Socialization and Homeschool Co-op
By Dinah Whitton
As a home educator, you’ve likely been asked that dreaded socialization question. Perhaps you happily let the skeptics know all about your amazing homeschool group that meets regularly. Or, maybe you can’t be bothered with any explanation and leave the questioning party to stew in their curiosity. It goes without saying that our children have plenty of socialization opportunities, some of which might include a homeschool co-operative (co-op).
True to its name, homeschool co-ops are facilitated by parents who work together to provide a variety of options for children to learn and have fun. Some co-ops include educational electives while others simply give the kids time to hang out and have fun. And of course, there are others that provide a little bit of both. In my first year of homeschooling I discovered a few co-ops within my community and immediately signed up for the two closest to me. My kids loved trying new things and making new friends. The truth is, I thoroughly appreciated talking to other like-minded adult human beings a couple of times a week! I truly thought that every homeschooling family loved attending a weekly co-op as much as I did. It didn’t take long to find out that some home educators make a concerted effort to NOT participate in a co-op. Imagine my surprise! As a newbie homeschooler, I just couldn’t understand why co-op wasn’t on every home educator’s priority list. But, when I considered the various schedules of homeschool families, it all started to make sense.
In addition to personal homeschool planning, parents are also responsible for coordinating the class schedules and field trips for their local co-op. Some home educators find this to be overwhelming when trying to balance their family life. Managing the daily activities of a homeschool family obviously has its challenges, so it’s understandable why there would be resistance to co-op participation. Many homeschool kids also participate in various extracurricular sports and activities that already have them out of the house a few times a week. Then there’s the friendships that are forged through the connections they make from their groups or teams. Naturally, those relationships flourish and kids end up spending plenty of time socializing with one another. Some families rely on co-ops for different reasons: stimulating electives, friendships (both children and parents), field trip opportunities and the list goes on. Whatever the case may be, it all comes down to personal preference and balance.
Parent educators should never feel obligated to do anything that doesn’t align with their family’s values or schedule. Afterall, homeschooling is about exercising our parental right to educate our children according to their needs. But, it’s no secret that parents of all walks of life have a tendency to fill up the calendar to keep kids active and engaged. However, there’s a delicate balance between determining what’s best for our children and preventing burnout.
As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Now I realize attending two different co-ops every week with four kids, plus getting them to extra curricular activities twice a week wasn’t ideal for us. After re-evaluating the school year (and my sanity!) and getting feedback from my kids, we came up with a more balanced schedule. Throughout the year I also make adjustments if life feels a little hectic. We still love attending co-op once a week and thoroughly appreciate the friendships we’ve all made; but, I have also learned the art of saying ‘no’. No, we don’t have to sign up for every homeschool activity, group or field trip. Instead, we look at our schedule and then determine what works for us. I also consider our short and long term homeschool goals to decide what we can and can not do.
It may come as a surprise to the skeptics that homeschoolers can actually socialize too much! But, striking that delicate balance is essential to maintaining a healthy and effective homeschool. We don’t have to fill our children’s schedules to potentially answer the socialization question. Continue enjoying the benefits that come with being apart of a homeschool community, but remember to make your family’s needs a top priority.