Thinking of starting your own homeschool co-op? Not sure how to find other people to participate? Not sure how to outline expectations? Here’s where we started…
We were really excited about the idea of homeschool co-ops long before Ana ever started one. But there were a couple of things we weren’t really sure about, like when we should do it and how to find other people who were interested. It had always been in the back of our minds, but was always one of those things we thought we’d get to sooner or later. We really started talking seriously about it when other moms in Pea’s loose-knit play group started asking about where/when she’d be attending pre-school. Our answer was always, “we’re homeschooling”, and since we sort of believe that education starts at birth, she was already “in” school as far as we were concerned.
We were discussing it one night, and Ana mentioned jumping right in and starting up a co-op for preschoolers. Why not? The beauty of a preschool co-op would be that even parents who planned on sending their kids to a traditional school later on but were currently staying home with them may want to participate. We also thought it would be a good time for us personally to shift Pea’s educational experience a little by exposing her to different teachers and other students. Playing the part of mommy and teacher at the same time didn’t always work out as planned for Ana.
Ana jumped online and went to our local MomsLikeMe site and wrote up a quick post, just to gauge interest, and the response was great. Actually, the response was a little overwhelming. There were a lot more people interested than we’d anticipated. We figured the ideal class size would be 6 or 7 kids, but there were way more initial responses.
A meet and greet was set up so that the moms and kids could get to know each other a little. This was one of the most important steps of organizing the co-op. Of course, not every family who responded showed up for the meeting. Not a problem–if you aren’t interested enough to come to the first meeting, you probably aren’t that interested long-term. The meetup also provided a chance to lay out all the things that would be involved in a co-op. Supplies and curricula cost money, so there would obviously be a financial commitment. More importantly, there needed to be a commitment to being heavily involved with teaching classes and providing care for younger siblings while their moms were instructing.
Most of all, there needed to be a real commitment to participate every day to help the kids establish a steady group dynamic in their school. Sure, kids get sick and scheduling conflicts come up, that’s understandable. But the kids needed the stable group and each mom’s unique creativity and perspective.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say anyone was scared off, but if anyone expected this to be just another playgroup or a chance for moms to get together and gossip while the kids played with letter blocks, their eyes were opened to a very different idea. The group of moms that decided to continue on with the project was fully committed, and the results have been great. The kids are now getting a variety of classes taught by different moms, and they are having a blast with it.
I’d say the commitment of the families involved, and that especially means the MOMS, is the single most important factor in the co-op’s success so far. If you are thinking of starting a co-op, don’t feel bad about being selective and laying out firm expectations from the very beginning.