How to Join a Co-op: 7 Things You Need to Know

When you homeschool your kids, you’re going to come across a homeschool co-op or consider finding one. So how do you join a co-op? It’s pretty easy, but let me share a few things to make it smoother. 

To join a co-op you should know about time requirements. Review the rules and regulations, they could change at a moment’s notice. Be prepared for occasional conflicts and behavioral issues. Are you able to teach other kids? And are you comfortable with a secular or non-secular co-op? Free one or paid?

Joining a homeschool co-op can be a blessing or could also wind up being a burden, so please read on to find out some of the things we ran into on our journey to find the right place to join. 

A Homeschool Co-Op Can Eat up Your Time

When we joined a homeschool co-op, we were more focused on all the positives and the allure of having a new venue for our son. He could spend time with other kids and have some fun while learning. As new parents to the homeschooling phenomenon, our concern was always about social time and finding opportunities for our son to socialize with children similar in age.

While we were racing around town to find a parking space, figuring out what to do for lunch, and deciding what we need to pack, we realized that there was a huge amount of time we spent on this co-op! It’s not just the time at the co-op, but all of the associated time for transport, preparation of stuff to take, and volunteering! During the lunch hour, you might be on your own, so you’ll need to find a place to eat or take time beforehand to prepare it!

Did I mention volunteering? Yep, you have to take part and either teach or assist with classes or some function of the co-op. I realize it cannot operate by itself, and this is a part of the service you must take part in for the group to function. You will likely need to teach some subject you have knowledge about. That’s fine if you are willing to spend the time to prep during the time outside of class. 

But our point is that all of these things add up and you’d better consider these little details as you consider joining a homeschool co-op. We joined a local church-related co-op and it was free. However, the time required of us was more than we imagined. Initially, we thought great, a few classes together and we’re done! But as you can see from the table below, plan on spending much time outside of class as well. For us, it was almost 25%! 

Total Time of Joining Homeschool Co-op 1 Day per Week

Transport-back & forth50 minDuring rush hour for us, takes an extra 10 minutes
Parking15 minParking lot and venue not connected, have to look for parking in the city center
Prep for Teaching45 minI usually spend some time prepping for my classes and also communicating with students during the week so this time can add up.
Class Time at Co-op6 hours1-hour lunch, 2 hours class time, 1 h group study, 1.5 hours worship time (church-related), and 30 min free time.
Homework30 min
Total time8 hours 10 minOnly once per week for us, but take a whole day away from our schedule for a few hours of class and co-op time.

Rules Can Change at a Moment’s Notice

When you join a homeschool co-op, you can expect certain rules and procedures you must follow. This can be expected whether you join a secular or non-secular organization. There have to be some regulations or the group can’t operate smoothly, right? There might even be some strict guidelines about dress, behavior, and service (volunteering).

Some co-ops might even have penalties if you are late, miss a class too often, or just call in at the last minute and not join. You might have to do extra service time or you may even have to pay a fine! Some organizations might allow you to opt-out of service by paying an extra monthly fee. Luckily, there weren’t any fees like this where we were.

Make sure to understand the rules and regulations of the co-op before you join to reduce any uncomfortable moments. Our experience was that regulations and expectations changed after we joined, and that was unforeseeable. Subsequently, we decided to leave the co-op since it didn’t fit our needs and schedule. 

The co-op expected us to attend more sessions than we wanted which all of a sudden became “required”. So therefore since we had no time or desire to add those sessions we decided to start our own coop! If you want to learn more about why you should start your own co-op, please read our other helpful article.      

Conflicts and Differences of Opinions With Other Parents

Depending on the homeschool co-op you join, you may find yourself in conflict and run into many differences of opinion with other parents. This should be expected because remember that all the other parents are homeschooling just like you! They probably have done things their own way for quite some time and have strong opinions about how and why things are done a certain way. 

When you are in your own homeschool minus other leaders, teachers, or kids, you are a sovereign king compared to joining a co-op. In a co-op, you are now at the mercy of the parents, kids, and leadership of your new organization. Now, if you are familiar with everyone and you are happy with the co-op, then that’s super! But if you did not expect it to be as intense or strict, or too relaxed, then that can be a shocker. 

Expect to have many different potential conflicts and opinions in the homeschool co-op. In our co-op that we joined, there were just a few people making and creating the rules. So it was not ideal for us and it seemed rather non-democratic. Things seemed to change for the benefit of a few families. So this is not to say every co-op is like this. 

There are many great co-ops to join and they may be the perfect fit for your family. But be aware and do your homework on the makeup and leadership to be sure they align with your philosophy, values, and interests. If you thought traditional school Parent Teacher Associates were tense, then you may find it the same in a homeschool co-op!  

Behavioral Problems in a Homeschool Co-op

It goes without saying that the makeup of the co-op will also have a bearing on the kind of behavior problems you might encounter. We joined a church organization, so we expected there would be fewer issues with behavior. Overall, we were quite happy to find most kids were well-behaved, respectful, and generally helpful and kind. 

However, there was an incident with an older kid who caused some problems and used poor language. It was surprising, but I guess not unexpected. But the way the parent handled and guided their child to apologize and teach them the right kind of behavior was impressive.

When you are looking to join a co-op, keep in mind that there might be certain rules and expectations of how kids will need to behave. And the consequences or punishments if any for bad behavior. Sure, we get it that at times depending on the age of kids, there will be an occasional problem. But how you deal with it and how the co-op reacts will need to be considered when you are searching for the right co-op.      

Can you Teach Other Children?

Luckily, I’m a patient teacher to my kids and others and I do not have any worries about being able to teach other children. But please do consider that in most co-ops you will be expected to participate either as an assistant, coach, or teacher. It makes sense, right that you have to share in some duties? So can you teach a subject to other children and do you have confidence that you can handle them?

Most parents we came across have some kind of talent or expertise in math, art, music, sports, or luckily Lego Technic. A foreign language might also be a good thing to teach. In my case, I taught English since I’m based in Taiwan! It was an easy subject where I could definitely add value. 

You might also have some type of craft or hobby that might be appreciated as well. Be sure to check what the expectations are for volunteering and the time per week or month expected before you join a homeschool co-op. You might be surprised at what you will need to do for service when you join a co-op.

There are Free Homeschool Co-ops

Free homeschooling co-ops are out there and offer a good opportunity to join and experience the benefits without the fees. There might still be some other related costs like materials and other shared costs that might arise. Let me give you an example, like in our own Science Co-op. 

We meet once a week in a local park and do experiments together. I will prepare the lessons, chemicals, and equipment. Usually, the materials I use can be easily found in your home and don’t require any fancy equipment. One can experience science with minimal costs. However, I will occasionally buy things like special chemicals, big bags of baking soda, simple beakers, and other items we can reuse in the class.

One of the most fun experiments we did in our science co-op was with soda and Mentos. When you drop a handful of Mentos into the soda, the bubbles form instantaneously and erupt out of the bottle shooting out like a geyser! That was highlighting the concept of nucleation. All of the materials we bought were shared and that’s pretty minimal. We advise trying a free co-op before you go all in on a paid one.  

There are Religious and Secular Homeschool Co-ops

In our city, you can find both types of homeschool co-ops, either in conjunction with a church organization or private and non-religious in nature. We’ve had experience in both kinds of coops and the religious ones can also be open to the public or closed to members-only. A few coops here in our city are open to the general public and welcome non-members to join and enjoy all the benefits without actually being a member of the church. 

The last co-op we joined was a part of a church and required membership in order to join. It made sense because we were spending much time on the church campus and many things were integrated into the church activities. The leader of the co-op also expressed the main reasons were that they wanted to make sure all the parents and students had a shared belief and could trust each other to watch each other’s kids! It was like a family, so it was a close-knit homeschool co-op.   

Robert Dad

I'm Robert "Daddy" Macias the father of 3 wonderful kids. I am embarking on a new journey of homeschooling and green living. I realized my wife and mothers all over the world were doing this all by themselves. So I realized as a dad, I must jump into action!

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