4 Drawbacks of Joining a Homeschool Co-op

By Melissa Batai

I started homeschooling in 2013 when my kids were just 9, 5, and 3. One of the first things I did was join a local homeschool co-op. So began my ambivalent journey into the world of co-ops. In the seven years we’ve been homeschooling, we have been part of four different co-ops, and honestly, my feelings about joining them are mixed. Keep in mind, I’m an introverted mom so that colors my feelings. However, in my experience, there are four major drawbacks of joining a homeschool co-op.

You May Not Be Able to Choose Your Own Curriculum

There are primarily two types of homeschool co-ops. One type is educational. This type of co-op has classes such as writing, history, public speaking, etc. You may need to buy a specific book, and your kids may have homework and preparation to do before each co-op session.

When you join this type of co-op, trying to do your own homeschool with the curriculum you choose is difficult. For time management's sake, you will probably just want to use the curriculum that the co-op requires. However, there’s a good chance that curriculum isn’t the type you would have chosen yourself. Using curriculum for a semester or a year that isn’t a good fit for your family just because it’s what the co-op chose is painful.

The second type of co-op is based around extracurriculars. This is my favorite type, but I haven’t had much luck finding them. Only one of the four co-ops we joined was this type. My kids had fun taking gymnastics, art, and theater at this co-op.

Co-ops Can Be Time Consuming

Most co-ops require that parents contribute in some way, usually by teaching a class. This can often require an hour or two of prep time outside of class in addition to teaching the class.

For instance, when I joined our second co-op, I used my experience as a former English teacher to teach a high school literature class. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching this small group of high schoolers. They were attentive and always prepared for class.

What I didn’t enjoy was all of the backend work. We were using a Sonlight curriculum, which meant we were covering a novel every week or two. During that semester, I had to read the 10 novels we covered and create lesson plans to go with those books as well as grade papers. It was a lot, especially when I had to also homeschool my own kids daily and manage my part-time work. Not to mention the one day a week we attended co-op and couldn’t do our own homeschool that day.

You May Not Like the Classes Offered

If you belong to a relatively small co-op, the number of classes offered may be extremely limited. You may find that there is only one class offered to a certain age range at a certain time. By default, you have to take that class, but it may not be interesting for your kids. Now, not only are you taking time away from your regular homeschool to attend co-op, but your kids are also attending a class that you really don’t care about.

There Can Be Cliques and Drama

Because many families remain in a co-op for years, you will likely find that the kids and parents are a bit cliquey. At our last co-op we attended, I only talked to one mom regularly, and that was because we taught together. The rest of the moms said “hi,” but we rarely had conversations beyond that.

Likewise, my daughters had trouble making friends because the other kids had been together for so long and were so close that they didn’t need to try to make new friends.

Final Thoughts

Many homeschool parents love belonging to a co-op and recommend joining. However, my experience has been mixed. Now that our kids are in 11th, 6th, and 5th grade, I don’t foresee joining another co-op.

Have you joined a homeschool co-op? If so, what has your experience been like?