What is a co-op, you ask? Well, it varies from group to group, but a co-op typically involves families of homeschool children who want to learn and interact with one another. Basically, homeschool families band together to create an organization through which everyone can participate in educational activities. Some work around different age groups so that the children are all working on the same things and have similar skills. Others work by geographical areas and include all of the children in a family so that the activities are more easily attended; skill levels and subject matter are adjusted appropriately. Some have an emphasis on field trips that will augment the subjects you’re working on at home (but can get you access to group rates depending on the size of your co-op, kind of like what a school gets); sometimes the parents in the group teach classes that play to their strengths or from materials that are mutually agreed upon (either by the families making up the co-op or because it is state mandated). There’s usually a sign up day where each parent puts out a sheet with the classes they are going to teach—sometimes with a cap on how many spots are available, again this depends on the size and type of co-op—and kids can sign up for the ones they are interested in, similar to electives in a regular middle or high school. The parents can pick either from a pre-set list of topics from the co-op, subjects required by your state curriculum, or anything they like; the rules and needs of each co-op will vary. It can be really fun, though. Say you have a telescope and know many of the constellations, but are terrible with poetry. Maybe you can teach an astronomy class, and in exchange, your children sit in on another parent’s class on Shakespeare. Both of us here at Kar2 are in co-ops and have found that they work nicely.

Other co-ops can be used to organize sports activities for kids who can play during the day instead of just after school. Since you aren’t beholden to religious holidays that don’t apply to you or half-day teacher work days, or even school hours, co-ops can schedule games and practices during the day so that your nights and weekends can still be family time to do with however you choose.

It depends on the needs of the parents in the group, but all have the same basic premise. The idea is to foster interactions between the children in much the same way a traditional school would. It also can lighten the load for the parents, because instead of teaching your kids every subject all the time, you can pick topics you are strong in and teach at specific times that work for you within the co-op. And you occasionally get a break when your kids attend lessons by other parents in the co-op.

They are definitely worth checking out. You can ask your state or county rep from the school if they have a resource list, or you can search for local co-op groups online. A good co-op can be an amazing experience. It can eliminate many of the work and socialization concerns parents have when considering a homeschooling option. And they’re fun! How do you think we met?!?