“Cooperative learning, in the form of homeschool co-ops, can provide an unforgettable experience for you and your children. Students learn how to encourage each other, form new friendships and assist younger students when needed. Parents get to know other homeschool families and enjoy needed fellowship. So go check out the co-ops in your area. Remember that they are all different, so keep looking until you find the one that is just right for you.” – From the FPEA Guide to Homeschooling in Florida
If you’ve been homeschooling for more than 10 minutes, you probably know the feeling. Your child gazes with longing as the big yellow bus rolls down your street. Do they think it’s heading for Disney World? Or YOU gaze with longing at the big yellow bus (you don’t really care where it’s heading…) Perhaps you opened that book that looked soooo good at the book sale and are now thinking “You’ve got to be kidding me! I can’t teach this!”
Enter the wonderful world of co-ops! They take many forms: a group of moms each teaching the subject that they are most comfortable with, a group of moms/dads teaching a variety of subjects which you either pay for or trade volunteer time for. Some schools even allow students to pay tuition and attend part time. Although technically not a co-op, this is a good option for band, driver’s ed or other difficult subjects.
In our area (Pinellas County) we have several wonderful co-ops that meet once a week. Parents pay a nominal fee for each class and volunteer a couple of days a semester. Some co-ops require that the teachers be certified, but in the one we use the teachers are dedicated parents just like you and me!
The parents who have been selected to teach choose the subjects that interest them. Our dedicated directors then choose a variety of classes for every age from kindergarten to high school. It’s always very exciting for me to find out what I’ll be teaching each semester. We have music classes, tae kwon do and PE, literature, science and history. This semester I’ll be teaching 2 electronics classes (one middle school and one high school), an economics class for high school and a literature study class. The best part of this, aside from being able to spend time with some great kids, is that I’m earning my convention money!
But what are the advantages if you’re not teaching? Your kids get a chance to learn from someone other than you (which means you get a break too), and they get to hang out with their friends. You aren’t responsible for teaching those classes that don’t interest you. And here’s the best part…you get a chance to hang out with your friends — bring on the adult conversation.
Not all co-ops are as large as ours; in fact, you can create your own co-op with just a couple of families. With smaller co-ops you really get to know the other families involved, and you have a bigger voice in what is being taught and what activities will be done. The typical smaller co-op will usually require the parent to be fully involved.
by Linda Wooldridge, FPEA Relationship Ambassador. Linda has been homeschooling since 1998. She facilitates orientations for new homeschoolers in Pinellas County as well as coordinating high school activities and teaching co-op classes for her support group.