Monday, February 25, 2013

Support Groups and Co-Ops: Are They Necessary

Homeschool Support Groups and Co-Ops, in my opinion, have value and can be valuable.  You may also come to a time and a place where they may not be as valuable.  It is a matter of personal preference and personality.

Our family has been members of a homeschool support group and a co-op ever since we began homeschooling.  In the beginnning I felt they were necessary, more for me than for the boys because I needed the input of other moms, moms who had been homeschooling longer than me, who could encourage and advise me and answer questions I had.

When I began homeschooling, like every other mom who begins homeschooling, I had my fears and doubts about doing things right and being sure that I was teaching enough to the boys so that someone wouldn't point their finger at me and tell me I wasn't doing a good enough job and have to put them back into a school.  By the way, yes, my first two boys did start out in a private Christian school, but when that didn't seem to be working as well as we had expected, we decided we needed to find out more about homeschooling.  I contacted an acquaintance whom I knew was homeschooling her two boys and she was more than happy to tell me all about it and lend me books to read on the subject as well.  She even took me to my first homeschool convention.  During the summer prior to the start of our homeschooling journey, I also met another homeschooling mom while sitting at the public pool waiting for our children to finish swimming lessons, and she told me about one of the local homeschool support groups and allowed me to borrow a copy of the homeschool newsletter that provides information on every homeschool support group and co-op in the county.

We decided to become a part of a local homeschool support group and co-op to help me as I was new to all of this, and to help the boys still be able to make and build some friendships, even though we were regularly attending and very active in our church as well.  We enjoyed the co-op and the fellowship, it provided for us, with other homeschool families.  I enjoyed teaching some classes and the boys enjoyed taking some classes.

Through the support group, we also participated in a cell group in those early years, which was a lot of fun, because that was a small group, and we met once or twice a month and did things together like:  field trips, art projects, play dates, picnics and a Couple's Valentine Dinner for the parents, and a couple of community service projects.

As the boys grew older, we did decide that the cell group wasn't as necessary.  We have remained with a co-op, mostly so that the boys could get their high science classes at co-op, so that I wouldn't have to teach them.  Science labs are too costly and in depth for me to want to do with just one child at our kitchen table.  Math is not my strong subject either, but there are lots of great curriculums to choose from that provide everything someone like me needs to teach math to my boys. I still also enjoy being able to teach some classes to more than two children at a time, and I now I like to be the one encouraging the new homeschool moms along their way.

We also remained a part of a homeschool support group because the one we belong to has some great sports programs.  Our oldest boy has played soccer ever since he was four years old, and our second boy has played basketball for quite some time now, and he has played soccer for a couple of years and the oldest played basketball a couple of years.  The youngest has tried both, but has no real interest in either at this point.  But, he loves anything related to art, and I can teach some of that at home, but there are some great co-op classes for that as well.

I have a friend who was part of a co-op for many years as well, but has recently decided they don't really need that anymore.

So, sometimes it is good for a season, sometimes it is good until graduation, and sometimes it doesn't fit at all.  I think the main reason that co-ops were started was because of everyone worrying about the socialization of homeschoolers, which is silly AND another post.  And I am sure that the homeschool support groups were started for the purpose that they are still so valuable for, and that is to help, encourage and support those just starting out and feeling insecure about their newly chosen homeschool path.

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