Whatever the form, homeschool “co-ops” (cooperative education groups) can be very useful for enriching your homeschool plans with additional academic and social learning opportunities. Having participated in co-ops both as a homeschooled student and now as a homeschooling parent, I believe they can strengthen the homeschooling experience academically, socially, and spiritually for your entire family. I also think that a successful homeschool co-op does not have to be complicated to meet all of your goals.
I’ve enjoyed being a part of local organized co-ops, and I’ve been coordinating my own informal co-op for the past two years to meet the changing needs of my tween daughters. I felt like something was missing from our existing enrichment activities, so I decided to start a tween girls book club to fill that gap for us.
Our book club co-op has been a huge blessing for my three daughters and our homeschooling mission as a family, and it has blessed the families who participate with us. We’ve developed wonderful friendships with the book club moms and daughters, and we’ve seen the girls growing spiritually and socially in the process. Plus, we’ve read some great biographies, historical fiction, and adventure stories in the process!
If you’re looking for a great way to bring together some families with tweens in an informal co-op setting, I think a book club is a great place to start: It’s a simple, flexible and effective co-op structure that touches on all the areas you want to develop in your tweens. It doesn’t matter if you have all girls, all boys, or even a co-ed group when you’re using a book club format. It’s possible to find quality books that will speak to the makeup of any group and provide interesting discussion points. Plus, a book club can be as small as two families connecting or larger — but not too large. Discussion groups function best with eight or less participants, which allows everyone to have a voice and develop friendships.
If you’re thinking a book club co-op would be a great fit for your tween(s), but you’ve never started a co-op on your own, these three steps will be most important:
- Decide on a common mission for the group. Involve all parents when finalizing the mission.
- Reach agreement on the logistics and expectations from all participants— parents and children.
- Divine intervention — pray about it! Make sure it’s a God idea, not just a good idea.
The rest is flexible! Because your book club doesn’t have to be tied to a long-term curriculum plan, you can choose any duration of time to run your book club. Plus, running a book club isn’t complicated: Once you have made key decisions about your book club, the rest is quite simple. Read the book, meet to discuss it and plan some related projects or activities. That’s it!
These five questions will help you get started to set up your own book club co-op:
- Who should be in the group? All girls, all boys, or co-ed? What’s the age range?
- Who will I invite to join the group? Which families in our homeschooling community fit the age range for our group? Who can I invite that I would like to get to know?
- What book(s) will we read? What reading pace will work for this age group?
- Where will we meet? Can we share hosting responsibilities or do we need one central location?
- When do we start? How long should the book club run? Will we meet in the summer?
Thinking through these questions for yourself, then including the parents who join you in finalizing all the details, will get you well on your way to setting up a successful tween book club co-op. It’s my prayer that your efforts to start up or participate in a book club for your tween(s) will be blessed and fruitful!
Have you or your children ever participated in a book club before? Do you think a book club co-op would work for your tween(s)? What other simple co-op ideas do you have for tweens? We’d love to hear about your experiences and ideas!
About Renée Gotcher
Renée Gotcher is a wife, writer, entrepreneur & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. A former journalist, Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. She is editor of NextGen Homeschool and blogs on personal topics at A New Chapter. Her family lives in Castle Rock, Colorado.