Welcome to Better Together Co-ops -- a blog written for the express purpose of encouraging homeschooling parents to participate in co-ops from elementary age through the high school years.
Let's start by defining a co-op: Co-op (noun, action verb!) -- a group of children being taught by a group of their parents, cooperating together to make the experience a success.
Co-ops are a fun way to include such vital subjects as research, logic, public speaking skills and critical thinking. Meeting together with several families on a regular basis accomplishes several goals:
1. A safe and friendly environment is created for the students.
2. Responsibilities are shared among the parents, easing the workload of each family.
3. Children of various ages learn to cooperate and interact with other students.
4. Socialization is monitored.
5. Students who excel raise the bar for other students, motivating each other to higher performance standards.
What subjects can be taught? There is no limit to the variety of number of subjects that can be included in a co-op. We'll discuss this more in the future, giving suggestions for specific co-ops.
How many families should be involved? We've had co-ops that included just a few families to co-ops that have included more than 10 families.
How long should a co-op last? I recommend each co-op lasting for 8 to 12 weeks and no more. If a co-op needs to last longer in order to complete a particular subject, then divide it into two semesters, breaking for the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays.
What ages can be included in a co-op? We've had co-ops that included infants to teens and we've had co-ops that were restricted to specific ages and, at times, specific gender.
When and where do you meet? We've met at houses, office, parks, churches, and at outside locations. Our co-ops have generally met once a week for as little as 3 hours to as many as 5 hours, with a lunch break. We've met in the mornings, in the afternoons, and even in the evenings.
Why am I writing this blog? Over the years I have organized and conducted numerous co-ops and have found that co-ops make a homeschooling mother's life much simpler and more enjoyable when done well. Karin Carpenter (another homeschool mom) and I have co-authored two books on co-oping. One is an instruction manual on how to get started, Better Together, and the other is a guide to using ten of the books written by Patricia Polacco in order to enjoy a "Cross Cultural Cruise" co-op. My other publications include unit studies on the Civil War, inventions & inventors, worldviews and entrepreneurs. Each of these publications are easily adapted to co-op use. Although a curriculum isn't necessary to the success of a co-op, using materials that have been written specifically for that purpose often helps quell the fears of first time co-oping parents.
We are in the process of building websites for each of these publications and will link to those as soon as the sites are up and running. Meanwhile, feel free to send in any questions you may want answered concerning homeschooling and co-oping!