My guest blogger today is homeschool leader, Caren Joye. She shares a great article
How We Overcome Common Co-op Problems
Truly, there can be some negative aspects to homeschool co-ops, and we want to avoid or prevent as many problems at Academy Days as we can. As a Christian co-op, we try to keep our focus on what the Lord wants for our children. We are also respectful of the fact that our families are homeschoolers first and foremost. Our goal is to go along side the parent and enrich what they already do at home.
Here are specific ways we try to prevent the most common co-op complaints.
Co-op is not a school! The primary teacher is always the child’s parent, not the co-op teacher. Unlike some local co-ops, we do not administer tests nor assign grades. Our weekly classes are spent on discussions, debates, simulations, re-enactments, experiments, and hands-on activities that enrich studies at home, such as the science experiment pictured at left. Since co-op meets only once a week, the majority of coursework is completed at home, so really only the parent knows the full extent of her child’s knowledge in a subject. It stands to reason that the parent, then, would be the one to assign grades.
Too much homework
Only high school classes and a few junior high classes actually have homework. All kindergarten and elementary classes are enrichment only. Co-op is supposed to lift our burdens, not increase them, so co-op is all about projects, experiments, educational games, simulations, re-enactments, learning activities, discussion, debate, arts and crafts that can be completed during class time. We do not want homeschooling families stressing over homework in addition to regular curriculum studies at home. Plus, only the parents know how their child learns, and that child should be free to learn that way without pressure to conform to the majority. As a result, the responsibility for homework is placed on teenagers, who should be learning how to manage their time anyway, particularly in preparation for college. Even then, because some families use a different curriculum at home, we try to be reasonable regarding homework even for high schoolers.
Too many illnesses
We do not want co-op to be a source of illness for any family. A standing rule is to stay home if you or your children are sick or even just recovering from an illness. We have a substitutes list and a list of illnesses, and we expect members to be symptom-free for 24 hours before they return to co-op. As a result, we do have a lot of absences, but we much prefer filling in for an absent parent than catching a cold from a sick child or teacher.
Too many unsupervised children
Co-op is not a drop-off service, so we do not have children running around without parental supervision. If your child is at co-op, then you must be, too. As a small Christian co-op, we lovingly correct and encourage our children and try to channel their energies into positive directions. Plus, we intentionally keep classes small to prevent a “crowd-control” situation during class time. Except for PE, classes are limited to 12 students, although the number usually ranges between 4 and 10, as pictured in this 5th-6th grade creative writing class.
Too much work for parents
Many hands make light work! You do not have to teach, but all parents at least commit to helping in a class. Everyone gets one break period in the four-period day, and usually two. Additionally, most classes have two teachers, so teaching each week does not fall on just one person. Furthermore, teaching itself is limited to lessons and activities during class time; teachers do not have to correct homework nor prepare and grade tests. Also, every class has at least one parent helper, if not two, for additional help.
We aim to keep co-op affordable. Unlike other local co-ops, no one at co-op gets paid, and all our workers are volunteers with a degree, special knowledge or passion for the subjects they teach. Class fees, which range from $2 to $15 for the entire 14 weeks, pay for materials only. Because many of us homeschool on a budget, we diligently search for the cheapest copier in town and research the Internet for the lowest prices on books, so we can pass those savings on to our members.
A group cannot function efficiently without some organization. Written procedures help our group rely on a plan instead of on quick decisions made in a crisis. Plus, guidelines ensure our safety and help us manage the use of the facilities that the Lord has provided for us. We know that parents and children are most comfortable in an environment where they know where they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to do in any given situation. We try to provide that structure while at the same time maintain flexibility. As a result, our co-op runs very smoothly; indeed, many of our members who used to participate in other co-ops have stated that our co-op runs more smoothly and comfortably than any others they have attended.
Too much conflict
Personality conflicts and misunderstandings may be inevitable in a group environment, but we aim to manage them by proactive means. To prevent becoming a “mega co-op,” we limit membership by keeping classes small. In addition, we have written procedures which help everyone understand expectations. Also, we advocate the resolution method commanded by God, that of peacemaking – which includes overlooking an offense, reconciliation, negotiation, mediation, arbitration and accountability.
We started Academy Days co-op in fall 2006, so we are still a young co-op. Each semester we address a new issue and smooth out fewer and fewer kinks. As we do individually in our own lives, we are working on perfection!
About the Author:
Carren W. Joye is the author of Homeschooling More Than One Child: A Practical Guide for Families (ISBN 0-595-34259-0), Alabama State History Curriculum for grades K-9, and A Stay-at-Home Mom’s Complete Guide to Playgroups (ISBN 0-595-14684-8). A homeschooling mom of four children, she has founded four successful playgroups, a homeschool support group, homeschool covering, and homeschool co-op. For more information on her books and state history curriculum, visit her web site at www.carrenjoye.com.
I enjoyed your list. Can you tell me how you lead your coop? Is it a board? Are they voted in? Hand chosen? I am just curious how that is handled. We have a coop of 20 years that is run by the original founder and those she chooses. I feel that some of our conflict could be resolved if we voted in leadership and they served term limits. Curious as your thoughts…
My guest blogger Caren Joye composed the list of tips for homeschool co-ops.
I have found that successful co-ops are run by a board with term limits on the leaders, usually 2 or 3 years. Many boards do chose the board members themselves and do not hold elections.
You’re correct that one leader for 20 years is too long. She probably has what is called “founder’s syndrome.” This is when the founder cannot give up control to t=others. It’s like a mother who won’t let her baby grow up. It can certainly cause a lot of conflict!
Here’s a great article on founders syndrome https://www.how-matters.org/2013/03/24/founders-syndrome-part-i/
I hope it helps!
Carol Topp, CPA