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What Can a Homeschooling Parent Do When Math Isn’t a Strength?

We’ve heard from some homeschooling parents that math was not their strong subject, so they’re less confident about teaching it to their children. Some have found that sharing teaching responsibilities with other homeschoolers, where each parent is teaching to their strengths, is a great way to share resources and expertise. And joining a homeschool co-op or group can bring more breadth to the curriculum mix for your students, as well as bringing socialization and other benefits.

What is a homeschool co-op?

A homeschool co-op is a group of homeschooling families that gather together to enrich their children’s education. But every group is different with huge range of activities offered, member requirements, and levels of commitment.

Homeschool co-op

Issues to consider

Most co-ops offer some combination of classes, clubs, field trips, potlucks, and parent discussions. Co-ops range widely in the types of resources that are shared or activities that are offered. Many co-ops offer advice and forums on their websites for everyone, not just members. Some co-ops exist just to use group purchase power to obtain lower prices on curricula.

There is also a lot of variety in membership requirements. Some co-ops follow certain religious affiliations or homeschool philosophies. Other groups have restrictions about age ranges or locations for their members. While many co-ops are free, some have fees to join.

Co-ops also vary in the levels of commitment required. Almost all co-ops require parents to stay on-site while their children are taking classes or attending events, so do not expect to just drop your child off and leave! Larger co-ops tend to have members sign up for the activities that they are interested in, while smaller groups might expect members to attend every event. Also look at the expectations for parents – how often should you be organizing an event, or could you work on a newsletter instead?

Pros and cons of joining a homeschool co-op

Co-ops can be a great experience for both students and parents. Children interact with and learn from a group of their peers. They are exposed to new ideas and different viewpoints. Parents share talents, each leading activities or classes in their area of expertise. Parents also gain a supportive community, and some offer opportunities to take a break with events such as Mom’s Night Out.

However, there is also a flip side to homeschool co-ops. When you join, you are making a commitment that will take time and energy, and you have to be sure that the co-op you join is worth it. You may feel that some co-op activities have little educational value, some field trips may go awry, and some classes might even remind you of why you decided to homeschool in the first place. You are dependent on others following through on their commitments to attend and share in the work of creating classes or events.

Therefore, a lot depends on the co-op you choose to join. Each one has a different focus, values, and group dynamic. You might attend several events before making a commitment to join, especially if there is a fee for joining.

Finding a co-op near you

First, consider what you want out of the co-op experience. Are you looking to share teaching responsibilities,  or are you more interested in socialization opportunities for your students, field trips, or a chess club? How much time do you want to be committing to the co-op? Make a list of your top priorities to help you in your search.

Here are several online databases and resources to help you identify homeschool co-ops and groups in your area:

  • Homeschool World (http://www.home-school.com/groups/NY.html), the website for Practical Homeschooling Magazine, which  lists co-ops from around the nation organized by region and state with a little information about each one.
  • A to Z Home’s Cool (http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/regional/Region.htm) lists homeschool organizations and co-ops by region.
  • Check out Homeschooler Buyers Co-op http://www.homeschoolbuyersco-op.org/, which claims to be the world’s largest purchasing cooperative for homeschoolers.
  • Finally, talk to other homeschoolers in your area about groups they might have some experience with organizations that you might consider joining

Starting one yourself

Can’t find a homeschool co-op in your area that fits your needs? You might consider launching your own. Talk with other homeschool families you know to see if you can all agree on your shared goals. Be aware, though, that you have to make sure everyone is on the same page about the needs and the level of commitment for the group. This will be a lot more work than just joining an already existing co-op, but it can also be the best way to find exactly what you need, and it can be very enriching for your whole family.

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