Nheree and Tracy are back to share their experiences with homeschool co-ops. If you missed their stories in Episode 4, be sure to check them out!
Finding a Homeschool Co-Op That's a Good Fit
You may have been in and out of many co-ops over the years, or you may be trying to find your first homeschool co-op. How can you find one that is a good fit for your family and will work with your child's needs?
There are many types of homeschool co-ops. The first step is to figure out what you are looking for. Are you looking for elective and enrichment type classes? Or more academic classes?
What about prices?
How many days a week do you want to attend?
Nheree shared how her family has attended many different co-ops over the years--from purely elective co-ops to drop-off academic co-ops.
At first, she had what she called "the public school mentality" when looking into homeschool co-ops, but she got burned out from doing too much.
She now prefers a whole-family homeschool co-op over a drop off style because she realized that by just dropping her kids off, she wasn't getting to know the parents of her kids' friends.
She appreciates her current co-op because there was a screening and application process to make sure that families and the homeschool co-op are a mutually good fit.
Tracy's family has also been in co-ops for many years. She loves being part of a co-op and getting to know other moms because it's a great support to know you are not alone.
Her family has been involved in co-ops that just had PE Class (She mentioned Diane Taylor's excellent homeschool book for PE.) She has also had her kids in drop-off academic co-ops, although her family is now currently part of a whole-family co-op. She chose her current co-op because she had heard there were several other special needs families attending, and she also knew she personally needed an outlet to serve.
Tracy shared about how her older kids needed an outlet when her younger kids were in therapy all the time. When they stepped out of co-op temporarily, she saw how much her kids were missing the social opportunities.
"When you homeschool, you have to have an outlet for your kids to meet people. Sometimes church is enough. But sometimes they just need another outlet."
We didn't choose to join a co-op until the kids were in middle school age and needed support with science and math. Our kids were also showing a need to have more friends and social opportunities than just at church on Sundays and Wednesdays.
Every year we re-evaluate our commitment and needs. And we're starting our 6th year at our current co-op because it continues to fit our family very well.
How Can Homeschool Co-ops Benefit Families With Special Needs?
First if all, homeschool co-ops can be very beneficial to special needs families, but....COMMUNICATION IS KEY!
Before you join, be sure to ask If there are other families with special needs or learning disabilities. And even if there are other families, ask whether they are willing to make your needed accommodations and actually stick to them.
Don't just ask IF they are prepared for a child with special needs. Ask HOW they are prepared to handle the situations that could arise.
An option to audit classes can be very helpful if a co-op offers that option, so that students with disabilities can experience a classroom setting without the pressure of knowing "I can't do this." If they don't offer it as an official policy, it won't hurt to ask leadership if they can offer it privately. Look for a co-op that is open and loving, and responsive to helping meet the needs of kids with special needs. They are out there, I promise!! It will help you to not feel like you are burdening them with your child's behavior or needs.
Finally, if your child would need a helper or aide (because of running off or other challenging behaviors), it would be good to ask if they would be willing to provide one.
If the co-op doesn't offer classes that will help your kids thrive, create your own classes! This will give your kids and their peers classes that they will thrive in. Nheree shared how she created a Forensic Science and Movies as Literature class to give her students an engaging way to learn core classes.
Once your commitment to your current co-op is done, don't be afraid to leave a co-op if it is not a good fit. (Note: all three of us are board members at our co-op, so we know how important it is to fulfill your term of commitment. So we're not advocating for quitting midyear.) Keep trying co-ops until you find one that fits your current season of life and needs. What worked at one point may not work later on. The spirit of homeschooling is adaptability.
In the end, if you've been hesitant to join a homeschool co-op, don't be! But the important thing is to be open about discussing your kids' needs with teachers and leadership. That is how you make a co-op successful. Don't be afraid to speak up!!
"Don't be intimidated. These are just other moms just like you who really don't know what they are doing. I'm at a co-op as much to glean from seasoned homeschool moms just as much as for my kids to get friends or education...We all have a story."
Are there any drawbacks to homeschool co-ops? According to Nheree and Tracy, there's not really a negative, other than that you might just be at the wrong one for your time in life.
Resources mentioned in this podcast episode that are not linked above:
Apologia Science : (Nheree mentioned she felt this elementary science was too advanced for her kids, but Beth loves this curriculum and makes lapbooks with it.)
Five in A Row : (This is an excellent literature curriculum for young learners that incorporates other subjects. We all wholeheartedly recommend it!)
Join the Flamingo Feathers Facebook Community
Ready to get to know likehearted moms who are also homeschooling their kids with special needs? Join the Flamingo Feathers Community as a founding member today! You'll find a safe place to ask questions and get the support and encouragement we all so desperately need--all from a Christian perspective.