How to Start a Homeschool Co-Op

homeschool for high school

Home-Schooling Doesn’t Have to Be Intimidating

When you first mention home schooling to students and parents, the idea can be a little scary. Parents often worry they don’t have enough expertise to provide quality instruction to their children. Students worry they’ll miss out on interactions with friends and other kids and teens their own age. Both groups can feel anxious about managing their time effectively to achieve educational standards and goals. For most people – these concerns and others like them are usually well addressed by a home school co-op.

What is a home school co-op, exactly?
In its simplest form, a co-op is a group of home school parents who share or pool resources among multiple students in order to provide a more robust educational experience. These resources may include teaching and teaching responsibilities, course materials and supplies, rotating home-based “classrooms,” and organizing events such as field trips or other educational experiences.

Some co-ops are very small and housed inside of someone’s home.  Other co-ops can be more formal and larger in nature, giving the appearance of a traditional school that is built around a common mission.

How Do I Start a Home School Co-Op
No matter the size or complexity of the co-op there are a few basic steps to get started: identifying an age group, selecting a location, setting a schedule, gathering materials and supplies, and deciding roles and responsibilities.

Step 1:  Identify Age Group

This is very important, and unfortunately there are no hard-and-fast guidelines. Usually, this subject needs to be decided on a case-by-case basis.  It is not only the physical ages of students that matters, but also where any individual student is on an emotional level and their current level of learning – especially if they are ahead of or behind others of the same age or grade level.

Some students simply enjoy being around other students who are slightly older than they are, while for others the opposite is true.  You may also want to put your child among older students to help challenge them and give them the opportunity to learn from others’ examples.

Some co-ops establish multiple “cohorts” or “groups within groups” of students so that each student has a chance to find his or her comfort zone among peers. These students  grow (physically, emotionally, and intellectually) together.  Remember to be honest with yourself about where your child is in terms of development in those three categories and make sure that the cohort of students around your child is the right fit for their actual needs.

Step 2:  Find a Meeting Place

Having a space for students to come together with teachers and resources is one of the better advantages of a co-op as opposed to simply one-on-one, at-home learning. However, this takes a bit of planning for a few variables.

  • How many people will be attending? Remember to count students as well as teachers or parents that may be in the space at the same time. 
  • How often will “class” meet?
  • Do you and the other members of your co-op prefer one consistent location, or do you prefer a number of different places? This may be part of a larger discussion regarding availability of space and other scheduling requirements of other families and their home lives. 
  • What kind of activities will be conducted during “class” and what special considerations must be made? For example, if a cohort will be engaging in chemistry experiments, then the location of class should be able to suitably accommodate the space, safety, and materials needed for class activities. 

Once these variables have been identified, you must then look to find a house or facility that would adequately meet your criteria.  Depending on size and complexity you may need to rent a facility. So, be sure to establish a budget if this is the case. If you do decide to use a public facility, private facility, or someone else’s home make sure you keep in mind the following guidelines so that there is no friction.

  • Always arrive on time if not a little early.
  • Always make sure you have the students clean up after themselves
  • If you are using someone’s home, make sure you ask the host if you can bring something or if they need help after the meeting
  • If you are at a facility make sure that you leave on time as well

Step 3:  Set a Schedule and Guidelines

While part of step 2 will be answered in step 1 by how often your co-op will meet, you will still have to answer the question of what will be done during each co-op meeting and how will you structure each meeting.  Generally, you will want to start each meeting with a warm-up activity, then introduce the lesson, create an applicable activity, check for understanding, and then summarize.  This may be just for one subject area or you may do this for multiple subject areas in a given meeting, this just depends on how long the lessons are and how long the meeting is scheduled for.

Additionally, just like in a traditional classroom model you will want to have some meeting rules, so that the meetings are focused, and that learning is occurring.  These rules should be agreed upon by everyone in the co-op.  The rules don’t have to be strict, just a set of guidelines that help keep the meetings focused and structured. Make sure students are aware of and agree to follow these guidelines as well. 

Step 4:  Determine Roles

In many co-ops one parent will be the lead instructor for one or two subject areas, while other parents take lead in the subject areas in which they feel  comfortable.  You might also want to consider co-teaching. Co-teaching is an excellent strategy in which one teacher delivers the lesson while another teacher works one-on-one with students to check for understanding and help with the concepts. 

Determining these roles will depend greatly on each person’s skill and comfort level as well as the size of the meetings and number of students present.

Step 5:  Choose Your Materials

Choosing the materials that you will utilize for your home school co-op is probably going to be the most time consuming and difficult decisions your group is going to have to make.  The first step in this process is to obviously identify the age group which was done above, then identify the mission of the co-op, and finally, see if anyone has any curriculum that they have used before that they enjoyed.  You may also want to check to see if there is going to be a home school convention in your area.  This will allow you and the other parents to meet and view curriculum vendors so that you have better idea of what is out on the market.

Citizens High School Offers Customizable Home School Co-Op Resources. 

At first, home schooling can seem overwhelming, even with a co-op. Citizens High School offers a nationally and regionally accredited online platform that supports home school co-ops with curriculum that adheres to fully accredited high school diploma standards.The robust, fully online platform can be accessed any time, in any location with an internet connection and options such as: 

  • 100% accredited high school diploma – not GED or equivalency.
  • Curriculum mapping to help ensure classes are taken in a logical progression.
  • Independent study or studying alongside CHS instructors with experience in online learning.
  • Full transcript and credit transfer assistance.
  • Academic advising
  • Textbook resources in addition to online learning tools.

*Citizens High School recommends consulting your local high school’s guidance counselor or curriculum advisor to receive pre-approval for transfer of CHS credits. We will provide all necessary transcripts and documentation to streamline this process. 

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