The pleasures of homeschooling our children are many, the rewards great, and the challenges plentiful. Busy days of math and science supplemented with designated chores and carefully planned recreational activities consume our time. Our days blur into one another, and before we can catch a restorative breath, we find ourselves stuck in the deep rut of our daily grind. This is not burnout or a breakdown; it is the plain reality of homeschool life. Changing course and trying something new can restore the simple pleasures that teaching our children at home inspires. A homeschool co-op run and operated by like-minded families is an excellent way to find clarity of purpose.

Co-ops offer a variety of options for homeschooling families. As a thriving learning atmosphere, a co-op provides a safe place for children to grow intellectually and spiritually as parents collaborate to promote confidence and independence in their children. Having other parents teach unfamiliar subjects alleviates some of the pressure to “get it all done.” Parents also have an opportunity to develop new friendships and a setting in which to receive that much-needed encouragement to keep pressing onward.

Finding a co-op that suits a family’s needs may be a challenge, but the rewards are tangible results that serve to sustain us through difficult days. If there are no available co-ops within a reasonable distance, creating one can be a rewarding experience on multiple fronts. Do not be fooled into thinking this is a project too large or overwhelming to tackle. Initiating a thriving co-op yields results with a manageable amount of effort. Consider the words of an unknown author who once said: “Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic.” Let’s look at some of the essential components of a successful homeschool co-op:

1. Strong Communication

Do not be afraid to use a variety of media to get your message out. Often you can combine several methods, including websites, emails, and phone calls. Clearly communicate the needs of the group and its purpose. Families will join because of shared goals that are clearly communicated and frequently affirmed.

2. Encouragement

Parents need words of affirmation, whether they are teaching classes or simply helping in the classes. They need to know they are heard and that others care about their needs. Working alongside each other and offering valuable input and ideas is essential in order to build up your volunteers. Be open to their ideas, provide clear examples, and be willing to discuss expectations.  

3. Purpose and Goals

This is where your paper trail begins. Create a purpose statement that identifies everything you are trying to accomplish. Write up a standard set of guidelines for participating families to follow. Depending on your facility, additional rules and regulations may need to be set in place.

4. Good Ideas

This is the meat and potatoes of your organization. Never underestimate the power of creativity, a natural force that transforms minds and transcends the ages. Encourage those who do not feel they excel in this area to vocalize their thoughts, and brainstorm with the group often.

5. Parent Participation

The general rule of 20/80 where 20% of the people do 80% of the work has no place in a co-op. These groups can succeed only if all parents are willing to faithfully volunteer their time and resources for a common purpose. This is where clear rules and guidelines and a strong purpose statement become essential.

6. Facility

Finding the right venue to conduct your classes is important but does not need to be a complicated process. If your group is small enough, meeting in a variety of homes on alternating days suffices. If your group becomes too large to fit in the kitchen or family room, look to local churches for support. Most churches are usually looking for ways to interact with and support community members.