Tips for Starting a Homeschool Co-op

The idea that homeschoolers are isolated is really a myth. There are many ways for homeschoolers to come together, both for learning and socializing. We decided that a co-op was the best way to ensure that our kids were part of a consistent group. If you’re thinking about starting a co-op, here are some tips for getting started.

1. Gather a group of like-minded people. They may be in school, already homeschooling or education experts — it doesn’t matter, as long as they care about education and are intrigued by homeschooling. Just start talking. What would your ideal educational environment look like? Which of those things can you realistically do yourself? Are there experts you can bring in to help?

2. Define your terms. What do you really mean when you say unschooling (or child-led education or progressive education or a classical education)? Put it in writing, so everyone is on the same page.

3. Make one person the final decision maker. You can get input and discuss the big stuff with everyone. But someone needs to be the-buck-stops-here dude. Otherwise you will never escape the morass of consensus.

4. Do you want to meet in someone’s home? Take turns in homes? Rent a space? Churches are a great place to look – they are usually empty on weekdays.

5. If you have shared expenses, get people to commit for the year. You don’t want someone dropping out and leaving you in the lurch for your rent. Make them responsible for their monthly payment until their spot is filled.

6. Start with some volunteer positions that are clearly defined. Get one parent to arrange the co-op schedule. Have another plan social outings. Put one more in charge of field trips. Their tasks must be clear, though — not just general helpers.

7. Explore liability insurance. Homeschoolers can get it individually or for a group through the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. (While I don’t align with them ideologically, they are a good resource.)

8. Decide if you want to be an unofficial group of families who gather together or want to form a formal association (like an LLC or nonprofit).

9. Look into your local homeschooling regulations and build those into your plans.

10. Decide what processes you need in place. Use a tool like Sign Up Genius to organize volunteers. Google offers easy, one-stop-shopping for sharing a calendar, photos, documents, enrollment forms, surveys and more.

11. Explore homeschooling groups in your area and any classes they offer. We’re lucky to have a wealth of resources, like homeschool theater groups, chess clubs, swimming lessons, 4-H groups and more. If you’re new to homeschooling, find someone who homeschools. They’ll be able to connect you to the community. Decide if your co-op wants to participate in any of these activities as a group.

That should get you started. How about the rest of you homeschoolers — any tips to share?