Easy Tips for How to Start a Homeschool Co-op is a post by Tonya from The Traveling Praters.
If you’ve homeschooled for any length of time chances are you’ve heard of, participated in, or organized a co-op of some sort. We’ve had our fair share of co-ops over the years, some of which I have even organized. There are full day co-ops, co-ops just for certain ages (such as a preschool co-op), and even co-ops just for things like field trips.
For many, the thought of making all the preparations for a co-op may seem daunting and incredibly overwhelming, but by following a few simple tips I’ve found that the process runs rather smoothly.
How to Start a Homeschool Co-op: Things to Consider
Why Do You Want to Start a Homeschool Co-op?
As an organizer the first thing you should do is brainstorm and list goals YOU have for the co-op.
- What needs do you have for your family that you hope this co-op will fill?
- What is YOUR purpose for organizing a co-op?
- Are your reasons purely social?
- Do your kids need to make new friends?
- Are your reasons academic?
- Are you having a hard time teaching all the subjects you want to cover on your own?
Inviting Other Families to Join Your Homeschool Co-op
Once you’re clear on your vision for the co-op, it’s time to get other families on board.
Keep in mind that it will be easier to stay on track if you have a trusted partner or team of buddies, depending on the size of the co-op, to help you organize. Doing it alone is sure to lead to burnout.
Next you need to think about who you will invite. Will the co-op be strictly by invitation only or will you send out an email blast inviting the entire local homeschool community?
This is where outlining your goals ahead of time will be helpful. If you are looking for a small group of like-minded families, perhaps invitation only would be your best bet.
On the other hand, if you’re interested in meeting new families, you may consider running an ad with your local homeschool group.
Decisions You Need to Make to Plan a Homeschool C0-op
There are a lot of questions below to help you in your quest for how to start a homeschool co-op. There is a wide variety of questions, but they will help you avoid confusion and be more organized as you begin planning your co-op.
What age range will be permitted?
Is this a co-op suitable for all ages? Or is the co-op geared towards a specific age range?
Will childcare be arranged for younger/older siblings or will the parent be responsible for making other arrangements for the care of siblings not participating?
What subjects will the co-op cover?
Who will teach each subject? Will you require the moms to teach or are you going to rely on guest speakers or trained instructors? If so, keep in mind that there will probably be a cost involved.
Will participants be required to purchase textbooks or other materials to participate?
Where will you meet?
In our area, the local parks are more than willing to allow homeschoolers to meet for free and use their facilities if it is scheduled in advance. How about the library, community room, or a local church?
Will the facility you meet at require that you carry your own insurance? Some places will require it, while others will not. Be sure you are clear on the facility’s expectations.
How often will the co-op meet and for what length of time?
Keep in mind that the longer you plan to meet, the more organized you will need to be.
If you’re meeting for just a couple hours in the afternoon with a handful of families, chances are that things will roll along pretty well. On the other hand, if you are meeting for the entire day with or without a large number of participants, you’ll need to be really organized and have everything planned out in order to stay on track.
It may also be helpful to set a trial period of one month, six weeks or half a year to determine how things go.
Will all the classes be structured or will you allow a free time to play or mingle?
What costs will be involved with participating in the homeschool co-op?
Count all the costs. What about supplies, cost of rental facility, insurance, snacks, etc?
Will you require the parents to pay upfront at the beginning of the year or on a class-by-class basis?
Who will be responsible for making purchases and where will you store supplies?
Figuring Out Rules and Procedures for Your Homeschool Co-op
Make sure your contact details are clear. Will you correspond by individual phone calls and emails or will it be better to set up a private Facebook group or a large texting group?
Have a list of basic rules or expectations in mind and make them clear from the beginning. Are parents permitted to drop off their child and run, or stick around and help? How will you handle discipline if needed? Are children in the co-op permitted to bring friends on occasion? Keep in mind that this could increase costs and many classes will require material that has been purchased in advance. Will you have extras on hand for unexpected children?
Have a cancellation procedure in place. During adverse weather, how will you handle cancellations? Will you cancel when and if the local school district cancels? Who will decide and how will you notify everyone?
How to Start a Homeschool Co-op: Setting Up a Planning Meeting
It may be helpful to send out a questionnaire before the planning meeting so you know what everyone is seeking.
Sample questions could include the following:
- Names and ages of children participating.
- What areas will you be comfortable teaching or assisting?
- What are you hoping to gain from this co-op for your family?
- Can you tell me a bit about your educational philosophy?
- Have you participated in a co-op before?
- Please share some ideas that you have for the co-op.
At some point you’ll want to schedule a planning meeting for everyone that is planning to participate so you can work out all the details. Keep in mind that some of the particulars should already be worked out and not everything should be open to debate.
However, this is a great time to hash out what will be taught at each of the classes and to work out a basic schedule. Make sure everyone comes armed with their personal calendar, paper, and pens.
Yes, organizing a co-op can be a huge amount of work at times, but it can also be very fulfilling for you and your children and is sure to create many lasting homeschool memories.
What tips can you share when it comes to planning a great co-op?
Other Posts That Might Be Helpful on How to Start a Homeschool Co-op:
- Ideas for Your Next Co-op Class
- How to Start a Homeschool Preschool Co-op
- How to Start a Field Trip Co-op
- How to Start a Homeschool Co-op
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This post was originally published on June 23, 2010. It was most recently updated in February 2017.
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Nice post! I was just about to plan something with a friend. This was perfect timing for me! lol
Carol Topp, CPA says
Thanks for the advice! I think homeschool leaders are some of the most creative people I know! Running a homeschool co-op can be a lot of fun and a lot of work. I’ve shared a few secrets of success in running a co-op in my book Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out. You can read a sample chapter at HomeschoolCPA.com
Carol Topp, CPA
Roadschool Dreaming says
I dream of living a nomadic life and road schooling all over North America, too. I’m so thankful to have found your site. I have been a director for a small homeschool group and now I’m looking at a possible opportunity to help with a co-op at my church. I need all the help I can get!