Co-ops, Extra-curricular, and Opportunities
By now you should’ve seen that every single decision you make regarding your homeschool needs to safely tether to the anchor of your mission and should be weighed in light of that— does it support your mission or does it make it harder to accomplish your mission?
We have talked already about support, accountability, and mentoring and how absolutely necessary those things are for a homeschool family. Being able to share ideas alone is a valuable benefit of being surrounded by others who understand you and are walking the same path as you are.
We haven’t really talked about the big “Socialization” issue much for our children— honestly because that is such a crazy argument against homeschooling that it hardly bears acknowledging, but in the final lesson of this module, I wanted to briefly look at the decision you will eventually have to make regarding getting involved with homeschool groups and co-ops.
The world has really changed since homeschooling first started getting a rebirth in our society. “Shelter in place” was a concept that homeschool families understood well back in the 70s and 80s, because the laws and understanding of homeschooling was not nearly as accommodating as they are today.
It’s very worthwhile to talk to, listen to podcasts with, or read about homeschool pioneers— and all that they struggled through in their fight for the freedoms we enjoy today to homeschool our children freely and openly.
I’ve spent time with people who were jailed for your right— we absolutely cannot forget that no freedom we enjoy comes freely. Someone paid a price for it.
For the most part, the heart and intentions of those early pioneers were in tune with ours— homeschooling was a heart matter, a discipleship matter, a parenting matter— so they were willing to put their lives and reputations on the line for what they knew was a biblical pursuit.
We owe them so much!
In today’s world, though, homeschoolers are largely accepted. We don’t have to fear a truancy officer coming to our house if we go out to the grocery store in the middle of the day with our children. We often get questions from people who are truly fascinated by what we do— not just judgmental of what we do. It’s a whole new world for us!
The opportunities afforded our children are truly endless— so endless, in fact, that they CAN become a problem if we’re not on mission. And that is what we’ll be spending our time on today.
In your community, you probably have access to a number of different co-ops or groups, activities, and so forth. So, how do you decide which direction or group is right for your family? How do you decide how much to allow your children to participate in? How do you decide what’s best?
Once again, your mission statement comes into play and can give you a lot of clarity as you’re making choices between good choices and best choices for your family. (Ya’ always wanna go with the best!)
So, let’s talk about co-ops first. A homeschool coop at its core is a group of homeschool families who come together for a common purpose or to achieve a common goal. And, homeschool coops have evolved a LOT even in the years since our family started homeschooling.
Sometimes coops are set up around extracurricular activities. The first group we joined was that way. Every Friday afternoon, my children would go to a local church, meet with friends, and have art, music, pe, and writing classes together. It was something we all looked forward to, because they had a blast, and I had a 4 hour break.
There are other co-ops that really focus on the arts and helping your child advance by offering band and orchestra, private lessons, acting opportunities and more. Those are great if you have a child who has a passion in those areas and is wanting to invest in their giftings.
Sometimes coops are academic in nature— and these coops vary widely in how they approach that.
Some academic coops are taught by parents, so your child will be able to take classes from other homeschool moms who really enjoy teaching those subjects. You’ll find that many homeschool moms are incredibly accomplished individuals in their own right, so plugging in with others who are scientifically- or mathematically-minded if you’re an arts mom or finding someone to help you teach literature or history if you’re a STEM mom is super helpful. Together, homeschool families all over the world find ways to support each other this way by combining their talents and resources for the sake of their children.
You’ll be able to find coops that have paid, professional teachers that will give your children “traditional school-like” instruction in the classes they take. Often in that scenario, the parents are plugged into volunteer roles throughout the year. The cost of that type of a co-op is generally more expensive as you would imagine.
More and more co-ops are popping up that are adopting a hybrid model of education. You’re still in charge of overseeing your child’s education, but you can outsource the actual teaching part, and your children can go to classes in person or online a couple of days a week. Those are fine, as long as you don’t lose sight of your primary mission and you continue to intentionally go for the heart of your children and take advantage of the opportunities you’re given. If you simply start outsourcing all your academics and then take that freedom and additional time to explore other things personally, you may find that you’ve shifted away from your mission statement and you need to recalibrate a bit.
In addition to homeschool co-ops, you’re also likely to have the opportunity to participate in homeschool groups in your area. These are often larger and more loosely organized— and they can include groups of families that get together for field trips, for example. Or, they could be church-specific, so someone within your church organizes activities and such specifically for your body throughout the year. Stuff like that.
The main point here is that finding other homeschoolers in your area to get plugged in with is probably not going to be a problem. So, how do you determine which groups are right for your family?
I’ll echo back once again to the difference between when our family stated homeschooling and homeschooling in today’s world as I start to answer that question. When David and I started homeschooling our children, most of the families who were homeschooling and joining groups were pretty similar in mindset and mission to us. Sure, we had differences, but homeschooling was still largely considered a primarily faith-based endeavor.
You can’t make that assumption any more. As the public schools have been failing, common core has been introduced, and parents simply don’t trust that their children are safe there anymore, homeschooling has exploded across all demographics, so you want to be very prayerful and careful in your consideration of the groups that you connect yourself and your children to.
Ask good questions when you’re evaluating a co-op or group to join.
Check out their website.
Investigate what your children would be exposed to within that group.
There are a lot of secular and other religious homeschool groups that could have the same impact on the impressionable minds of your children as a public school would, so you’ll want to look carefully and pray about any group you allow your children to join.
Now, I am NOT saying that we should completely separate from every un-believing family in our area. Not at all! If part of your mission is to teach your children to love God and love people, you need to be around people, right? But, what I do want to stress is that if you drop your children off at a co-op that is teaching material contrary to what you teach them at home, you could possibly be doing as much damage to their young faith as if they were in public schools, so choose wisely.
Plugging in with local field trip groups that are not specifically geared to Christian or unChristian families— may be a great way to enlarge your borders within your community. Because in a setting like that, you will be able to build relationships with families while still teaching your children the way you believe God would have you teach.
So, choosing a homeschool co-op or group that fits within your mission is really important, but so is deciding how much your family can participate in — and being willing to make adjustments as seasons change in your life.
Since many homeschool families have several children, things can spiral out of control really quickly if you aren’t intentional in your “yesses” and “nos.”
Before you know it, you’re running Lucy to piano lessons, Jane to soccer practice, John to basketball, and Joe to Lego Robotics team. Plus, they’re all up to their eyeballs in co-op work, so you find that you actually have very few nights a week you even eat together— let alone have the time to spend going for their hearts.
When you find yourself in that spot— and I almost guarantee you will! — You’ll need to take a step back and see what fits for this season and what needs to be put on the back burner. We live in a children’s-desire-driven society, and every parent wants to give good things to our kiddos. But, we also have to be the parent. We have to be the ones that help them understand that not everything is possible and sometimes they have to learn to wait.
Not all opportunities should be a YES in all seasons. The process of making these tough choices should include great conversations with your children all along the way. Help them, as much as you can, understand your thought process. Bring them into the why. Help them think in terms of your family’s mission statement. Teach them what you’re learning as you do the same— that’s all part of preparing them to be adults one day!
So, choose your opportunities and groups wisely. Getting connected with other families and getting help with academics is a wonderful blessing and can enrich your children in countless ways!! Just be sure that you aren’t putting them in a situation that is going to weaken or cast doubt on their faith instead of working in tandem with your own mission.
And finally, remember that part of homeschooling does imply that you’re actually “home” for a good bit of the time and that you’re purposely investing your time and energy into discipling and educating them. Satan would love to distract you and your family so much that he makes you ineffective in that pursuit.
I am SO PROUD of your!! You made it all the way through this course— do you feel like you’re ready now?
If you take nothing else from what we’ve talked about here, I want you to remember this— Since it’s the creator God Who has called you to Teach Your Children Diligently, you were literally CREATED for this!! By focusing on your mission— and making every decision, whether it’s big or small— with that mission in mind, you’ll find a lot of clarity and peace will come to your family.
Homeschooling families are among the most blessed I know, because they have the time and setup within their homes to truly get to know their children deeply and to invest all they have into pointing them towards Jesus and preparing them to serve Him one day. There is nothing you can do that’s more important than that!
So, be encouraged! Be excited! Be ready! And be prepared to see God work in mighty ways in the days ahead. He’s really good like that!
Co-ops, Extra-Curricular, and Opportunities
How do you decide which opportunities and activities you take advantage of? Well, like everything else, it all comes down to your mission.