Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Pros and Cons of Co-ops

Are you in a homeschool co-op? I joined one last year so my son, a high school junior, could take a Physics class; we enjoyed the experience and signed up again this year. There are quite a few co-ops in our area and they appear to be a growing trend among homeschoolers around the nation.

As home schooling continues to grow, parents expect to see even more co-ops and organizations formed. Home-schooling parents tend to be creative and motivated: If they feel a need for another organization, most likely they'll create it.

Some parents are afraid that the explosion of co-ops, clubs and activities for home-schooled children can take away from what home schooling is supposed to be about: learning in the home.

“Because there is so much more that you can do with your children outside of the home, a lot of parents do too much,” said Trish Bober. “They are outside every day taking classes. The home part of home schooling is not as important now as it was earlier.”
When my children were younger, co-ops did not appeal to me because I felt the time was better spent learning at home and every day out seemed to take us a day to recover. But as the children have grown, that doesn't seem to be an issue.

This year, I've incorporated what I teach at home into a few classes at the co-op so I don't feel like I'm missing out on the home part of homeschooling. In fact, we've found that having the class one day a week motivates us and keeps us on track at home. We attend a full co-op on Monday and a few fun enrichment classes on Friday morning. All in all, it's been a very positive experience.

But I do sometimes wonder what the co-op trend means for the future of homeschooling. Will the government jump in and require those that teach other families to be credentialed; or God forbid, will the teachers union step in and demand that mothers be unionized. A few years ago, I would have laughed at that thought. But that is exactly was is a occurring with in-home health care workers in Illinois and mothers who do in-home daycare in Michigan. Right now this seems to be happening only with those workers who receive state aid, something our co-op does not do. But some co-ops may have members who do receive some sort of state assistance for their children and that's where things could start to get muddy.

There was an attempt in Texas to force a homeschool group to comply with state day care regulations. Thankfully, it was quickly settled when it was shown that the group was not operating as a day care. But that may not keep other states from trying to regulate homeschool co-ops.

Our co-op operates as a ministry of a local church; so we may have some protection against government intervention. I'm not looking for trouble where there isn't any, but the way things are going, I don't think any ground is sacred anymore.

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