Authoritative Guide to Homeschool Co-ops for High School

Here’s help for group classes: Authoritative Guide to Homeschool Co-ops for High School.

Homeschool Co-ops: An Authoritative How-to Guide

 

Authoritative Guide to Homeschool Co-ops for High School

One of our favorite parts of homeschooling is co-op. Our high schoolers have loved co-op, our middle schoolers and elementary schoolers have loved co-op, our pre-schoolers have loved co-op. Hey! Even us moms have loved co-op!

Co-ops have their ups and downs, especially those that continue for a few years, but when we all look back on it, the good times have outweighed the bad times.

We would like to share our decades of experience with you about homeschool co-ops for high school. We will discuss:

  • Types of homeschool co-ops for high school
  • What’s the difference between co-ops and group classes at umbrella or hybrid schools?
  • How to start a homeschool co-op
  • And how to run a homeschool co-op
  • Resources for homeschool co-ops
  • Troubleshooting for homeschool co-ops

Co-ops have their ups and downs, especially those that continue for a few years, but when we all look back on it the good times have outweighed the bad times.

Types of homeschool co-ops for high school

There are so many kinds of co-ops for homeschooling families with teens.

Here are some co-ops that we or our friends have done:

  • Some have classes for each age group (preschool, elementary, middle, high school and moms)
  • Others with classes only for homeschool high schoolers
  • Co-ops that meet at one homeschool family’s house
  • Others that rotate houses
  • Co-ops that meet at churches
  • Some that meet at libraries
  • Co-ops that meet only online
  • Easy ones that only do field trips
  • Co-ops that only do special events and sports activities
  • Special co-ops that only teach one subject (like labs for Biology or Chemistry)
  • Co-ops that only teach electives
  • Serious co-ops that only teach the core courses (Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Science, World Languages)
  • The list is endless

What’s the difference between co-ops and group classes at umbrella or hybrid schools?

We are often asked this question. It can get confusing!

Co-ops consist of families of homeschoolers joining efforts to teach. They are less formal than umbrella schools or hybrid schools. Co-ops rarely assign credit or issue transcripts. They are not usually required to be registered with the state or department of education. While many co-ops charge a fee to cover expenses, most do not operate to earn income for any of the members.

Umbrella schools have several other names:

  • hybrid schools or
  • university-model schools or
  • sometimes they are referred to as “charter schools” in some states)

These “schools” are schools that help homeschooling families with group classes, along with assistance with records and guidance. They are often run by an organization and are registered with their state or department of education in some manner.

This allows the umbrella school to officially assign credit and grades. They usually provide a transcript and help with college application references or job references, when needed. Some umbrella schools are run by volunteers and charge minimal fees, others charge tuition and a few are run as businesses.

For more information on umbrella schools, check out this episode of Homeschool Highschool Podcast.

How to start a homeschool co-op

You know that there’s not ONE right way to homeschool. It’s also true that there’s not ONE right way to start a co-op. Here’s how we have started our co-ops (Note, this information PLUS a checklist is in our FREEBIE How to Start a Homeschool Co-op):

how to start a learning coop
Click image for full description.

Click here for an excerpt from How to Start a Learning Co-op

  • Take a breath.

    • Make up your mind to have fun.
  • Pray.

    • Pray about the project. Ask God to send you families that would fit well with your family.
  • Start talking it up.

    • Whenever you are out and about where there are homeschoolers, talk about your desire to start a co-op. If there is a local support group, post information about what you want to do and your children’s ages on their chat-group or in their newsletter.
  • Invite a couple of key people over to your house to discuss the idea.

Set apart some time with the moms who are interested in co-oping.

  • Decide on a limit.

    • If you don’t need to limit to its size the first year, you will need it later. This is going to be a popular group!
  • Set apart some time with the moms who are interested in co-oping.

    • It could be an afternoon or an overnight retreat. You will need a good chunk of time in order to share ideas, brainstorm a format, and set goals. At your set-apart time:
      • Discuss
          • have one co-op day per week for 30 weeks?
          • meet once a month?
          • get together a couple of times per week?Decide your general goals. Do you want to:
  • Do you prefer to assign high school credit? (Check out our post on how to earn high school credits.)

    • It is not imperative to be in charge of assigning the credit that teens need for their co-op courses. Instead, the individual parents can keep track of coursework and hours. Then, they can assign credit themselves.
  • Decide what topics to cover.

    • You will discover what you should cover as you survey your group. It is likely that if there is a mom present in your planning group, that topic should be covered during the school year.
  • Next survey the students’ needs.

    • Do some of the high schoolers need a specific course like biology this year?
    • Also, do state regulations require you to cover certain subjects (such as Health and Safety) each year?
    • Discuss whether these are topics the co-op should cover. (The needed subjects may not be first loves to the moms, but might be areas of some skills. Or maybe they could be taught in a rotation. Mom #1 teaches in September, Mom #2 in October, Mom #3 in November, then back to Mom #1 again in December…)
  • Decide what dates and times you will meet.

    • This will be determined by a number of factors, for instance:
      • What are the extenuating circumstances? For example:
          • Does Mary go to physical therapy every Friday morning? Then co-op would not work then.
          • Is Sally working part time on Monday and Wednesday afternoons?
          • Do most of the high schoolers have debate team or other activity on Thursday afternoons?
          • Ah, well, with all those needs, probably Tuesdays are the best time!
    • While you’re at it, listen to this episode of Homeschool Highschool Podcast on starting co-ops your teens will like!
  • Choose a location.

    • Will it be at someone’s house or at a church or other location?
    • Will you rotate from house to house?
      • If you don’t do this right up front, it probably won’t get done. Once the year starts, everyone is busy trying to keep the momentum without adding something new. Also, schedules get set and it is difficult to squeeze extra things in if they are not listed up front.
      • Decide who will be the planner and point people for these events.
  • Choose field trips and dates for the field trips.

    • If you organize these before the school year begins, you will be WAY less stressed!
  • Choose celebrations and their dates.

    • Again, if it doesn’t go on the initial schedule, it is not likely to happen. However, celebrations are an important part of community building. Celebrating things like the start of the Christmas Holidays, the completion of a history unit, someone’s birthday- all these create positive memories and shared experiences that help with community identity formation.
    • Decide who will be the planner and point people for these events.
  • Provide for prayer times weekly.

    • In our co-op, the moms would pray for each other during lunch time. The kids amused themselves while we spent time together with the Lord. This became a very important time to us all- much bonding happened through the honest sharing, caring and lifting up of each other in prayer. Mostly, it felt good to be seeking God together.
    • You can also choose to do some prayer and listening-to-God times with your homeschool high schoolers if it fits the style of your co-op (watch out and try not to get preachy with them, though).
  • Decide which students will be where.

    • Now that you have decided what topics will be covered and who will be teaching each topic, you need to decide which students will be in which class. For example:
    • Imagine there are ten kids in the co-op: five high schoolers, two middle schoolers, and three elementary- aged youngsters. There are some classes the middle schoolers will enjoy attending with the high schoolers. However, if you decide to do Chemistry- middle schoolers might have panic attacks if they had to participate. Instead of Chemistry, perhaps the two middle schoolers could have a creative time- painting or music OR perhaps they could help teach the elementary children.
  • Devise a co-op day schedule.

    • Now you know everything but the exact times for everything. Make a schedule showing which student will do what, what time that will happen and when it will end. (And which room it will happen in…)
      • Take a poll. Find out who is punctual and who struggles to get places on time. This is important. If someone is late, it disrupts or delays a class, cheats all the students of learning times, and tells the on-time folks that they are not valued. If the time-strugglers are honest, everyone will know up front what to expect and can brainstorm ways for the struggler to get to co-op on time.
      • Post the schedule everywhere on co-op day for several weeks This will really help until moms and students all know where they are headed and when.
      • Don’t forget to schedule lunches! Here’s an episode of Homeschool Highschool Podcast on handling co-op lunches. Don’t miss this one!

Don't forget to schedule lunchtime!

How to run a homeschool co-op

For lots of practical planning tips for teaching homeschool co-ops, check out this post.

  • Grade with rubrics and answer keys.

    • If your co-op will be providing grades for some or all classes, then rubrics should be used. 7Sisters Writing Guides contain rubrics. All our texts include answer keys.

Homeschool Co-ops

Setting expectations

The most important part of running a homeschool co-op is setting expectations. If something is important, it should be discussed before co-op starts and explained clearly to all moms and homeschool students.

  • We discussed these with students on the first day of classes (and with moms ahead of time). We posted copies of the expectations in several places, in case anyone forgot.
  • When we outgrew our homeschool co-op that met in 7Sister Marilyn’s house, we started an umbrella school. We shared those same expectations with the homeschoolers in a more fun format: a silly video by a couple homeschool graduates who were studying film.

Facilitating Group Discussions.

Group discussion is a learned skill. Here is a post to help teach that skill to homeschool high schoolers.

If you want to make sure everything is financially legit, listen to this episode of Homeschool Highschool Podcast where Homeschool CPA, Carol Topp shares important stuff to know.

Ordering 7Sisters Homeschool curriculum for co-op? Did you know we offer a special discount to co-ops?

Have a little giggle. Read this Homeschool Co-op Acrostic.

Listen to this episode of Homeschool Highschool Podcast for MORE tips on starting a homeschool co-op for high school.

Resources for homeschool co-ops

Boy, do we have resources for you! Since all of our texts and guides have been used in homeschool co-ops and group classes (as well as individual settings), we have LOTS of posts for on how to use specific guides.

Elementary

High School Language Arts

Speech

Electives

Financial Literacy

Social Sciences

World Languages

Chemistry Lab

Troubleshooting for homeschool co-ops

While most of the time co-ops are fun, as long as there are humans in the co-op, there will be times of stress or awkwardness. How do you handle tough moments?

Even if you have a perfect child for your first born, if you have more than one, you'll find each one has an autonomous soul and mind. That you never have a child who won't need God in their lives. You'll never be the kind of parent who can guarantee and outcome. That's why we need to keep our hope shifted onto Jesus. #KendraFletcher
Click image to listen to episode.

You’ll love homeschool co-ops for high school or any age. Your teens will, too. Download 7Sisters resources for your classes and have a successful year (and don’t forget to ask for co-op discount)!

Still wondering why you should co-op? Community is so important when homeschooling. Read more in this interview with Ann Karako.

Sometimes being in a co-op can give you confidence as you begin your homeschool journey, especially for high school.

Hey, our friend, Gena, has even MORE ideas in her delightful post on homeschool co-ops at marvelous website IChoseJoy.

Thinking of using our curriculum in your co-op? More ideas on how to use the curriculum.

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Authoritative Guide to Homeschool Co-ops for High School

Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at 7SistersHomeschool.com, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

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