14 Reasons Not To Join A Co-op

Homeschool co-ops are not for every homeschooling family, so a co-op will not necessarily be perfect for your family. As a result, you should determine whether a co-op will be a good "fit" before you make the commitment to participate. The following 14 reasons why you may not want to join our co-op are based on feedback from former members for whom our Academy Days co-op did not work out.

If you experience any of these situations, please do not join a co-op!

1. If you have a full time job or a busy extracurricular schedule and already have limited days for "book learning" at home, then you will find co-op way too time-consuming. Co-op takes a full day out of your week because, in most cases, you must be at co-op if your child is there. You may not want to teach, but you can serve as a class helper or team teacher or on the clean-up crew for part of the day. A co-op is truly a "cooperative" effort, so members rely on everyone to make it work successfully, so members should honor their commitment when they join. If you already don't have time for co-op, don't sign up!

2. If you are moving or will move this year, or if you have health problems or family obligations to help parents or other relatives, focus on those priorities first. Do not add more stress to your life by committing your family’s precious time and energy to a co-op. If you and your children will not be able to meet your weekly obligations, you will let yourself, your family and the co-op down.

3. If you already know that you may miss three weeks per semester, please do not join a co-op as you and your children will already miss a majority of classes -- and that's before illnesses! Of course, illnesses and emergencies do occur unexpectedly, but you should respect the time and effort that teachers put into their classes each week. They deserve the mutual respect of having students be in class and on time, barring unforeseen situations and illnesses. If you join a co-op, honor your commitment and make punctual attendance a priority.

4. Similarly, if your children are still prone to frequent illnesses, you may want to wait until their immune system builds up because you will likely miss too many days to make co-op worthwhile. No one wants their co-op to be a source of sickness for any family, so if you or your children are sick or recovering from an illness, even the common cold or sinus infection, please do not attend co-op that week. Most co-ops have a list of illnesses, and they expect parents and children to stay home until they are symptom-free. If that means you will miss a lot of co-op due to illnesses, you should not join.

5. If this is your first year homeschooling, you really need to take a year to adjust and find out what style works best for your family. Co-op is not a substitute or alternative to schooling at home. Indeed, jumping right into a co-op before adjusting to homeschooling may overwhelm you and your children.

6. Similarly, if you are joining co-op as a substitute for school or so you won't have to teach your children at home, then a co-op may not meet your needs. Generally, the parent is still the primary teacher for classes taught at co-op as classes meet only once a week. Ultimately, you are responsible for your children's education because the bulk of their education is completed at home and, as the parent, you know your children better than any teacher ever could. Co-op parents ensure that their students keep up with homework, and they may need to assign supplemental coursework at home.

7. If you homeschool because your child could not learn in a classroom environment or if your child does not do well in a group setting, you probably will not be pleased with a co-op. Although classes are typically small, they still group students by grade/age and expect "classroom manners" -- although, since most are lifetime homeschoolers, they don't always know to raise their hands! Also, whiteboards, tables and chairs or desks make their classrooms very efficient for teaching a class, but may give the classes a bit of a school-like feel -- however, with homeschoolers as teachers, their class activities are probably more out-of-the-box! Additionally, with even a small group of families, co-ops must rely on some rules and guidelines to maintain order and efficiency. If you unschool, you and your child may not feel comfortable even in a relaxed setting.

8. If you homeschool because you feel no one else can adequately teach your child what he needs to know in any given subject, you will not be satisfied with any parent who teaches a specialized co-op class. Instead, accept that others may not teach a subject the way you would and relinquish some control; at home, focus on subjects not taught at co-op to maximize your time. Alternatively, accept that you will be supplementing at home to a certain extent. If you're not okay with either option, you should not join a co-op at all.

9. If you are joining a co-op for purely socialization reasons, you may find the classes too academic. Some high school classes and junior high classes may require homework. Also, a few classes may require lessons at home during winter break in order to finish the course in one year. Even kindergarten and elementary classes may have homework or lessons incorporated into their activities and games. Also, while co-op children see each other at other homeschool events and clubs, not all co-ops schedule field trips or organize clubs. You would do better to join a local homeschool support group for socialization opportunities.

10. If you are joining co-op for rigorous, college-prep courses, you may find the classes not challenging enough. Some co-ops are enrichment only. However, even when courses are college-prep, a weekly class cannot possibly cover all there is to know in a particular subject. Depending on the subject, you may want to supplement at home by assigning extra books or research.

11. If your junior high or high school students already have a full load of schoolwork at home or are members of one co-op already, their classes may interfere with their ability to complete their schoolwork. Please focus on one co-op at a time.

12. If you have babies and toddlers in your family, you may want to wait until they are a little older.
Although some co-ops do maintain a nursery, the co-op may interrupt their feedings and nap schedules. Plus, little ones usually get sick more frequently than older children, which could cause your family to miss a lot more of co-op than you want.

13. If your child is undergoing obedience issues or social or behavioral problems, this is not a good time to join a co-op.
Focus on the character growth of your child before putting him in a situation for which he may not be ready. This applies to all children, whether preschool, kindergarten, elementary, or high school.

14. If you are on a tight budget or live a good distance from the location, you may not want to make the financial investment. Even when class fees are minimal, they do add up for a large family. Also, gas prices may be prohibitive if you live a considerable distance from the location.

No co-op will fit every family. Before joining any homeschool co-op, you should consider what the Lord may have planned for your family this year. Ask yourself if participating in a co-op right now would help or hinder your family at this particular time. Also, examine your reasons for joining a co-op. Consider what you expect from participating in a co-op, and ask other members if this co-op will likely meet those expectations. If not, don't worry. You definitely do not need a co-op to homeschool successfully!

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.