The homeschool Co-op can be a real blessing to the homeschool family, but only if families go in with the right cooperative mentality. Crystal Clark gives some tips for being a blessing to others in the co-op and keeping friendships there.
The only thing better than having friends you love drinking coffee with, are friends who help homeschool your children while you drink coffee together.
Seriously, besides a dream beach vacation, what could be better, right?
One of the terrifying elements of deciding to homeschool can be the thought that you will be doing it alone, all by yourself, without anyone else who understands you or supports what you are doing. (But perhaps plenty who are waiting for you to fail or give up.) The homeschool co-op can be a welcome oasis of refreshment to the weary parent who wonders “Am I the only one who is doing this?,” or can’t remember when their last dose of adult interaction took place.
What Is A Homeschool Co-Op?
Loosely speaking, a homeschool co-op is a group of homeschooling families that join together to enrich their homeschooling experiences by learning from and with one another. This may include special classes that are taught together, field trips or events designed to enhance what is already being learned at home, just in a larger group setting. Why prepare an art lesson for two kids at home, when you can just as easily tailor it to 12 kids at the co-op? (I personally look to my artsy friends to fill the craft void in my own kids’ lives. They are seriously glitter glue deprived, and sadly my single stack of construction paper lasts us all school year.)
My family has had the joy of participating in a homeschool co-op within our community for the past two years, and it has been worth its weight in gold for every minute spent at the planning meetings. These ladies are rockstars, and I appreciate them all more than words can tell!
One concern that comes up when your circles of friend/parent/teacher/authority figure start overlapping with one another, is the differing roles that your friendships with the other moms might take on. Are you going to get blacklisted for telling your BFF that her child cannot be in the preschool playgroup because little Addelyn is only 3 months old? Are you going to be THAT mom with all the food allergies/sensitivities who makes everything more complicated for group snack time? What about the pregnant mom of 4 year old triplets who isn’t “doing enough” in your opinion, and needs to pick up the slack?
How To Not Be “That” Homeschool Co-Op Mom
I would like to offer some suggestions in navigating the potentially tricky waters of being (and staying!) friends with the other moms in your homeschool co-op, because I truly believe in the value of not doing everything alone.
Get Flexible- Unless you want to be the psycho in charge of absolutely everything, learn to bend a little and let others do some things their way. Leave some room for the other parents to participate, and remember that you joined because you thought it was worth it to be TOGETHER.
Pull Your Weight- If you signed up to participate in the co-op, please participate! Nothing breeds resentment faster that the “workers” vs the “moochers.” Be realistic about what you can handle, then do your best to follow through. Other families are counting on you.
Follow the Rules- Remember this is NOT your personal homeschool time, this is a group setting, and there will be guidelines in place to accommodate that. Even if your 3 year old is reading at a 2nd grade level at home, if the rules say “must be 5 to be in the K-2nd Grade PE class,” don’t try to put your kid in that class. (My co-op lovingly jokes that I check the birth certificates of kids at the door.)
Show Appreciation- Not much gives you strength to keep going like a little gratitude. Verbally thank your people that are organizing field trips, prepping sticky craft projects and forming a debate team for your kids. Don’t feel entitled to have an awesome program, thank the parents who are giving it their all to make it happen.
Be Honest- If you have a legitimate problem, go about resolving it the right way, don’t stuff it down or lie to your friend that everything is ok. Find a time to be truthful and work towards a solution together. Even good friends are not mind readers, use your words to communicate truth tactfully.
Accept Feedback- When constructive criticism occurs or everyone votes down your idea of a 20 week unit lesson on the mating rituals of fruit flies, graciously remember that you are a part of a group and that everything is not an attack on you personally. You can always teach fruit fly mania at your own kitchen table later…
Embrace Differences- No one will parent or homeschool the exact same way as you, and that is OK! We need Classical moms, Unschooling moms, Internet moms and We-Only-Use-Sustainably-Grown-Slates moms to all work together towards the common goal of educating our children at home. Respect your friends’ rights to school their own kids their way, with whatever curriculum they choose (as long as they are still following the co-op group rules, of course).
Remember Grace- We all will have bad days sometimes, be late picking our kids up, or forget that Red Dye #4 was in that box of fruit snacks we brought. Extend grace to each other, remembering that kindness, forgiveness and humility can create enough elastic stretch for your friendships to survive serving on a co-op together.
Even if you aren’t in a formal homeschool co-op that you committed to by signing in the blood of your firstborn, I hope you will seek out other families and other moms to help walk alongside you in this journey of homeschooling and motherhood. It is a marathon, not a sprint, and we need each other to help hold us up along the way. I’m cheering for you, and am open to meet for coffee Friday mornings while our co-op takes a break for the summer.
Crystal Clark likes warm hugs, every shade of purple and seeks to love her family well as her and her husband raise their 2 hilarious children in a small Midwest town known for growing rhubarb. She is passionate about encouraging all women to rest and rejoice in Christ right where they are, and would love to connect with you on her blog at UnchangingGrace.com.