Mom tips: Homeschool co-ops

Today was a co-op day. Because my children are homeschooled, I feel it's important to have them experience what a classroom setting is like. I do the co-op for them. Not for me. I had to keep reminding myself of this today as I helped in the nursery with another mother's screaming, teething, two year old. For them, not me.


So on Mondays we go to co-op. A co-op is basically a group of homeschool families that get together and everyone helps to teach different subjects. As parents, we realize we have different talents and abilities, and it's sometimes nice for our kids to learn from someone else as a teacher for a couple of hours.

My third grader is taking P.E., creative writing and public speaking. My kindergartner is taking music, P.E. and literature. They LOVE it. LOVE it. Even the preschooler gets to do some basic phonics and have a sort of P.E. time. I am currently helping with the nursery. Then we go home and have lunch and do the rest of our homeschool.

I often feel on Mondays that I don't accomplish everything I want. For example, we were going to have a spelling test today, but it just didn't happen. I need to remember that even though I am a little OCD, I need to let my kids learn in the best way. Right now, this slightly different Monday experience is a good thing for them.

I can't personally teach my child how to play soccer in a group of children. Or how to speak comfortably in front of an audience (I don't think that myself, two brothers, a sister and an assortment of talking Elmo dolls count as a real audience.)

I love that they get the best of both worlds. We still get to homeschool, but they aren't totally missing out on the classroom experience this way. They still learn to raise their hands when they have something to say (something I often forget to enforce in the informal home setting) and be with friends their ages, but they aren't stuck with having to learn a "one-size fits all" curriculum, and we can tailor their lessons to match their individual needs for the homeschool portion of the week.

Quite a few co-ops exist in our area, which is nice. There are very conservative co-ops, co-ops based on math or science (often with teachers who have experience in those fields), co-ops affiliated with different religions and physical education co-ops.

You can search around online or ask others in your area if there are any lists of what homeschool co-ops might be available to you. The amount of information online for homeschooling can seem overwhelming, but if you just focus first on the local groups, it can be a great resource.

This is a neat experience for my children. And, although I sometimes grumble, it's good for me to get a few moments to talk with other moms and do something different that changes up my routine a bit. It's a big win-win for our family.