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The other day, a friend asked for details on our co-op decision. She’s trying to decide if her family could benefit from a co-op, especially after a big move, and wanted to know our experience. The “to co-op or not” question is pretty common so I’m sharing my full answer here!
The Perfect Co-op
When a close friend and I decided to use full cores from Memoria Press, we also decided to join forces and team-teach our kids’ lessons on Mondays.
This worked for several reasons:
- Our older children’s ages/grades lined up (all 8 of them!)
- We are like-minded in our educational philosophy and teaching methods
- Our library let us use their huge meeting room every single Monday — for free
- Her teaching strengths are my weaknesses and vice-versa
- We were both flexible with teaching arrangements and scheduling
- We have the same expectations for behavior and made those clear throughout the year
- Neither of us are offended if the other corrects our children
- We stayed in constant communication about each child’s progress, challenges, and behavior
- We were both willing to learn from the other’s strengths and support each other as we strove to improve
Yep. Perfect co-op.
We continued our co-op for two years and were then blessed with two other families.
This was a relief for both of us! We had each been prepping/teaching 5 classes a week. Yes, we would have been doing that at home anyway, but I’ve found that moms prep more intentionally when they have to teach a class to other people’s children!
Having more families also helped because some of our younger kids were no longer little. They needed actual class-time rather than just playing all day. The addition of two more teachers made that possible.
But there was a problem: my 7 and 10 year olds still didn’t fit into a class.
They both have mild special needs and use Memoria’s Simply Classical program instead of the main track. This meant that instead of lessons, they spent their Mondays playing with the 3-5 year olds and sitting in on the second grade class’s Enrichment.
This wasn’t the best scenario for my 10 year old who already struggles with delayed behavioral maturity. He’s a good kid, but he acts much younger than he is; sometimes boys his age even shun him, thinking he’s only seven or eight.
The play-based Mondays also made it difficult for them to transition to school work on Tuesdays. Transitions are already difficult for kids with special needs; but starting the week with play made it that much harder for them to switch gears.
For them, co-op meant they played on Monday, fought school on Tuesday, found their focus (hopefully) on Wednesday and Thursday, and then were ready for the weekend on Friday.
It was really hard to call my friend and break the news but she was so gracious. I’m blessed to have her as a friend.
Is a Co-op Right for Your Family?
So that’s our co-op story, but I’m sure you want to know if a co-op is right for you.
Here are some universal pros and cons to consider:
- You are accountable to someone outside yourself — and so are your kids
- Your family has another opportunity for community
- You can outsource more challenging classes, especially for your older kids
- You (usually) have a built-in support system
- You lose flexibility in your schedule: spontaneous field trips, long weekends, and shifting a day’s assignments are no longer options
- If your co-op is for enrichment rather than academics, you lose a full day of school each week
- If your co-op is focused on academics, you will be tied to their curriculum choices
- Depending on how your co-op is structured, there may not be continuity from one year (or even one semester) to the next
- Depending on the co-op and the particular teacher, your child may be expected to keep pace with the class even when they are struggling
- Co-ops require each mom to teach a class or volunteer in some way on co-op day; this will likely require additional prep time during the week. If the class involves essay assignments, you will likely be responsible for grading those.
What do you think? Would a co-op help or hinder your homeschool?