There is nothing more confusing when you are new to the homeschooling world than to hear veteran homeschoolers use strange and never before heard terms like homeschool co-ops, support groups and regional groups.
The focus can be so much on curriculum gathering that help for you can get lost.
Knowing which groups are which will help you to decide if one is right for you.
A Look Inside
If a focus of a support group could be narrowed down to a few words it would be socialization (yes we do believe in it as homeschoolers) for the kids and support for mom.
Groups serve a very defined purpose even if they don’t intentionally advertise their purpose.
If homeschool co-ops are more academic than fun, the emphasis is still on camaraderie.
That too is a concern for a lot of new and experienced homeschoolers alike. Will my child know how to socialize in a group? Will he receive cultural experiences that I believe will enhance his love of learning?
These are valid concerns and can be successfully met if you are actively involved in support groups.
Take a look at these definitions so you can understand how each one is used in the homeschooling world.
Regional Group – This is perhaps the biggest and largest of support groups. Just like it says, it is regional.
It could be county wide, most of the state or just a portion of the state or even country.
In some larger states, regional groups may host annual homeschool conventions. In some states where local groups are limited, a regional group may host Bible Bees, Spelling Bees as well as Graduation Ceremonies. There is normally a fee to be a member.
The emphasis for most regional groups is to focus on support for the whole family. Though they most host activities, unlike a local support group, their emphasis normally is on preserving homeschooling rights and giving you support through your whole journey.
Tip: Ask the Regional Group what is their mission. There usually is a Board of Directors and some method to their communication whether it’s email, private e-loop, online newsletter and yes even some groups still prefer snail mail of newsletters. Find out and get that communication.
If a group can define their mission and the way it seeks to accomplish that mission, then prospective new members can see if it is a fit for their family.
Support Group – This term is perhaps the most general.
A support group can be anything from a private e-loop on yahoo or google plus groups that plans field trips to a meeting at the park each week by a few families.
It can have fees or no fees. Some groups may want you to sign a statement of faith or may indicate that religion is not a factor in their membership.
Some support groups act more like a group that hosts field trips and part like a larger regional group. Again, support group is a very general term, but it too has a defined purpose.
So find out what it is.
Look at some of these general questions to ask any support group:
- What is the age group preferred?
Some groups plan activities for young and old alike and the whole family is involved.
Some groups are formed specifically for tweens, others for highschoolers or preschoolers.
- What is the group preference?
For example, is it for gifted children, a specific religion or just Christians or secular?
- What are the activities hosted?
Some host field trips. Are the field trips set at regular schedules or just when the members plan them?
Examples: Are there activities to focus on a special skill like Lego building or character development or are the activities varied?
- Do they have a board of directors?
This question you basically are asking here is how organized are you without being so blunt.
Let me explain here too before I go on.
Leaders or Board of Directors are not door mats and don’t get paid normally for their service.
They render these services to the homeschooling community for a love of people.
Most Leaders I know spend countless hours planning and hosting activities (all to the exclusion of spending time with their family on weekends or weeknights).
Some Board of Directors may have been lulled into inactivity. So be sure you see a schedule of events coming up or speak to them to see what is planned.
For example some Board of Directors may be slanted by only meeting the needs of one particular group of their members.
For example, are they meeting the needs of the new homeschoolers and not just the veterans?
Are they meeting the needs of the mom with preschoolers and not just highschoolers or vice versa? It is no easy task .
A group may not possibly be meeting all of these criteria as it takes man power or like most groups woman power to do that. That is fine. As long as they meet your needs, it may be a good fit for you.
One group may not be a fit now in your journey while it may in another couple of years.
Homeschool Co-ops, Support Groups and Regional Groups
Co-op. A co-op is a class on ANY subject.
It is a group of families that get together for a purpose. Co-ops are as varied as support groups.
They can be informal and just for fun or serious and supervised more like private schools.
They can be on any topic and can form and dissolve each year based on the needs of the area and those that are willing to lead them.
They can be held once a week, once a month, or every day.
Look at some of these specific questions to ask a homeschool co-op group:
- What is your focus?
The emphasis is on fun and socialization on the co-op I was lead.
We have so many members we feel they each prefer their own method of schooling or academics. So when we meet, we spend more time doing games, listening to speakers about certain topics, learning to square dance or even learning to draw.
Some groups are more academic focus and this can be a huge advantage to a mom that is overwhelmed or feeling unprepared on a subject.
For example, the co-op can meet for preparing for the SAT. It can meet to help homeschoolers with math. Too, for science you may dissect an animal.
- What is the cost?
- How long do they meet?
- Do you want parents involved?
The co-op we lead is not a drop off service. We require parents to be involved. Some co-ops are more like private schools and parents are not required to be present.
You can navigate these groups better by defining what you want too from each group.
Remember there is not a limit on how many groups you can join.
Which groups will you belong to this year?
Hugs and love ya,
Check out some more tips!
5 Days of a Homeschooling Co-op Convert