An article in World Magazine has prompted an interesting discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of homeschool co-ops.
For those unfamiliar with the term, a homeschool co-op is basically families joining together to engage in cooperative learning in ways that benefit both student and parent.
The only problem with assessing the value of homeschool co-ops overall is that each co-op is different. Some homeschoolers may gather together specifically for art, music, or sports activities. Others focus on the sciences, while another may center on literature, speech, and debate.
Homeschool co-ops form to address specific educational needs, including but not limited to:
- the desire for group discussion and teamwork
- social opportunities
- sharing the expense of specialized resources and equipment (such as science or sports)
- provide instruction for a subject a parent feels inadequate to teach
The concern is - Do homeschool co-ops take the 'home' out of 'homeschool'?
In the article, Jeffrey Lewis, who serves on the board of directors at Illinois Christian Home Educators, warns parents of the methodology and logical path of the co-op:
The cooperative educational structure is modeled after the institutional school. Home education is entirely different. To collapse them into one another is to deny the uniqueness of home education and render the term meaningless. The paradigm of the co-op model is the paradigm of institutional education, and merely attaching "homeschool" to the name of the institution will not change its true identity.
Karna Hoffman, a homeschooling mother of six, has a completely different view:
We have found it a great blessing to allow our children to be accountable to other teachers. It's a delegation of our authority, one that we can orchestrate... Home-educating once was young, with few resources and many obstacles. It has evolved to a higher level. Co-oping has taken some of the stress and burden off of these incredible families... If family is the building block of society, then co-oping strengthens that block.
The comments on this article offer even more perspectives. As with many options for homeschoolers, parents have the freedom to weigh the advantages and disadvantages and decide what would work best for their family. They can also test it out for a semester and see if it truly is a benefit, and if not, they can always drop out. We have the choice to take advantage of the liberty to explore some of those possibilities.