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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Choosing a Homeschool Co-op (Part 2)


We began last week, in part 1,  by acknowledging that co-ops do not come in a “one-size-fits-all” package.  There are many reasons for homeschool families to seek a co-op experience.  We began by talking about the least structured of the four types of co-ops:  the social co-op and the enrichment co-op. This week we will look “replacement” and “drop off” co-ops. 

The replacement co-op is, by far, more rigorous and structured than either the social or enrichment co-op.  A replacement co-op will offer classes, for a fee, which replace what you do at home.  Typically, higher-level sciences, literature, and history are offered.  Science equipment, microscopes, and other classroom supplies are owned by the co-op and are included in class fees.  Students may often enroll in choir or orchestra, led by local professionals.  This type of co-op can be a great boon to parents of junior high or high school students.  Classes are offered a-la-carte.  Fees depend on how many students you have enrolled and which classes you choose. 

 In replacement co-ops, parental participation is still mandatory.  This is a larger group, in which your children will be assigned a grade-level class to attend all year long. So, most of the time, siblings will not be in the same classroom.  Classes meet 13 to 18 weeks per semester.  There is typically both an administrator and a bookkeeper.  Each family pays a “facility fee”, which is used to pay the facility where the co-op is held each week. Two to four parents share responsibility for teaching one class for the entire year.   The goal of each class is to do projects and activities, which cannot be easily duplicated in the home environment.  Putting on a play or doing science experiments are examples of projects which are well-suited to this type of co-op. In recent years, we have been involved in an academically rigorous co-op.  Believe me, when it comes to chemistry, I was grateful to pass the baton to one more highly qualified than I to do the teaching!  

The final type, the “drop off” co-op, is really a hybrid, a cross between a private school and a homeschool experience.  In the “drop off” co-op, parental participation is not mandatory.  Enrollment prices will reflect this policy.  Co-ops, offering a “drop off” policy, will be more costly than those requiring parental involvement.   Instructors have often taken classes in the pedagogy associated with the teaching material offered for each class.  Co-ops of this sort will utilize a specific teaching methodology. In a “drop off” co-op grades are given and instructors are paid.  The “pros” are that the instructional, professional, and academic standards are more rigorous than any other type of co-op. The downside is that fees can run in excess of $1000 per year for each student. 

I’ll end with some overall thoughts about what to expect when searching for a co-op.  You should be welcome to visit and observe at any of the four types of co-ops.  If they don’t allow perspective parents the opportunity to observe and ask questions, I would wonder why.  You will want to note the amount of supervision.  Even if the atmosphere is generally unstructured, you want to be certain any rough-housing is dealt with swiftly and that there are standards for appropriate behavior (among children and adults).  J  What is the student to instructor ratio?  Are the classroom numbers “capped” at a certain amount?  Do the students seem engaged and enthusiastic?  Ask what a typical class is like.  What is the amount of homework assigned?  Are grades given?  What are the policies for dealing with conflict between students or parents?  Does the co-op embrace and teach from a specific worldview or religious perspective?  Does the co-op utilize a specific teaching style?  What is the cost per class/per family?  Are there any additional costs – such as for textbooks, art supplies, field trips, or snacks? Does the educational environment meet your family’s wants or needs? 

There are just a few of the pros, cons, in’s and out’s of each of the four types of co-ops.  I trust that these have been helpful to you and would welcome any comments or questions you might have. 

Remember, do all to the Glory of God,

Hope 

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