This year we joined a new co-op. One of the founders is a longtime friend of mine, so I trusted her vision. It meets 5 minutes away from our house and offered exactly what we were hoping for- some enrichment and Spanish. We signed up as soon as they opened enrollment and it’s been such a blessing to us this year, as it’s a great group of families and we are getting a lot out of it.
Co-op days for us are on Wednesdays, which works out well for our homeschool rhythm. We hit things hard Monday and Tuesday, have co-op Wednesdays, a full load Thursday, and a lighter Friday. I’m firmly in the camp of “learning is a lifestyle and school is always happening” but if you’re curious about lesson-focused days, that is our typical schedule.
So, what’s a co-op day look like? For us it begin the day before. As part of their daily responsibility charts, the girls pack their own lunches. I started the year being the one to pack it but have reached the point of “I don’t really care what you put in there, just feed yourself.”
Having lunches set the day before makes a huge difference for us. We are cliche, but as homeschoolers our days often have a relaxed start, with the kids getting up for the day around 8:30 and slowly easing into the day. Co-op days we have to be out there door around 8:55, so between eating, getting dressed, hair brushed, backpacks filled, etc, there is more hustle and bustle.
I get up at 6:00 AM to make David breakfast, have computer time, care for Finley, and usually to begin dinner, too. Wednesdays are full days for us, so it’s often a slow cooker meal day. Kid-approved slow cooker meals can be found here. Yesterday I made slow cooker carnitas.
Once dinner is going, I make breakfast then wake the kids up, usually around 8:00. Yesterday they had egg and cheese MomMcMuffins (fried egg and cheese of an English muffin) and I had a fried egg of the latest Daily Harvest quinoa bowl. My favorite Daily Harvest meal here.
I usually have to rush the kids along, and even then Kaitlyn’s hair seems always seems only half-brushed. Another cliché. We get dressed, brush teeth, take the dog out, take our vitamins (my favorite immunity pack), and I make a green tea with collagen for the day. Then, we are out the door!
Co-op begins for us at 9:15, and being so close is a definite plus. It’s held at a small church and is a wonderful set up for our group. When the girls get inside, they put their backpacks along the side wall on their name tag, then head into the chapel. The mornings start off with 15 minutes of songs and, what I’ll call for simplicity sake, a bible lesson.
At 9:30, I grab my youngest kid group and head to Spanish class. We hired an engaging Spanish teacher and my role in the co-op is assistant in the Spanish class. I love it because I’ve brushed up on my español along with the kids!
While I’m helping in Spanish, Hailey and Kaitlyn are in their respective age groups, Hailey in the 4th-6th grade level and Kaitlyn in the 2nd-3rd grade level. They circulate every 30 or 45 minutes (depending on the block) through science, art, PE, and Spanish.
Both my kids love science experiments and art projects, and co-op ensures they get at least weekly projects in both. PE is a hit, too because they’ll play everything from dodgeball to soccer to freeze tag and four square. I love when the other moms snap pictures of the art and science projects they work on and it’s fun to watch the girls in a class setting in Spanish. The days have a nice rhythm and pass quickly with intermittent snack breaks and chatting among the moms.
When the classes are done for the day, everyone returns to the chapel for a 15 minutes regroup, follow up on the morning lesson, and to close the day. From there, it’s lunch time! It’s optional but the majority of the group stays for lunch, as the kids get to run wild (a giant recess) and all the moms get to chat (community!).
On co-op days we often don’t leave the church until close to 2:00 or 2:30, and we are always a tired and happy bunch. I received some questions about our homeschool co-op experience, so let’s dive in!
How did you find a co-op? What are things to look for in a good one? This will differ greatly based on where you live. Homeschooling has exploded where we are over the past couple of years, so there are options now. The best way to find out about what is out there, in my experience, is to use Facebook to find and join local homeschooling groups. A lot of information is distributed through these channels.
Also, plug into the community. See what your community offers for homeschool families- check the library, community centers, trampoline jump parks, theater groups, dance studios, the YMCA, etc. All of those offer homeschool experiences around us, and it’s a nice way to meet some other homeschooling families and be in the loop.
As far as how to find “a good one,” it depends what you are looking for. Do you want a social group that meets at playground or parks once a week? Do you want some structure for enrichment classes like art and science? Do you want someone else to take the lead with the instruction and you do the follow up at home? Do you want it Christian-based or secular? These all exist!
Our previous co-op was quite different. We loved it, too, but it was far for us (a 45 minute drive each way) and a different set up. In our previous co-op I would drop the kids off, we went two days a week, and they offered more core subjects like science, math, writing, etc. They would introduce concepts, and we’d do the follow up at home. Since I like choosing our own curriculum, this wasn’t the best fit for us, even if I loved the group of ladies running it.
Depending on your style/philosophy, there are some good organizations that are nationwide. Wild and Free often has local meet up groups that do a lot of hiking and outdoor play. More into classical instruction and structure? Check out Classical Conversations.
What ages are your co-op? Our co-op includes nursery, pre-school, then K-6. Next year it will expand to K-8. The kids are grouped together by age/grade, so we have two K/1 groups, one 2/3 class and one 4-6 class.
Do you stay with them or drop them off? We are required to stay for insurance purposes, but since in our co-op we each have a role to play in leading a class or subject, we have to stay anyways. In our previous co-op, there was a drop-off option.
Who organizes it? A group of parents? Typically, yes! In our case, a passionate and driven group of 3 moms organized their ideas and brought their vision to life. I’m so grateful for their hard work!
Are the teachers paid or volunteer? In our case, it’s volunteer because the classes are run by parents. The exception is Spanish, which we hired (and pay) a Spanish teacher to teach. We pay to be part of the co-op and the fees go towards building fees, paying our Spanish teacher, supplies, etc.
Did I miss anything? If so, ask away and I’ll be happy to give you my two cents 🙂 For more on homeschooling, check out my homeschooling page!