TOS.Feb.2012.10EssentialElementsofCo-Op.Kita by HomeschoolMagazine

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									10 Essential Elements of a Thriving Homeschool Co-Op

Joy Kita

The pleasures of homeschooling our children are many, the rewards great, and the
challenges plentiful. Busy days of math and science supplemented with designated chores
and carefully planned recreational activities consume our time. Our days blur into one
another, and before we can catch a restorative breath, we find ourselves stuck in the deep
rut of our daily grind. This is not burnout or a breakdown; it is the plain reality of
homeschool life. Changing course and trying something new can restore the simple
pleasures that teaching our children at home inspires. A homeschool co-op run and
operated by like-minded families is an excellent way to find clarity of purpose.

Co-ops offer a variety of options for homeschooling families. As a thriving learning
atmosphere, a co-op provides a safe place for children to grow intellectually and spiritually
as parents collaborate to promote confidence and independence in their children. Having
other parents teach unfamiliar subjects alleviates some of the pressure to “get it all done.”
Parents also have an opportunity to develop new friendships and a setting in which to
receive that much-needed encouragement to keep pressing onward.

Finding a co-op that suits a family’s needs may be a challenge, but the rewards are tangible
results that serve to sustain us through difficult days. If there are no available co-ops within
a reasonable distance, creating one can be a rewarding experience on multiple fronts. Do
not be fooled into thinking this is a project too large or overwhelming to tackle. Initiating a
thriving co-op yields results with a manageable amount of effort. Consider the words of an
unknown author who once said: “Never be afraid to try something new. Remember,
amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic.” Let’s look at some of the essential
components of a successful homeschool co-op:


1. Strong Communication

Do not be afraid to use a variety of media to get your message out. Often you can combine
several methods, including websites, emails, and phone calls. Clearly communicate the
needs of the group and its purpose. Families will join because of shared goals that are
clearly communicated and frequently affirmed.

2. Encouragement

Parents need words of affirmation, whether they are teaching classes or simply helping in
the classes. They need to know they are heard and that others care about their needs.
Working alongside each other and offering valuable input and ideas is essential in order to
build up your volunteers. Be open to their ideas, provide clear examples, and be willing to
discuss expectations.

3. Purpose and Goals

This is where your paper trail begins. Create a purpose statement that identifies everything
you are trying to accomplish. Write up a standard set of guidelines for participating families
to follow. Depending on your facility, additional rules and regulations may need to be set in
place.
4. Good Ideas

This is the meat and potatoes of your organization. Never underestimate the power of
creativity, a natural force that transforms minds and transcends the ages. Encourage those
who do not feel they excel in this area to vocalize their thoughts, and brainstorm with the
group often.

5. Parent Participation

The general rule of 20/80 where 20% of the people do 80% of the work has no place in a
co-op. These groups can succeed only if all parents are willing to faithfully volunteer their
time and resources for a common purpose. This is where clear rules and guidelines and a
strong purpose statement become essential.

6. Facility

Finding the right venue to conduct your classes is important but does not need to be a
complicated process. If your group is small enough, meeting in a variety of homes on
alternating days suffices. If your group becomes too large to fit in the kitchen or family
room, look to local churches for support. Most churches are usually looking for ways to
interact with and support community members.

7. Leadership

Strong leadership is an essential element of any organization. Wonderful ideas and
grandiose dreams are good, paramount even, but without someone to follow through on the
more mundane aspects of a co-op, those ideas are useless. To direct the group, you will
need at least two people, which lessens the pressure and helps promote fairness. A good
leader should always be looking to mentor others.

8. Flexibility

A co-op is a mosaic of families with different needs and desires. Even with a shared purpose
of educating children there always will be unique factors to consider as you are trying to
accommodate everyone’s needs. Consider families with many children. Does the co-op have
enough options for older students? Perhaps they can be youth helpers in the nursery, or
perhaps they could use a study room for independent work projects. Will you bend the rules
for sick children? How about doctors’ appointments? Determine the hard lines and soften
the others.

9. Resources

Take the time to build up a library of homeschool resource books, educational textbooks,
Christian novels, and fun games. There are many different ways to do this. Some reading
programs offer credits toward new books. Save up credits and buy wisely. Libraries often
give away older books. Provide a donation box for parents to share what they no longer
need. Have a fundraiser and use the profits to purchase curriculum.

10. Excitement/Fun
Do not take things too seriously. Doing so may sabotage the project before it can begin to
thrive. Celebrate the end of a semester with a party. Have Christmas cookie exchanges and
talent shows. Encourage the children to brainstorm as they compose a group song that they
sing each week. Encourage teachers to use creative motivational teaching methods such as
“building” an ice cream sundae with completed homework.

Excitement is contagious. Demonstrate sincere interest in, and gratefulness for, the classes
and in what is being taught. Infusing the group with enthusiasm is easy if the leaders have
genuine affection for learning and a passion to inspire others to join the party.

Co-ops are as unique and diverse as the families who join them. They are a rich source of
information and a launching pad for great thoughts and ideas. There is strength in
community, and co-ops are a foundation for thriving, Christ-centered fellowship.

Joy Kita is a mother of four and is the blessed wife of Stan. She has been homeschooling for
seven years and is currently the director of a thriving co-op with more than eighty children.
She is a fiction author for children, specializing in adventures for boys. She tries to stay
motivated by her all-consuming love for the Father.

Sidebar

Creative Classes
Make your own tie blankets (easy enough for 7- and 8-year-olds)
King Arthur’s Quest—medieval journey
Sing your heart out—praise and worship for kids
Drama—skits and speeches
Electricity—build your own electric car with simple circuits
Writing 101—practical writing skills, such as the five-paragraph essay
Creative writing
Book making
Wildlife management
Survivor Class
Baking basic bread
Make your own soup
Dissect owl pellets
Paper purses
Nature crafts
Simple science experiments for 5- and 6-year-olds
Yearbook
Movie making/editing

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in
the February 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education
magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and
download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

								
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