Homeschooling is becoming more and more popular thanks to the internet and the low quality of public education. The internet offers plenty of resources to help Moms and Dads everywhere put together the very best educational standards for their children. It has also provided the means for other homeschooling parents to connect and exchange ideas. For many parents, this means the days of isolation and loneliness are over. We can find the information we need to help our children, or we can find someone else who knows.
Some Moms are taking it a step further. Community groups of homeschool educators are forming all over the place. This means that we can open our homes up to other kids and parents to facilitate more group learning. Or, we meet in a neutral building. In the US, these homeschool classrooms are called co-ops.
In effect, we are creating the classroom experience within our homeschool. For some this is hugely beneficial and a positive experience. You can meet other parents with similar lifestyles and ideas in person. You can spend time with them as friends. And your children can enjoy the social experience of learning with others. But isn’t this part of what you were trying to avoid?
There are many homeschool educators that prefer to teach their own children. It can avoid the rigidity and distractions of mainstream educational establishments. So how would a homeschool classroom be any different? Here are the pros and cons of teaching your children with others:
A classroom with children other than your own can be an exciting place to learn. There will be a renewed energy for the activities. Other children have different expectations, experiences and strengths to your own. This can make life a little hard in the classroom at times, trying to adapt ideas and activities to suit so many participants. And the children that are disinterested can quickly become bored and distracting to the other children.
A classroom setting, rather than the kitchen table, is also more educationally beneficial. You may have a room dedicated to studying, experiments and learning. Older children may benefit from teacher-led activities such as presentations and lectures. Perhaps your classroom has rows of chairs like those from companies like Classroom Essentials Online? This can work well to focus the attention of the audience to the speaker. But is it too rigid?
Many homeschool enthusiasts prefer the teaching model led by the students. The things in life that interest the child are explored in depth and provide for many areas of the curriculum. The child effectively directs the educator who in turn offers resources rather than lessons. It’s more about self-discovery. Can a classroom setting truly facilitate that? It’s worth considering the input of a child’s peers. Their enthusiasm for different topics, subjects, and hobbies could inspire your own children.
When you teach your children alone at home, this provides a very focused and tailored education model. Perhaps you’re feeling that your kids are missing out on the wisdom or variety offered by other teachers? Why not consider a homeschool classroom? Bringing other parents in to deliver fresh ideas and new approaches can be very useful. Many parents already do this. A classroom environment could provide all the resources needed to expand this further.
This involves the letting go of the educational reins. Other people will approach teaching, learning and education in different ways. These methods may go against your preferences. They may not be best aligned with your child’s preferences either. But until you try it, you won’t know. There are so many wonderful home educators out there. Many are parents just like you with the same ideals and goals. You are a valuable resource to your children. Other parents could be just as valuable.
You could become a much-appreciated resource to other children, too. Expanding your teaching skills can be inspiring and motivating for you. We all feel a bit stale and bored with things from time to time. Approaching education with other children in mind can be just the refresher you need. In some places, educating larger numbers of children in a formal capacity may require registration. You may be considered to be a school. Check with your local authority.
Field trips can always be the cause of a lot of worries. Sure, they’re your own kids, and you’ll do all you can to protect them. But it is still difficult to juggle the different activities to intend to complete as well as making sure learning is taking place. Smaller children can be over-excited about the change of venue, and be determined to engage in activities you’re not so keen on! So what happens when you add another family or two to the mix?
You can take advantage of a second or third homeschooler by splitting the kids up by age. This means each parent can really focus on the tasks relevant to the curriculum. Hopefully, it will mean that each child gets a lot more out of the time you are there. The other parents will also have their own resources and ideas to add to the mix, bringing more choice to your own teaching. And child-led learning with their peers may inspire them to find new interests.
This can also cut into your valuable family bonding time. Do you like to have family outings that create wonderful family memories? Perhaps it would be intrusive to invite another homeschooled family along. And for children that are wary or shy of others, it can make the experience quite unpleasant. Being out with another family encourages you all to come back together afterwards to discuss things. If having others in your home doesn’t suit you then this may not be practical.
Another major problem with co-educating is that both families are then committed to a timed schedule. The freedom to dip in and out of lessons, to self-explore, or to allow the child to fully lead their learning may be lost. Strict school hours and rigid lesson hours are part of what many home educators want to avoid. If you make an appointment to meet up with another family, you are then required to fit in with a more rigid plan. This can be particularly difficult when working with a child who has special needs.
You may be the one who needs to start dinner at a particular time or pick up other children from school. Your routines may be disruptive to another homeschool Mom’s schedule. It’s difficult to find that balance and that freedom to dip in and out as your child needs. How do you know if your child will be ready for learning at a particular time of the day? Would they be more receptive later on or earlier? You know your children better than anyone. Coordinating the hours you wish to co-teach should be possible if you can discuss this in detail first.
Older children may benefit from appointment based learning. As they approach the age for employment, keeping appointments for interviews and core work hours is important. If you’ve always adopted a flexi-fit model of child-led learning, why not try a schedule for a few days with another parent? You can start with a one hour slot each morning if that suits everyone.
Home educating is hard enough without having other families involved. However, don’t cut yourself off from the families near you that also homeschool. You may be missing out on some wonderful opportunities and resources. It can be tricky to make friends and find the perfect fit. And a homeschool classroom (or co-op) isn’t for everyone. Give it a go and see if it works for you.