A homeschool co-op can work well for families, but can be hard to find. If you haven’t found what you are looking for, it’s not that difficult to create your own homeschool co-op. If you are new to homeschooling, then you may have been hearing a lot of new words, such as co-op. In Nevada, you can create a co-op on your own without having to file any paperwork.
Co-ops can be based on age, special needs, academic goals, social aspects or creative endeavors. There are many homeschool co-ops in the Las Vegas valley, most of which are full or private. Some established co-ops are more than happy to share how they got started and the local resources they use. If you are looking to start a co-op, here are some questions to ask and points to consider. If you aren’t sure, reach out! Ask questions! There is a strong, active and supportive community locally and online. And if you are new to homeschooling, check out our checklist for beginners and our Homeschool 101 guides.
Goals and a Good Foundation
A co-op sounds like a good idea, but you need to nail down some basics before getting a group together and jumping in.
- What do you hope to gain from a co-op?
- What is the purpose of the co-op?
- What costs do you expect to incur and how will those be recouped?
- How will it be organized, by age, interest or area?
- Will your homeschool co-op be invitation-only or open to enrollment?
A homeschool co-op can be a simple get-together based on kids’ ages and social needs where parents rotate hosting the group, which can give you a few hours of alone time (not to ever be undervalued!). Or you can create a group specifically to drill down on academia or study STEAM or explore art, techniques, history and get creative at each gathering.
There are no boundaries to the co-op you can create. Be sure of what you want to get the most out of the experience for you, your children and whoever joins the co-op. You can get overwhelmed if you are constantly trying to change the co-op to meet the needs of new members. Be confident in your goal and you’ll be successful in your co-op. Remember to file the Notice of Intent (NOI) if your child is age 7 or older.
You can create a homeschool co-op around a curriculum, such as Waldorf, or around a lifestyle, such as unschooling.
How Much Will Parents Need to Be Involved?
Some co-ops require parents to be involved at every meetup, provide instruction or activity, snacks, space or other essential requirements. Or you can create a co-op around a teacher that you all agree on and take turns monitoring the group and hosting the co-op. Make sure expectations of the homeschool co-op are clear before parents join. Otherwise, you may be forming an informal group rather than an actual co-op that meets your needs.
Also, make clear how decisions will be made. Is there a definite leadership role and how is that person chosen? Or do you work by majority? Larger co-ops can benefit from a board of directors that share the same vision of what the co-op should look like. Keep in mind that co-ops will evolve as kids grow.
Put together a mission statement that contains how the co-op will work, even if it’s just a handful of moms and dads meeting at a park for educational playdates. Include how often you expect to meet and where and any fees expected for teachers or a rented space. Even if you don’t have a teacher yet, know how much the average tutor costs and ask for that with provisions that this can change with enough time for the parent to opt-out of the co-op if the group fees go beyond their budget.
Grow Your Group
Consider how you want to find people to join your homeschool co-op. Invitation only means that you can choose who will be in the co-op, how large it will grow and how fast. If you get a waiting list, you can help them form their own co-op and possibly share resources. Opening a co-op up to new members offers an opportunity to gain fresh ideas and definitely increases the skills and volunteer abilities of your group.
Communicate with Members
Set up a place online either via email or a social media group for parents to share info, get updates and know what’s happening on a consistent basis. You can have online or in-person meetings, but definitely have a meeting outside of the regular times you meet for the actual co-op. Communication helps the group to feel cohesive. Kids can create a logo for the group that can be shared on T-shirts, tote bags and on the online group page.