Note: Contributing writer Destiny Mawson shares her knowledge about how to start a teen homeschool co-op, which may be a great solution for your homeschool high school journey. For a further resource on how to start a co-op for younger kids, read Destiny’s comprehensive article on her own website here: How to Start a Successful Homeschool Co-op.
It’s a multiple-aged, family homeschool co-op, but looking around, something draws my eye. The elementary kids are thoroughly involved in today’s lesson on the life cycle of a strawberry, but the teens? Well, they’re all hovering in a corner.
The six-year-olds cheer when the zoo field trip is announced. The teens are underwhelmed.
Finding a homeschool co-op that is a good fit for your teen can be a challenge. The needs of teens differ from those of younger kids, and moms who haven’t entered into this stage of homeschooling may be unaware of just how much. Also, the fact that fewer parents choose to homeschool high school often makes teens the minority age group in any co-op, which usually means there are less activities and classes, if any, geared towards them.
To meet the needs of your high schooler, you may decide to start your own teen homeschool co-op. But how to go about that?
First, let’s discuss the different needs teens have from a typical homeschool co-op.
Differences of a Teen Homeschool Co-op
In a homeschool co-op that caters to younger kids, the whole co-op is run by the parents. The moms decide what classes are taught, what field trips are scheduled, and what activities are done. The co-op is administered by one or more moms who take care of logistics, set the schedule, and recruit members.
But when you are starting a homeschool co-op for teens, that changes. Teens can have an active part in the running of a teen homeschool co-op. A mom or group of moms will still oversee, but the teens can provide much input and help.
Activities in a Teen Co-op
Teens can definitely take an active role in coming up with and planning any activities. Your job as the parent is to be the advisor. You oversee their plans, make sure they are safe and doable, and give advice when necessary.
Classes in a Teen Co-op
For classes, get input about what subjects the teens would like to learn and/or which credits they need. As the parent, your role would be to find people to teach those subjects or continue to brainstorm with the teens for alternate classes if their first choice isn’t possible.
The subject matter and skill level of the classes in a teen homeschool co-op must meet requirements for junior high or high school level coursework. High school credit is typically considered around 160+ hours per credit for core courses. If your co-op is meeting once a week for a science class, then teens should be doing the remaining work at home. This is different from an elementary co-op where a once-a-week class may be sufficient.
Also, in a co-op for younger students, grades are usually a moot point. However, when taking classes that will go on a high school transcript, grades become necessary. It can be either the co-op teacher or the parent who grades the work; but in either case, the parent issues the final grade. As the parent you can choose to let the grade stand, or allow for make-up or extra credit to improve the grade.
(For more help with grading, see For the Record: How to give grades and organize documents as you homeschool high school.)
Now that you can see some of how homeschool co-ops geared towards teens differ from those for elementary students, let’s look at how to start one of your own.
Six Steps for Starting a Teen Homeschool Co-Op
Step One: Decide on the Type of Co-op
There are typically three different types of homeschool co-ops when it comes to teens:
- An academic co-op where teens get together to do classes that are better done in a group setting. (Think science labs or speech & debate.)
- A social co-op designed for homeschool teens to get together with other homeschooled teens in order to hang out or do fun activities.
- A combination co-op that combines the previous two.
Your first step is to determine which co-op experience you are looking for your teen to have. This will help you know how to structure the rest of your co-op.
Step Two: Leadership
Next, decide if you want to run the co-op solo or if you want help from other moms. It may be that you begin by yourself and then add in more people to help run it.
If you are starting the co-op with another mom or group of moms, decide on the leadership structure. Who will be in charge of what?
Strong leadership and a clear organizational structure are important for the success of any co-op.
Step Three: Location & Frequency
Location is probably the hardest step for any beginning co-op. Family homes, churches, parks, or meeting rooms are all ideas for locations. For social co-ops the location may change depending on the activity, and having a secure and recurring space may not be necessary.
Depending on the type of co-op you are starting, decide on how often you will meet. You may meet once or twice a week for classes or plan a certain number of activities a month. It’s up to you.
Step Four: Member Requirements
What will you require from your members? Think about whether you want a Code of Conduct or Statement of Faith and what those documents may say.
Is there a volunteer or time commitment for parents or families in order to participate?
Will you have a fee associated with joining or participating in classes?
Think about these questions and the answers to them. Having clear and known expectations lessens problems and confusion.
Step Five: Communication
Any co-op needs to be able to communicate with its members. With a teen co-op, you will want two forms of communication. The first is a way to communicate with parents. The second is to be able to communicate with the students. They may be different modes of communicating, such as email for parents and some form of groupchat for the teens.
Make sure you have parents’ permission to contact teens and before adding teens to any group messaging.
Step Six: Recruit Teens
The last step is to fill your co-op with members! You can advertise on the library commons board, search out members in Facebook groups for your area, or just go by word of mouth.
Some state homeschool organizations also have a place on their website where they list current homeschool co-ops in the state. I recommend checking to see if this is something your state homeschool organization does and adding your information.
Grow with Your Co-op
Once everything is in place and you have your teen homeschool co-op up and running, get ready to grow with your co-op. In the first year, you may see some areas to tweak or improve. Work on making positive changes.
A homeschool co-op that centers around teens can be a huge blessing as you move through your journey of homeschooling high school. It will allow your teen to make lasting connections, have shared experiences with other teens, and give them the social connection many teens crave.
It can also take the burden off you to teach all the things, and it connects you with other moms in the same stage as you.
Good luck starting your teen homeschool co-op!