A few years back, our local homeschool group decided to form a co-op. It was to be held one day a week, and any families wishing to participate would come together in a central location to offer lots of different classes to the children. Each mom or dad would teach a class or help in some other way, and the kids would be able to learn in more of a classroom setting, with different “teachers.”

Everyone was thrilled about the decision to form the co-op and just couldn’t wait to get started—everyone, that is, except me. I wasn’t too sure about this new group being formed. To me, it looked like another form of a private school. So, as everyone else was gearing up for this new co-op, I sat back and observed.

I watched them for a few years, and my opinion of the co-op didn’t change much. It still appeared, to me, to be much like a private school. However, after some encouragement from my dear friend, Juliann, I decided to take my kids to the annual co-op Open House and check it out for myself. We toured the church building where co-op was held, sat in on different classes as they were being taught, enjoyed having lunch with everyone, and let the children play in the courtyard with friends. All four of my kids loved co-op and begged to go back the next week. I, too, enjoyed visiting the different classes, seeing how things were run, and observing each mom’s unique teaching style.

After talking with my husband and weighing the pros and cons of joining co-op, we decided to give it a try. At the time, my 4-year-old really needed some friends to play with each week (besides her brother and sisters). And there were things I wanted my oldest two to learn but just didn’t have the time or knowledge with which to teach them, such as chemistry and art. It would be a good year for us to jump in and participate.

Maybe you’ve been wondering about the ins and outs of co-op and questioning whether or not to join. If so, there are a few things you should know and think about before making a decision.

What Is Required?

First, check to see what is involved and what will be required of you, should you join. At our co-op, at least one parent of the children must be present during the co-op hours when that child is attending classes, and that parent is expected to help in some way during that time. Parents volunteer to teach, help in a class, monitor the halls, supervise children in the nursery or toddler room, or be on the cleanup crew. One thing our co-op is not is a drop-off location for kids so Mom can have a day off. Be sure to understand all the expectations before you join.

What Is the Cost?

Ask if there are any fees involved. For each class that my children joined, I paid a fee, which was used to buy supplies needed by the teacher. Also, to use the building where co-op is held, the co-op pays a fee that covers expenses such as air conditioning and heat. Altogether, the cost for our family’s participation this year was nearly $120. At first, I thought that was way too much money. But when I divided it amongst my four children and then by the number of weeks we would participate, the total came to about a dollar per child per co-op day; it didn’t seem nearly as costly when I looked at it that way. So be sure to find out ahead of time exactly how much money you will be spending, and then decide if it’s worth it to you.

What Classes Are Offered?

Different opportunities will be offered at different co-ops. What is being taught at our co-op will, more than likely, not be the same as what’s going on at yours. Identify the classes that may interest or benefit your kids; you wouldn’t want to sign up to participate only to find out that nothing of interest or benefit to your children is being offered. If you find that nothing that your child would enjoy is being offered, consider volunteering to teach a few classes. Chances are if your child is in need of age-appropriate classes there are probably others in the same situation.