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August 20, 2014, Edition 

What's a co-op, and how do I start one?             

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The Wuehler Family

Homeschool co-ops can be a wonderful answer to prayer for some people, or they can be a temptation to more busyness. It all depends on how God is leading you each year for each child, how the co-ops are run and what they are used for, and what your family dynamics are at this season in your life. I believe it takes prayer and wisdom every day of every year on how involved your family can or should be in anything.

 

You can either attend a homeschool co-op or you can start one! Here's my take on the Benefits and Cautions of attending Homeschool Co-ops:

 

Benefits: 1) Your children have the opportunity to learn things that you may not have the time or ability to teach alone. 2) They have the opportunity to learn from someone other than you. 3) You have the opportunity to use your gifts and talents in teaching a subject to bless other homeschoolers. 4) The children get to socialize with other like-minded kids. 5) They are great for those with older children who need specialized classes and great for those with younger children who want to expose them to a class setting. 6) They are helpful for having something tangible to show what your children have learned. 7) It's a great thing to say to those who question your homeschooling, "My kids are in a co-op where they are learning this and this and this..."

 

Cautions: 1) You may find yourself spread too thin especially if you are running to piano practice and group meetings on Monday, soccer and ballet practice on Tuesday and Thursday, co-op on Wednesday, library and errands on Fridays, etc. 2) If you have only younger children, just getting out and about is more difficult, let alone preparing to teach a class. 3) There is a danger of relying on co-op classes as a replacement for teaching at home, and not merely as a supplement to your teaching. If you find yourself saying something like, "I didn't have much time to teach my kids this week, but that's okay, cuz they'll get it at co-op" then you know something is wrong. 5) Making sure your Christian worldview is upheld by all the teachers and 6) Co-ops can be a huge time commitment inside and outside the classroom.

 

To find out more about Co-ops, here are some great articles:

 

10 Essential Elements of a Thriving Homeschool Co-op

To Co-op or not to Co-op-That is the Question

ABC's of Co-Ops

 

The wonders of co-ops are numerous, and many times are an answer to specific prayer. You might just be the one called to start a co-op in your area! Just use wisdom and discretion as you plan your days. You don't want to forget your first priorities of God and family and you don't want to be running around so much that your children don't know what it means to be home where they belong.

 

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Psalm 90:12

 

~Deborah

 dwuehler@theoldschoolhouse.com

 
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Years ago when our children were young we were part of a co-op that still brings a smile to our faces. It was called Friday school and we did it every Friday afternoon for eight weeks in the fall and eight in the spring. It was nothing like most co-ops we hear about today.

Instead of hiring a teacher, we all worked together. The moms (and some dads) each volunteered to teach what they knew--or to work with the children or to set up or clean up. We offered whatever classes the moms were willing to teach, so sometimes we had language courses, or cooking, or art, or music, or science lab. It was kind of fun seeing what turned up each semester.

 

Friday school didn't cost anything unless we had to buy some supplies or donated to thank the church for their hospitality. It was truly cooperative: we all worked together to make it happen. No drop-offs, just lots of community.

 

We miss those days. A co-op doesn't have to be complicated or hard or expensive. In my mind, the best kind of co-ops isn't, especially for students under high school age.

 

We love spending time with other homeschoolers and sharing everyone's unique knowledge and experience with our children; it enriches us all. Co-ops are great for that. There are a few things co-ops shouldn't do, though:

 

A co-op should never make you feel like you can't homeschool on your own. Co-ops should empower and enrich your family. You may miss it if you leave, but it shouldn't make you doubt you can teach your own.

 

A co-op shouldn't be a strain on the family finances. Remember, it's an extra, not required. Let it go if you need to.

You shouldn't farm everything out. Your children need you. They need interaction with you in their schoolwork. Don't outsource everything or you'll miss out on some of the best parts of homeschooling.

 

Remember, one size does not fit all. The highly academic (or athletic, or musical) co-op that was great for your oldest might be exactly wrong for younger children. Stay involved in a local support group so you don't lose your entire social group if a co-op doesn't work for later children.

 

It's been a long time since we've been able to be involved in a co-op (finances are tight and we are on the road much of the year). We have some incredibly happy memories from co-ops of the past, though. We hope you'll be able to find something like it--or start one yourself!

 

Your friends,

Hal & Melanie

 

Join us Thursday, August 28th for a FREE webinar with Hal and Melanie and Lee Binz, the Home Scholar! Click here to register so you'll have a seat for A Homeschool Parent's Guide to High School Grades, Credits and Transcripts!

 

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The Familyman 
 

I love the idea of homeschool co-ops (definition: a group of homeschooling moms who gather together with purpose and for support). Of course, the purpose behind the homeschool co-op varies with each group.

 

Some meet to share teaching responsibilities, some meet for field trips or activities, and others gather for social reasons or just to encourage each other. The important thing to remember is to pick a group that meets YOUR needs (no, you're not being selfish). For example: if you need encouragement that can only come from another homeschool mom, then don't go to an "academic focused" co-op. If you do, I guarantee you'll leave each meeting feeling more discouraged than when you arrived.

 

Don't have a support group? Then start one. Don't be scared; it doesn't have to be any more than inviting your homeschool mom friends for an hour or two to sit in a circle and talk and/or pray. See if a couple husbands or older teens would play some games with the kids while you meet or meet at night and leave the kids at home.

 

If you don't know what to talk about, ask the ladies these simple questions: Why do you homeschool? What is the hardest part of homeschooling right now? Fill In the blank: "I sometimes feel like tossing in the towel because ________________."

 

That should get any group of moms talking and sharing. The trouble will be stopping them when the time is up.

 

If you feel the need for encouragement or don't feel like there are any good co-ops in your area, I'm betting there are other moms who feel that way as well. So do it. Start a group. You don't have to name it, have refreshments, or have some kind of program. Just find a place to meet and ... meet.

 

By the way, did you know that if you live within 5 hours of northern Indiana, you can have me speak to your homeschooling group during the school year? I love speaking at support groups and co-ops and because you live close to me, it's super easy. Just click here to get the ball rolling. To see my fall speaking schedule, click here

 

Be real,

Todd

 

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