It’s September — autumn is just around the corner! You’re probably already in full swing with your daily homeschool routine, and if you’re participating in any homeschool co-op or enrichment activities, you’ve probably started your fall schedule by now.
However, if your weekly schedule isn’t already jam-packed, and you’re noticing that a social/academic enrichment opportunity would serve your family well this semester, why not start a simple homeschool co-op yourself? A few months back I shared five steps to start a homeschool co-op, as well as how to set up a simple book club co-op, based on my experience establishing our girls book club co-op last year. This month, I’m giving you five more easy yet effective homeschool co-op ideas to help you get the ball rolling.
Easy Homeschool Co-Op Idea #1: Group Presentation Days
Group presentation days have been an important part of our homeschooling life, and I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in one since we joined our local homeschooling group. The setup is simple and straightforward: We have a host family who holds all elementary (K-6) presentation days at their home once a month. Nothing fancy: We sit in chairs and couches in the living room. Children have a time limit of three minutes and they are free to present anything of interest or that they are working on at home, as long as speaking is involved (not a talent like singing, dancing, or playing an instrument). Visual aids are recommended but not required.
My family loves participating in presentation days. For starters, it’s entertaining to watch: Some of the kids are simply charismatic and fun when they are “on stage.” It’s also educational: We’re always learning new things from the other presenters, and my daughters have developed better speaking skills and comfort in front of a mixed group.
Hosting a presentation day requires very little preparation and coordination other than an agreeable date/time and location. Even if it’s just you and another homeschooling family, it can still be a valuable learning experience for your children — and a fun social opportunity for the participating families. See my post, “What’s Working: Group Presentation Days,” for more on how to make a group presentation day successful for everyone involved.
Easy Homeschool Co-Op Idea #2: Group Sports & Park Days
We are very blessed in the city of Castle Rock to have a homeschooling family in our support group that runs an organized PE program — PE Plus — specifically for homeschoolers. They offer two days per week in Castle Rock, as well as classes in three other cities in the South Denver area. My girls participate once a week in a co-ed upper elementary age group, where they learn a variety of team sports, experience team work, and learn about personal fitness.
However, if you don’t have an organized program near you, you can start a PE co-op with a more simplified activity plan. Parents can take turns leading the children in sports in which they have special skill (such as baseball/softball, soccer, or track), or you can just meet at the park each week and choose a different sport activity. Most parks have basketball and volleyball courts, soccer and baseball fields, trails for running and biking, and the beloved playground and monkey bars.
When the weather doesn’t permit playing outside, you can utilize the local recreation center. Meet as a group for free swimming time, family basketball court time, foursquare, etc. Go roller skating or bowling as a group. If you’ve got snow on the ground, meet at a park with sledding hills or a local ice-skating rink.
Like a presentation day host, a PE or Sports Co-Op host would mainly coordinate: where you’ll meet, what you’ll do when you meet, and what participating parents are doing to help out.
Easy Homeschool Co-Op Idea #3: Cooking
Because my eldest daughter loves to cook and bake, we have talked about starting a cooking co-op several times — we just haven’t found the right time. Our girls’ book club did a couple of easy cooking projects (making molasses candy and decorating cake pops) and a Christmas cookie exchange — all it takes is a kitchen, simple recipes and ingredients, and an experimental attitude!
There are several kid-friendly cookbooks out there that can become a ready-made cooking co-op subject, such as Eat Your Way Around the World, Eat Your Way Through the USA, and The Little House Cookbook. Cooking is such a great way to integrate hands-on learning with topics such as math, geography, and history.
To coordinate a cooking co-op, you don’t have to limit yourself to your home kitchen — although that’s probably the easiest approach! You might be able to use a local church kitchen or a recreation facility that has a kitchen on-site. The larger the kitchen, the more cooks you can accommodate. Some kitchen projects (such as cookie or cupcake baking) might be done at home, with decorating done together as a group.
Easy Homeschool Co-Op Idea #4: Arts & Crafts
Have you ever participated in a monthly scrapbooking, card-making, or quilting club? Why not do the same thing as an enrichment co-op for homeschooling families? For this co-op, the possibilities are only limited by what supplies you have access to and finding adequate space to work in.
If you find that there’s a variety of crafting skills among the homeschooling moms you know, you can choose to rotate teaching different craft skills. Or if you’re not a particularly crafty bunch, choose ready-to-go craft kits from hobby stores or pick simple projects off Pinterest. My girls’ book club chose to rotate in a crafting day once a month, and we did everything from making dressed corn cob dolls to painting mason jars on my back patio.
You can also take a look at what’s offered in your local area. If your local craft store offers Saturday events for children, you can plan to attend as a group (call ahead to make sure there’s enough room). Recreation centers often host crafting workshops, too. You can also ask a craft consultant (such as Creative Memories or Stampin’ Up) to put on a class for you at a location that they like to use.
Easy Homeschool Co-Op Idea #5: State Explorers
Think field trips meet “staycations” — you can develop a co-op with the focus of exploring your state’s most interesting attractions. Many states have children’s tourism information already gathered online for you, complete with related activities, vocabulary, trivia, and more. On a recent impromptu trip to Wyoming, I found lots of resources and touring suggestions on this Wyoming 4 Kids web site.
Depending on where you live, you can give your traveling co-op some focus, such as history, culture and arts, botany, wildlife, etc. Living in Colorado, I have had plans to do a Colorado geology co-op for more than a year, but it just hasn’t come together yet. My girls developed an appreciation for geology by “rock-hounding” and panning for gold with their grandpa, and they love to camp and hike. We’d love to share that experience and knowledge with other families at some point soon!
I hope this list of five easy homeschool co-op ideas inspires you to think out of the box about starting a co-op of your own. A homeschool co-op definitely does not have to be about replicating a “classroom” environment indoors with shared traditional teaching responsibilities. Working together with other homeschooling families in a variety of hands-on learning experiences as a group is resourceful, enjoyable, and practical!
Do you currently participate in a homeschool co-op of any kind? If so, what do you like most about it? What would you change? If not, which of these co-op ideas sounds most appealing to you and would meet the needs of your family? What other homeschool co-op ideas have you thought about initiating?