This may be a rant, and if either it (my rant) or me, isn't your cup of tea, I understand.
I don't know what happened to co-ops. Before I say another word, if you have a co-op you love then by all means love it. It's all good. You can just skip this article entirely. If however co-ops are a source of stress to your day, or if you are starting to realize that you just chose a different kind of school set up for your kids and that was never your intention, then maybe give this some consideration.
I used to run and participate in co-ops and a couple I even enjoyed. They were small, very small. They were in our homes. (If your house isn't big enough make friends with someone who has a bigger house)
They were born out of very specific interests that our children had and a desire to spend time with their best friends. So three or four close friends and I got together and decided to do a study together. So simple. So effective. Not burdensome. The best times were the ones when we met in the evening and included - brace yourself - the DADS!! Shared a meal, paired off for different projects and things. Good times.
Co-ops now are essentially school. They are, even the ones that are "mostly" enrichment. I've been kind of quietly railing against this co-op trend for many years but this week I was really heartbroken to learn that a co-op I once was involved in and helped launch several years ago has become a full blown private school. It actually divided into two different camps and one of them evolved into the school.
They are thrilled. I am not. I'm sad. I'm sad that those moms aren't choosing the beautiful life that homeschooling can be. Clearly it's what they want and they certainly have the freedom to do it. I'm NOT suggesting they supplant my choices for theirs. But at the same time we all have areas in our lives that are really amazing and we wish those experiences for other people. I don't know how anyone in the whole world has a happy, life-long marriage without Christ at the center. I want that for other people, but I don't need to force it on them. My feelings about what people are missing out on by not homeschooling in a stay-at-home-teach-your-own-not-schooly-way are similar to my feelings about about how a Christ centered marriage is really amazing. I just wish they knew how great it can be.
Homeschooling isn't just about the education you are giving your kids, it isn't even MOSTLY about the education you are giving your kids. Oh how that misses the point entirely!
It's about the impact of being at home with their mother (or father) all day everyday and learning together. It's about shifting a child's focus away from peers and back to their family. That alone changes the game. It's about limiting outside environments and focusing in on the specific needs of each child at home. It's gotten so lost.
Co-ops seem to have caused a mass surrender to the socialization question. HS moms still joke about it but the joke now is that homeschoolers have access to and do all the things that public school kids do. Which was never the point! I hear it and I roll my eyes so hard they may never roll back to their natural position.
It used to be when people asked us this ridiculous socialization question we would answer "Our kids participate in the world as we live our life." Because THAT IS ENOUGH. Now homeschool parents scoff at the question and then reply that they do co-op two days a week, PE, Park Days, field trips, scouts, ballet, baseball and a whole host of other activities that take the children out of the home and away from mom to engage in the socializing we spent decades arguing children didn't need. Their rebuttal actually validates the question.
There are a whole host of reasons I don't like co-ops anymore. I don't like the trend in general to recreate school in any capacity. This past week I talked with a homeschool mom who lives in a huge homeschooling area but everyone does Classical Conversations. She is the odd man out. It's bizarre to me, BIZARRE that someone actually staying home and doing homeschool at home without outside teachers, expensive curriculum, classes, fees, etc is the odd man out. What happened?
When did Co-ops, co-opt Homeschool? It's been a slow burn.
I know some people love it. If you do then this post is probably not going to inspire you at all. If you are scratching your head the way that I am though - know this you can step out, or continue to stay away and rest in knowing you are more than enough for your children.
Some food for thought. You know the word de-school, right? Undoing the school mindset. Well spending a few years in co-ops and then for whatever reason opting out creates the same effect of leaving school. Life happens. Sometimes teens have peer issues and don't want to continue. Sometimes a couple kids are burned out but others want to keep going. People get ill, move, change jobs, the co-ops morph, new people take over, a million things can bring about the change. Moms just get tired of being on someone else's schedule or having to volunteer to watch other people's kids when the whole point was to be home with their own. Maybe they are tired of teaching other people's kids or dealing with parents. At some point the co-op time often ends. When it does moms will scramble to fill the void. Kids have spent years being peer focused and peer influenced and now they NEED that time. Kids don't trust their mom to teach certain subjects or they prefer their co-op teachers. It happens and it's no different than schooling. You have to de-school from this as well.
Please know, you can homeschool without ANY of these things. I'm missing very much what homeschooling used to be and grieving for what it's become. I know many moms seek out these options out of fear they can't teach a subject. Unless we are talking about high school advanced science and math this shouldn't be an issue. Those subjects are another discussion and that discussion involved dual enrollment at a Community College. You are enough. you are capable.
Co-ops are part of the trend that homeschoolers really need to wake up and recognize. Homeschool curriculum that embraces and promotes Common Core. Co-op classes that supplant other teachers for the parents (yes even if they are parents too), homeschools that run like schools, homeschoolers scrambling to participate in public school sports and extra-curricular activities, wanting vouchers, agonizing over being "behind" or at grade level, and what counts as a credit. Just makes me very sad. You can abandon all of it.
This was an organic, fierce, rebellion of a movement. It stood in contrast to the artificial forced socialization of children, lumping them in with people born in the same 12 month window as they were because they need it - they don't. It was a stark contrast to the rigor and rote memory that is applauded in the school system, the quest for good grades which indicate nothing more than a child was able to regurgitate the correct answers on the right day at the right time before dumping it to learn new things they will forget next week. The parents mindlessly telling children what they need to learn at this age and this grade because that's what the publisher of the curriculum they purchased decided. It was something very different than what it is today. Homeschooling was very different.
My focus from now on in this movement is trying to undo and roll back these trends one family at a time. I know it's a losing battle. I know. But I also know I'm not alone. There are people who know in their gut this isn't homeschooling the way it was intended (even if that's what it is now) and those people I can work with and support.
Moms, you are more than enough. Staying home and selecting a few activities that allow your children to develop close, personal friendships (and not just run around in the gym) is a good and useful life. It will bear good fruit. Doing the life you are living, going to church, volunteering, spending time with your friends as families and learning everyday together at home, it's enough.