Co-oping: The Single Parent Homeschooler's Guide
What is a Co-op?
A co-op (short for co-operative) refers to a supportive group of people working together to achieve common goals or needs. Homeschooling co-ops typically center around family needs such as teaching classes, sharing rides and car pooling to scheduled events, childcare and buying food. It's simply about everyone working together to lighten the load.
There is an old saying, "Two heads are better than one." When people work together to solve a problem to make something operate more efficiently than when going it alone, everyone wins. Single parents often benefit immensely from networking with others and those who homeschool can expect an even greater advantage. With co-ops expenses are shared, as well as time and energy. This results in effectiveness and efficiency, which means less stress for everyone in the group.
Help for Setting Up a Co-op
When you are a single parent that homeschools, you learn pretty quickly how important your connections with others are.
The first thing you'll need to do is locate other single parent homeschoolers in your area. This is easily done by posting on relevant forums and stating your objectives. Don't post any personal information and state only the city and state in which you reside. Once you have found at least two others, set up a 1-hour conference call to discuss your goals for homeschooling. Everyone invited to the conference call should come prepared with a short list of goals and needs. Setting up a call is simple and free. Just search "set up a conference call" on Google
Once everyone invited is on the call, introduce yourselves and state the number and ages of your children. As the moderator of the call, you will begin the discussion and touch on 3 points: why you want to homeschool, if you are currently homeschooling and for how long, as well as what you hope the group will accomplish (here is where you'll also state your needs to homeschool). Then everyone else will take turns doing the same thing.
As single parents you will find common goals and needs. Address the most pressing needs of the group and start there. For example, if it seems that everyone needs help with child care, homeschool supervision and the like, then it should be agreed that you will arrange a child care co-op or something like it. Next, appoint a secretary, someone who is willing to take notes of your discussions for a certain length of time, say 2 months for example then someone else can do it.
Set your first in-person meeting. Here is where you'll actually meet each other for the first time; it could be at a park or family-friendly restaurant. At this meeting, you'll start making plans for the co-op. There are plenty of resources available for setting up specific types of co-ops: child care, food, homeschooling, etc. All you need to do is grab a couple, start doing your research and put your plans into action.
Some important tips to keep in mind when planning your co-op:
- Keep a written record of the meetings and decisions you make.
- Everyone participates on some level. Everyone has something to offer the group. For example, at my daughter's charter school all the parents must volunteer their time in the classroom a certain amount of hours. Those who cannot do this, donate supplies or supervise on field trips.
- Make rules for your co-op and design it so that it actually meets the needs of its members.
- Realize that with any group there will be disagreements. Set up a conflict resolution procedure to address problems that come about.
- If you are having difficulties with locating single parents in your area that are homeschooling, seek out those who are at least interested in it. That way you still have a common interest. With the support of a co-op, they will probably decide that it is possible. It is fine even if the entire group consists of members who are single parents wanting to homeschool.
- Take the resources (books) you use in setting up your co-op groups and mold their system to what works for your group. You don't have to necessarily adhere strictly to their method.
Whatever you do, don't forget to include some fun-time! Plan potlucks, field trips, movie nights, library days and park days. Many local museums and child discovery centers have designated free days during the month. These events are a perfect time for children and parents to socialize, brainstorm, support each other and to just relax!
- Single Parent Homeschooling: 6 Tips to Help You Do It
- Single Parent Homeschooling: The Robinson Self-Teaching Curriculum
Other helpful resources:
Single Parent Home Educators of America - Clearinghouse, blog and general support for single-parent home educators. Help getting started with homeschooling.