Monday, March 7, 2016

To Co-op or Not to Co-op

To Co-op or Not To Co-op

As I am sitting before my computer – bone tired and most likely brain dead after a FABULOUS, but exhausting first day of co-op – I am thankful for the season of co-op that I am in. Throughout the seasons of my homeschool life, co-op has been an activity that I have chosen to do and also stepped away from for a time.  Guess there really IS a time for everything under heaven.  This month, I will share some of the reasons we have had for each place in our journey. Please note, my experience is coming from a Christian perspective, but these points could be valid in a variety of situations.

TO Co-op:

Probably the number one reason many people co-op is SOCIALIZATION!!!  We want to be sure we’ve got that one covered, because we wouldn’t want to have our children fall behind in that (sorry, homeschool joke!).  While that is very tongue in cheek, a lot of people see the value of meeting together with a like minded group and encouraging our children to have good friends from among these people.  One social aspect I really LOVE about our current co-op is how the children are very inclusive with each other and the Mommas are all like Aunties…these aunties both love on and correct the children we have with us and it is really sweet…we really have a special group!

My OWN number one reason to co-op is to give my children opportunities to learn key subjects from people who are passionate about things I am not.  This year, for example, two of my children are getting the opportunity to take a dissection class from a Momma who was a college professor who wrote/writes her own curriculum.  This Momma LOVES science and my children are getting the opportunity to learn from her.  I am truly blown away by her excitement, her syllabus and her plans, and her excitement is CONTAGIOUS!  Those kids were SO fired up after class, thought seeing the inside of a worm was the best thing ever and CAN’T WAIT TIL NEXT WEEK!  Did I mention these kids will be dissecting something new EVERY WEEK?  Ok, so I HATE science personally and if I had to lead a dissection with my children, I would probably faint, and the experience would be nothing compared to what they will get at co-op. I know…I totally scored this term!  I also get to share the things I am passionate about.  I led an election class last term that was so much fun and those students really taught me something about the levels of leadership they are capable of and they learned first-hand about our election process.  Well, because of that class, my child is getting some leadership experience in a bigger way from co-op.  Also, you now have a NEW ANSWER when people ask you how on earth you are ever going to be able to teach your child nuclear astrophysical molecular marine biological calculus-ish supersytems engineering microcultural habitat-ometry!  Yes, I totally made that up…but I think you might be able to fill in the blank! CO-OP!

Cost is also a factor in my decision to co-op.  While it is often painful to write that check for $130, I have three students taking some pretty cool classes. Close to half of that amount is for administration type expenses, like rent and insurance, so when you take that out, co-op can really be an affordable option for many families.  Like I mentioned above, two of my children are taking a dissection class for high school credit.  This class is costing us $20 each.  Have I mentioned that I am beyond blessed to be in this co-op?  I will say also, because your experience may be different in your area, we attend an independent, Momma-run co-op.  Being independent allows us to have classes that cost a fraction of what they might cost anywhere else.
Another great benefit of co-oping is the support system we have built within the group.  Our group functions quite a bit like a large family.  We get to love on each other and all the children, every week!   In the last year, together, we have been blessed to get coffee every week at co-op, eat some fudge, get school pictures taken by a professional (yup, they come to our co-op and share their gift with us!), welcome a few babies, lost some family members, completed a couple of online Bible studies, shared curriculum wins and losses, gone on some field trips, applauded personal successes, given up, pressed on, brought dinners, given supportive hugs when life seemed to be too hard, and many more things I am sure I am forgetting. While the support is amazing and necessary, the fellowship between each of us sisters in the Lord is truly the sweetest part of all.
Co-op Dads have been a great blessing to us in this season of co-op.  We do not get many dads in the week to week running of co-op classes, but that can be a possibility if your husband has a flexible schedule and is willing.  We have had a few times when dads have been able to come to a day or a class or two and have given us the gift of their time and passions.  One of the dads in our co-op ran for governor in our state and spent a day in our election class sharing his experience on campaigning, fundraising, walking courageously in your faith in a public arena, and so much more than I have space or time to include.  Another dad brought a turkey he had cooked and carved up for our end of the term potluck.  One dad planned a few street hockey sessions and got in there to coach/referee these kids in such an encouraging way.  Children young and old had a blast and we were given a gift of coaching that we would not have had otherwise.  We have had a couple of instances where we have sought out the counsel of the dads to get their input or see things from another view.   Most of the dads have to work and cannot be with us, but it certainly is a treat when one is able to come and be with us.

Did I happen to mention dissection class?
I think  you are getting the drift of the To Co-op part!  I am sure you can add some of your own reasons and ideas!

NOT To Co-op:

One reason we have had to step away from co-op for a season has to do with the time investment.  Co-op is really a LONG day for us and when we have had little ones who had to have those naps on time and in their beds, we have had to say no to co-op for a time.  Related to time as well, would be the dreaded, “My child is not completing any of their school work from home because of the work load from co-op .”   There could be many reasons that the time factor is too much… other outside activities or family work schedules could all be a cause.
Another reason could be to deal with some family or character issues.  If you are having a family crisis of some sort or have a child who really needs to have a time of specific and focused training in a particular area, there may be a need to hold off from co-op for a while.
While cost is a benefit, it could also be a reason you are not able to attend.  Our co-op is run very inexpensively, but often homeschool families have only one income and really need to work hard to make that income cover all the bases.
Class selection has its feast times (dissection class!), but can also have periods of famine where you wonder if it is really worth the time trying to get out of the house.  We have had some FABULOUS classes, but have also seen some duds over the many years we have participated in co-op.  While you often need to ride those seasons out, for some it could be a reason to pull back for a time.
To Co-op or Not to Co-op…I cannot make that decision for you.  It is as personal as each one of you reading this.  I know the pros look more appealing than the cons right now…I am in a season of blessing with co-op and we really have a special group.  I have had the best experiences ever and some that we wish would have never happened.  It may be WONDERFUL for this season, but so wrong for the next. Just take a look at the season you are in and see if this is the time to Co-op, or maybe they are offering a dissection class!
Originally Published at Home and School Mosaics

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