When you started researching homeschooling, you probably came across references to co-ops and support groups, field trip groups and enrichment classes. But what are they and how do they fit into your homeschooling?
Do you need a group?
In short, no. All you really need to homeschool is you, your child(ren), records required by the state, and some creativity.
Beyond that, as a homeschooling mama of 10 years, I’d recommend at least a library card, an internet connection, and some form of support. That’s where the groups come in.
How do you know what to join?
Homeschoolers seek out classes and groups for lots of reasons:
- Social connections
- Classroom experience
- Accountability outside themselves
- Subjects they don’t feel qualified to teach
… and so on.
Knowing WHY you want to find a group or class is important as you explore the options. Consider what kind of time or financial commitment you want to make, and who needs the support: is it you or the students? Do you want the group to have a religious, secular or inclusive point of view? Do you want a variety of experiences or are you looking for a singular purpose?
Asking yourself questions such as these, and knowing your ultimate homeschool goals, will help you to figure out where group involvement fits into your homeschooling plans.
So let’s explore what kinds of groups and opportunities are out there so you can start looking for a match.
What is a co-op?
A co-op is one of the most common types of groups in which homeschoolers find connections.
Generally, a co-op means a group of families getting together to share some aspect of teaching experience so that their children can learn in a group setting, meet regularly with the same peers, and feel some sense of community.
Traditionally, parents would volunteer to teach the group a particular subject or topic so that their child could sit in on a class on a different subject or topic taught by another parent. In short, families “cooperatively” pooled their time and experience to provide for some aspect of their children’s educations in community.
These days, co-ops have much more variety. Families may pool financial resources to hire teachers or pay for a class at an outside facility. There are also field trip co-ops where parents share time and experience to take turns planning field trips for the group on a regular basis. And there are groups that are a combination of all of the above.
So when you find a group that calls itself a co-op, be sure to ask what resource is being pooled. Know what is expected of you in terms of time, money, or teaching, and what you and your children will get in exchange.
What is a support group?
Support groups are usually more general in nature. Sometimes they are known as “umbrella groups” because within the support group, there may be a co-op (or several), field trips, parent meet-ups, parties, and other social and educational opportunities. It may simply be a communication platform for homeschool parents to connect and find activities.
Often support groups are formed based on geography, philosophy, or age. For example, there may be a “Smith County Homeschoolers”, “Homeschooling for God’s Kingdom”, or “Charlotte Mason Preschoolers”.
When considering joining one of these groups, find out:
- what kinds of activities are offered,
- whether there are dues or other financial contributions,
- the level of volunteerism or participation required,
- and if a commitment to a particular faith or philosophy is needed.
What other kinds of groups are there?
With the explosion of the homeschool population, groups are popping up everywhere for every need and type of activity!
You’ll find clubs for particular interests (like robotics or chess), park playdate meetups, math circles, and foreign language immersion groups.
There are groups on social media and online memberships for classes or support. (Ahem, I happen to know a good one.)
And if you don’t find what you’re looking for out there, it has never been easier to start your own! Just set something up on Meetup or Facebook and start finding your tribe. Chances are, if there’s something you’re interested in doing, there are other homeschoolers out there interested too!
Are you ready to join?
Start looking for a group that might fit your family! In North Carolina, you can check out NCHE’s list of support groups and activities. Search Facebook for your town or county name + homeschool. Visit MeetUp and see what it suggests for your area under “education” or “parenting.”
But, remember, you don’t HAVE to be part of a co-op, classes, or activities to have a successful homeschool. There are lots of ways to find community. Our family is at a point where my teens find their people in hobby activities that aren’t specifically for homeschoolers. So I have gotten involved in activities for my preschooler and myself.
No matter how you find it, though, you do need support. Remember that The Triangle Homeschool Resource Center is always here for you!
And if you’re looking for just that mom time, consider our Triangle Homeschool Resource Village – a virtual support group of local moms to provide mentoring, connection, and personal development! Click here for more info!