Where and how do I find a homeschool group? What is a co-op and why would I want to join one?
Homeschool Support Groups
You can find a homeschool group in several ways. (I found mine by accident, but I don’t recommend that as a search strategy!) The first question is, do you know any homeschoolers, even if only tenuously? If you do, ask them. They may not be your “type” of homeschooler, but chances are good that they know at least the names of other homeschool groups in your area, and often can direct you to a knowledgeable person in one those groups.
The second thing to try is to get on the Google and search “homeschool group, Your City.” You may not have success if homeschooling is still relatively small and/or new in your community, or if no one locally has the skill or inclination to have set up a website, but this is a good second bet. Another possibility is meetup.com, where people can create their own groups for any purpose imaginable, including homeschooling. Also, check Facebook! With the advent of Facebook groups, this has become a popular and effective way for like-minded people to find one another.
My last suggestion is to ask around in your community. If you belong to a religious community, ask there. Check with the children’s librarians at your local library–it’s very likely they see any homeschoolers there are! Try the community center(s) in the area, or any other place open to the public with space available for group use. Basically, ask around!
Co-ops are cooperative endeavors of parents who jointly provide educational and enrichment activities for their children in a group learning environment. The reasons for joining a co-op are that some activities work better–or in some cases only–in a group context; that a parent may feel ill-equipped to provide instruction in a particular area, such as art or music or science; that it provides to students, and often to parents, a social outlet with people who share a large common value.
You might want to join a co-op if your children are feeling isolated, or if you wish they could participate in, say, choral music. You might want to join one if you feel as if you never see an adult from one week’s end to the next. You might want to participate in a strong academic co-op with teachers hired to teach classes in their areas of expertise.
One caveat: sometimes co-ops sound better than they actually end up being. If you try one, but soon find yourself wishing you you’d never heard of the dratted thing, then quit! It’s not worth it to devote your time and energy to something that isn’t working for you. Homeschooling can look many different ways, and because Co-op ABC makes your friends happy and successful homeschoolers doesn’t mean it will do the same for you. Know yourself, and join or don’t join accordingly.
Homeschool groups and co-ops can be a real safety net of sanity for homeschoolers, mothers and children alike, especially in the first years, when so much is new and uncharted. If you can, I would encourage you to join a group, just to plug in to the the assets available to homeschoolers in your community. From there, you might like to join a co-op, and take advantage of the opportunities for group studies and activities. If nothing else, it may be worthwhile to find an online community to go to for support, as occasionally classical homeschoolers find themselves in the minority in their local homeschool communities. But whatever you decide, choose the right fit for your own family and homeschool, and be at peace.
Caitilin Fiona–Caitilin is the mother of six children, ranging from high school down to early elementary, all of whom she has homeschooled from the beginning. Her particular interests in the homeschool universe include teaching Latin, Shakespeare, and Great Books. Outside of homeschooling, her interests include languages, literature, theology, cookery and nutrition, movies, and fooling around, er, researching on the Internet.