A homeschool co-op (from the word cooperative) is generally comprised of a group of parents who work together to provide specific aspects of education for their children. It's a way to utilize your talents and interests for the benefit of others.
What kind of talents and interests are shared in a co-op?
For example, one parent might be strong in English and literature, while another is weak in that area but strong in math. Another parent in the group might have artistic or musical talents. These three parents could form a co-op – offering an exchange of services. The number of families in a co-op can range from just 2-3, to dozens of families.
Does a co-op teacher need to be certified?
Most co-ops do not care about certification, they are homeschoolers afterall. Specific state homeschooling laws might dictate certification requirements depending on how the co-op is set up, so check your state's laws on teaching other children besides your own. There are often ways to get around these restrictions by calling it "private tutoring" rather than "teaching".
Where do they teach?
Most teach in their home, but some will find space in a church, library, or other facility.
How often does a co-op meet?
Usually co-ops meet once or twice a week, or some even meet less often depending on the nature of the subjects being taught.
What does a co-op cost?
Sometimes parents exchange freely, and other times there is a cost involved. If they need to rent space, there will be a cost. And there is the cost of the materials. The group will decide whether each parent will be provided a materials list to obtain the supplies themselves, or just pay the instructor to get all the supplies so that the specific class is cohesive. There are no "rules" to how it should be done – each co-op group decides what is best for the families.
Do co-ops keep transcripts and records?
Generally, no. Parents are responsible for keeping their own records.
What if you have a lot of families who want to participate?
Where things get more sticky is when you have more than a handful of families. Everyone wants to offer a talent or skill, but how many history instructors do you need in one co-op? At that point an advisory board or committee is usually formed to decide how to set up fees for the parents who are not exchanging with instruction but still want their children to take part in the classes.
Where do you find a co-op?
You can reach out to find co-ops in your area by first visiting your library and learning who the homeschool group leaders are. Generally the childrens librarian knows because one of the homeschooler's top 5 tools should be their library. If you can't find anything there, try searching online for groups in your area.
What if you can't find a co-op?
You can start one yourself if you can find a couple of families who are willing to exchange talents.