carolina, this is not allowed.
There's a thin line between being a co-op and being a learning pod. As a co-op we can hire a teacher to come in and teach a single subject to our students....but all of the parents are completely involved with the schooling. Whether it's taking turns teaching a class or volunteering to handle set up/clean up/etc. All parents play an active role in the co-op.
However, a learning pod does not always require parent involvement. It's important to understand the differences and make sure that you're in compliance with your state laws.