A co-op is a group of parents who share the responsibility of teaching their kids. They come in many different forms and can be as big or as small as you like. Learning pods are a type of co-op. They tend to be relatively small groups of families that share instruction of one or two primary subjects.
Co-ops and learning pods are amazing ways to create friendships (for both kids and parents), make learning engaging, and lighten the teaching load. Parents often report that co-op days are their kids' favorite day of the week.
After interviewing several people in town who have successfully created co-ops, we've compiled a list of steps for making your own.
Step 1: FIND A PARTNER
Find another family to partner with in creating the group.
Step 2: VISION
With your co-leader(s), create a vision for your group. This vision should answer the following questions:
A) What is the co-op mission and what are our shared values?
B) What subjects do we want to cover?
C) How will we divide up the teaching responsibilities?
D) What is the minimum number and maximum number of families we can
support? The general recommendation is to start small and build from
E) Will we use a shared curriculum or create from scratch?
F) What age range will you include?
G) How often will you meet? Where? Duration?
H) Who will be invited to join (e.g. friends only, wider homeschool
population, only people from your charter school, friends of friends, etc)
I) What costs can we expect and how will we cover them?
J) What process will we use to resolve conflicts?
Step 3: INVITE OTHERS
Invite others to join you. The people we interviewed who successfully ran co-ops emphasized repeatedly the importance of starting small. You may have a vision for a co-op that serves hundreds of families, but don't start there. Start with a few families. Allow it to grow slowly over time. While large groups have the advantage of more opportunities for learning and making friends, they also bring a wider range of opinions, potential for conflict, and require a larger amount of administrative work.
The great news is that you don't have to start from zero. This model for learning has been a favorite of homeschooling families for decades. Here are few places to get started.
Video that show what a homeschool co-op or learning pod might look like:
Tips for starting a homeschool co-op:
Start a fun homeschool co-op (part 1)
Start a fun homeschool co-op (part 2)
Article on starting a co-op:
MAINTAIN A GROWTH MINDSET
The process of creating a co-op can be exciting, but can also be discouraging sometimes. It won't always work on your first try. Try to reframe any set backs not as rejection, but as redirection.
Homeschool co-ops are wonderful ways to make learning social, fun, and creative. They can be large or small and come in many different forms. Let us know what tips you've got for making co-ops work.
Good luck and enjoy!