Homeschool co-ops. They’re a thing. Should you join one? Are you in one? Is it working? If things go awry, how do you know if it’s time to (gasp) quit your homeschool co-op?
Many years ago, I inquired via email about joining my very first homeschooling co-op. The leader of the co-op responded with, “Great! Why don’t you come see if the group is a good fit for you?” As a newbie homeschooler, I wondered, “why wouldn’t it be a good fit? We’re all homeschoolers!”
Oh, young grasshopper. You had much to learn.
Homeschool co-ops are all different. Some exist for academic reasons, others are purely social. Some co-ops are made up of just a few families, others have hundreds. Each co-op has their own flavor that defines what’s awesome about them and what’s not so much. You may be struggling to feel the Awesome of the co-op you’re currently in, but how do you know if it’s time to call it quits?
You should quit your homeschool co-op if…
The academic plan/schedule has changed.
Maybe when you joined the co-op last year it was mostly based around art and phy. ed, but this year they want to tackle math and world history. Maybe the world history program they’re going to use, you’ve already finished. Maybe the math is going to move faster than you’re comfortable with.
Maybe last year, co-op was on Wednesday mornings and this year it’s being held on Thursday afternoons. Maybe that doesn’t work for you. Or maybe you can make it work if you mess a bit with your schedule, but you’re feeling stressed out that the schedule changes every year.
Things often shift around—that’s life. But in a group setting, the shifts and variations don’t always work for everyone. If you find yourself dealing with a switch that’s going to bring more crazy to your life than it’s worth, it might be time to say so long.
The social circle has changed.
Are your kids making friends? Have their friends left? Was there a good mix of ages when you started, and now the majority of the kids are way older or way younger than your kids?
How about you, Mom? Not that co-op parents need to be best friends, but they should be able to work with each other. Has the circle of friends shifted? Is it cliquey? Do you suddenly (or still) feel like an outsider? Is your little co-op homeschool community suddenly not getting along?
You’re doing more work than the benefits are worth.
If you feel like you’re busting your butt to make co-op a good experience and it’s way more work than it’s worth, wave goodbye. Different co-ops require different levels of time, work, and/or money from those who take part. If you feel like your family is not getting the same value back as what you’re putting in, or that you’re consistently being asked to pull more weight than you feel you should, it’s okay to cut ties.
It’s falling apart.
Maybe there is tension in the leadership. Maybe there is no leadership. On the other hand, maybe there are too many leaders. Perhaps the co-op is disorganized. Maybe you’re never informed of what’s going on until the night before, and you’re constantly punting to make projects run smoothly. Perhaps it’s a group where co-op is cancelled for “reasons” more often than co-op actually meets. Maybe people consistently show up unprepared. Maybe you get the feeling that no one is invested or actually cares if the group even meets this month. Are you nodding your head? It may be time to wave goodbye.
It’s no longer serving the purpose for which you joined.
Maybe you joined the co-op because you wanted your kids to have a ton of great social opportunities. Maybe you were looking to connect with people who were educationally like-minded. Maybe you just needed to fill a time slot on a Tuesday morning. Maybe you wanted a co-op that was super small.
As we enter the tricky years of homeschooling older kids, we sometimes discover that what they’re needing from a co-op becomes more specific and harder to find. Our journey along the road of homeschooling and life morphs the longer we’re on it—sometimes the co-op we choose to partake in needs to change, too.
No one in your family looks forward to co-op day.
Simply put, if the thought of attending co-op makes everyone in your family grit their teeth, it’s time to bow out. Co-op can’t always be fun and games, sunshine and smiles…but if it never is, it’s time to research other options.
You should not quit your homeschool co-op if…
You think your frustration might be short lived.
Every group has its quirks – it comes with the territory when putting lots of people together. Is the situation you’re frustrated with just something you need to vent about and then get past? Are there compromises you can work out? If so, try that first before ducking out.
There are more benefits to the group than things that drive you nuts about the group.
Certainly weigh this against what’s making you nutty, but is it possible that the pros outweigh the cons? No group is perfect. Are your kids getting things out of this group or being exposed to (good) experiences they might not get elsewhere? Is it the easiest way for them to see certain friends? Is it the best way for them to get to do art or group phy. ed? Is it the only way you are guaranteed to hang out with other adults once a week?
You see (good) growth because of the experiences.
Sometimes the things that make us crazy in our co-op are just things that take us out of our comfort zone—but they aren’t necessarily bad. Are your kids growing in a good way because of the struggles they’re having in co-op? As homeschoolers, we have a lot more freedom in leaving things we don’t like, but that doesn’t mean we should coddle our kids by having them never deal with anything negative.
So, should you quit your homeschool co-op? Make a decision.
If you choose to quit your homeschool co-op, it doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t a good co-op. It just means it’s not a good fit for your family. The challenge is in deciding if the homeschool co-op can still fit with some compromise, or if the time has come to shake it off and leave it behind. Regardless of whether you quit your homeschool co-op or stick with it, take some time and make the best decision as a family. After all, isn’t that what this whole homeschooling thing is about?