Must-Read Tips for Hosting Your Own Homeschool Co-Op
Two moms. A gaggle of kids. One living room. And often lots of sharp pointy objects.
At first you might think it sounds like a plot for a horror movie (“Revenge of the Science Students” or something like that).
But no! We’re talking about hosting your own homeschool co-op. This is when at least two moms study a similar curriculum or topic and get together regularly to do experiments and fun crafts.
Alright, maybe that still sounds like A lot. Of. Kids. In. One. Place. (and thus the scary music is still playing in the background).
Well, my friend Eryn and I have been doing it for four years now, and not only have we lived to tell about it, both of us (along with our kids) treasure our little homeschool co-op (AKA “Science Fridays”). In fact, I for one wouldn’t want to homeschool without it!
I sat down with her recently to talk about having our own homeschool co-op works; what advice she has for other homeschool moms who want to “share the load”; and the importance of a really, really great salad during your get together.
Alicia: Eryn, thank you so much for chatting with me today in such a formal manner.
Eryn: (smiling) Of course! AK: I mean, we certainly do a lot of chatting on our Science Fridays.
EB: Oh yes…
AK: But not really in this way… you know, with everyone else listening in.
EB: Right. Except for those eight other little pairs of ears running through the house… pretty sure they pick up on everything we don’t want them to hear.
AK: Yes, exactly. Anyway… let’s start at the beginning. Why did you agree to do this whole co-teaching thing with me four years ago?
EB: Well, I thought it would be more fun to do experiments and projects in a group setting. After all, homeschool kids really need to be socialized or else they won’t turn out “normal,” right?! Also, as a homeschool mom I want to socialize!
AK: Yes, socialization is a good thing… for kiddos and moms! I felt the same way. Our families knew each other and got along really well. And I think all of us have grown closer as we’ve added new little ones to the mix and watched our older kids blossom. Did you have any fears or apprehension about doing this together?
EB: I don’t remember having any fears because I knew you and your kids. If I was nervous, it would have been about not meeting each others’ expectations about what the kids need to learn, getting work done in time, that sort of thing. But that’s why I think it’s important to choose the right mom to partner with. We share similar values so spending time together is enjoyable for everyone!
AK: I also appreciate that we can lean on each other on class days, whether we’re having a rough week or going through a challenging season (such as having a new baby). Sometimes those Friday talks have gotten me through. It’s also been great to share ideas and resources. You know me—I’m the and you always have great ideas for field trips.
EB: (laughing) Yes, two homeschool mom brains are better than one!
AK: Right. But I still feel like we are able to teach the subject throughout the week in the way that works for our individual kids. For example, sometimes we do extra experiments or crafts that your family doesn’t do (or vice versa), or we give different emphases to the lesson. But that’s still OK because we trust each other enough to know that our kids will all have a general understanding of the lesson… at least enough to do the experiment/project together on Friday.
EB: Yes, we have similar goals for our time together. Our kids are around the same ages and we give similar schoolwork loads. Also, we both enjoy doing lots of hands on learning and don’t mind driving and paying for field trips and extras. We’re on the same page, and I think that’s and important trait to have in a homeschool co-op teacher.
AK: And your co-op teacher needs to be slightly Type-A… at least, if you are Type-A like we are…
EB: What, us?! No, but seriously, yes, pick someone that you can count on. The last thing you need as a busy homeschool mom is your fellow co-op teacher showing up unprepared or flaking out on you!
AK: Oh yes, totally agree with that. It would drive me crazy if my co-op partner was always backing out on me or scheduling other things that day. We plan our week and our workload around our science get together. The accountability of “we have to get this done because we’re meeting this week!” definitely helps keep our science lessons front and center. Alright. Let’s talk about another very important part of our Science Fridays. Food!
EB: Oh yes! What would Fridays be without our salads?!
AK: The salads! Yes! You have not let us eat anything else on Fridays since we started making salads!
EB: (laughing) Well, you are like the crazy salad ninja! I watch you throw all kinds of insane stuff in a bowl and then it turns into a masterpiece. Why would we ever want to make anything else on Fridays?!
AK: Alright, OK… the salads are fun. But seriously, food is an important part of the co-op experience.
EB: Oh definitely. We time it so that we overlap with lunchtime. The kids seem to focus better when they have full bellies.
AK: And we don’t serve them salad.
EB: True. They usually get a kid-friendly lunch, like PB&J and fruit or something else semi-healthy.
AK: Except for those times when the science craft/project involves food, like Sharks in Jello or food in the shape of what we’re studying (like Crab sandwiches).
EB: Yes, those are fun. I think it’s important to mention here though that the family you partner with at the homeschool co-op has similar eating styles and tastes. Both of our families eat fairly healthy food (lots of fruits and veggies) and that helps when it comes to determining what to feed the kids. We don’t have to struggle with one mom who’s serving root beer and French fries while we try to get our kids to finish their apples.
AK: Exactly. That helps. And speaking of having several moms around… share your thoughts on having multiple moms involved in a co-op like this.
EB: You know, it has been good to have just our two families. Initially, I thought having more families join us would increase the fun and learning, but now I see that making a co-op too big could easily result in less efficiency and less work getting done. It could dissolve into chaos pretty quickly. After doing this for a few years, now I realize that our 8 kids are chaos enough for us!
AK: Ha! Ahem…. yes. Any other tips you have?
EB: Plan ahead. Scheduling is a biggie. It’s great to get together before school starts and discuss not only meeting dates, but possible field trips, etc. You and I also have similar expectations of what will be accomplished at each meeting, and I’d suggest that moms talk that through too. For us, it works to have a lot of play time for the kids because the moms need a break, and the kids need to get the wiggles out!
AK: I agree. We’ve been upfront and honest with each other about what we want from the co-op days so that there’s no surprises or misunderstandings. That gives us the freedom to just handle that week’s task and to let the learning flow. Anything else you’d like to add?
EB: Yes, overall, doing a homeschool co-op with another family is really fun for both kids and moms. The kids look forward to our time together and having regular meetings helps us stay on a schedule and get our work done in a timely fashion.
AK: Awesome. Eryn, thank you so much for sharing with us!
EB: No problem!
Is there anything else you’d like to know about hosting your own homeschool co-op day? Post your questions here and Eryn and I will do our best to answer them! Or, if you host a homeschool co-op with another mom, share with us what tips you have!