14 Reasons Not To Join a Homeschool Co-op

Homeschool co-ops do not fit every family, so do not expect a co-op to necessarily be perfect for your family. As a matter of fact, you should determine that a co-op is not a good “fit” before you make the commitment to participate for a full semester or year. The following 14 reasons why you may not want to join a co-op are based on feedback from former members for whom our co-op, Academy Days, did not work out.

If you experience any of these situations, please, please, please do not join a co-op!

  1. If you have a full time job or a busy extracurricular schedule and already have limited days for “book learning” at home, then you will find co-op too time-consuming. Co-op may take a full day out of your week, especially if you must be there too to help in some way. A co-op is truly a “cooperative” effort, so members rely on everyone to make it work successfully and expect members to honor their commitment when they join. If you already don’t have time for co-op, don’t sign up.
  2. If you have health problems or family obligations to help ailing parents or other relatives, focus on those priorities first. Do not add more stress to your life by committing your family’s precious time and energy to a co-op. If you and your children will not be able to meet your weekly obligations, you will let yourself, your family and the co-op down.
  3. If you are moving or will move this year, this is not a good time to join a co-op. If moving to the area, understandably your first inclination is to get involved in local activities. However, you and your family need time to adjust to the move. You would do better to participate in a local support group rather than in a co-op; in a support group, you are generally not obligated to attend every event, whereas your membership in co-op obligates you to attend every week, unless you are sick. Similarly, if you are planning to move away during the semester, even just across town, you will already have enough to do preparing to move without having to make time for co-op. In either case, wait until you’re comfortably settled in your new home before joining co-op.
  4. If you already know that you may miss three weeks per semester, do not join co-op as you and your children will already miss so many classes — and that’s before illnesses! Of course, illnesses and emergencies do occur unexpectedly – and you should not attend co-op if you are sick – but you should also respect the time and effort that teachers put into their classes each week. They deserve the mutual respect of having students be in class and on time, barring unforeseen situations and illnesses. Honor your commitment and make punctual attendance a priority. On the other hand, once you’ve committed to co-op, don’t let your absences due to illnesses or other emergencies cause you to pull out. Instead, ask for help; finding temporary substitutes for a few weeks is much easier than securing permanent replacements for a family who quits mid-semester.
  5. Similarly, if your children are prone to frequent illnesses, you may want to wait until their immune systems build up because you will likely miss too many days to make co-op worthwhile. No one wants co-op to be a source of sickness, so if you or your children are sick or recovering from an illness, even the common cold or a sinus infection, do not attend co-op that week. Indeed, many co-ops expect parents and children to stay home until they are symptom-free. If you will likely miss a lot of co-op due to illnesses, you should not join.
  6. If this is your first year homeschooling, you really need to take a year to adjust and find out what style works best for your family. Co-op is not a substitute or alternative to schooling at home. Indeed, jumping right into a co-op before adjusting to homeschooling may overwhelm you and your children.
  7. Similarly, if you are joining co-op as a substitute for school or so you won’t have to teach your children at home, then a co-op will not meet your needs. Classes usually meet only once a week, so the parent is still the primary teacher. Ultimately, you are responsible for your children’s education because the bulk of their education is completed at home and, as the parent, you know your children better than any teacher ever could.
  8. If you homeschool because your child could not learn in a classroom environment or if your child does not do well in a group setting, you probably will not be pleased with co-op. Although classes typically are small, most co-ops still group students by grade or age and expect “classroom manners” – even if they don’t always know to raise their hands! Also, whiteboards, tables and chairs may make classrooms very efficient for teaching a class, but may give the classes a bit of a school-like feel. Fortunately, with homeschooling parents as teachers, co-op activities are usually more out-of-the-box! Additionally, with even a small group of families, co-ops must rely on some rules and guidelines to maintain order and efficiency. If you unschool, you and your child may not feel comfortable even in a relaxed setting.
  9. If you homeschool because you feel no one else can adequately teach your child what he needs to know in any given subject, you will not be satisfied with any parent who teaches a co-op class. Instead, accept that others may not teach a subject the way you would and relinquish some control; at home, focus on subjects not taught at co-op to maximize your time. Alternatively, accept that you will be supplementing at home to a certain extent, or plan to teach that subject at co-op yourself. If you’re not okay with these options, you should not join any co-op.
  10. If you join co-op for purely socialization reasons, you will likely find the classes too academic. Most high school classes and junior high classes require homework. Also, a few classes, such as the Apologia sciences, may require lessons at home during winter break in order to finish the courses in one year. You would do better to join a local homeschool support group for socialization opportunities.
  11. If you join co-op for rigorous, college-prep courses, you may find the classes not challenging enough. In most co-ops, parents remain the primary teachers of their own children. Although high school courses may be college-prep, a weekly class for a few months cannot possibly cover all there is to know in a particular subject. Depending on the subject, you may want to supplement at home by assigning extra books or research.
  12. If you have babies and toddlers in your family, you may want to wait until they are a little older. Although a nursery may be available, the co-op may interrupt their feedings and nap schedules. Plus, little ones usually get sick more frequently than older children, which could cause your family to miss a lot more of co-op than you want.
  13. If your child is undergoing obedience issues, or a “clingy” phase, or social or behavioral problems, this is not a good time to join a co-op. Focus on the character and emotional growth of your child before putting him in a situation for which he may not be ready, whether or not the cause is behavioral or developmental. This applies to preschool, kindergarten, elementary, or high school students. Additionally, because most parents are not equipped to teach or maintain discipline in classes containing children with severe disabilities, if you have a special needs child, co-op may not fit the needs of your child at this time.
  14. If you are on a tight budget or live a good distance from the co-op’s location, you may not want to make the financial investment. Although class fees may be minimal, fees do add up for a large family. Also, gas prices may be prohibitive if you live a considerable distance from the co-op.

No co-op will fit every family. Before joining a homeschool co-op, you should consider what the Lord may have planned for your family this year. Ask yourself if participating in a co-op right now would help or hinder your family at this particular time. Also, examine your reasons for joining a co-op. Consider what you expect from participating, and ask other members if this co-op will likely meet those expectations. If not, don’t worry. You definitely do not need a co-op to homeschool successfully.

Carren W. Joye is the author of Homeschooling More Than One Child: A Practical Guide for Families (ISBN 0-595-34259-0), Alabama State History Curriculum for grades K-9, and A Stay-at-Home Mom’s Complete Guide to Playgroups (ISBN 0-595-14684-8). A homeschooling mom of four children, she has founded four successful playgroups, a homeschool support group, homeschool co-op and homeschool covering. For more information on her books and state history curriculum, visit her web site at www.carrenjoye.com.

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