How to Come Up with Co-op Classes

You and your fellow homeschoolers are interested to cooperating together to do some group activities or classes, but you wonder where you can find ideas for the best classes for your particular blend of students?

1 — Borrow ideas from other sources, then modify those ideas to fit your group.
Start with my list, talk to other homeschoolers and other groups, browse through homeschooling websites, or just let your mind wander. Adapt things to a larger or smaller scale to fit your group’s students. Scale back information for your younger students, or expand the scope for your older students.

2 — Poll families in your group for ideas, suggestions, and abilities.
Whether you hand out informal surveys at a Moms’ Meeting or request that members call your “idea committee” with their suggestions, learning the desires of your member families (parents and students) will provide a good starting list: I’d enjoy a group class about… I have trouble teaching… I’d like my kids to know more about… Brainstorming sessions with other parents and students can bring up a surprising amount of information: I have this hobby… I know how to… I know a person who can do…

3 — Favorites and standby’s
— Our group tried to do a musical or play or a program of vocal music each year, rehearsing throughout a semester. This type of activity is a favorite both with students and parents: the children enjoy it as a fun, non-textbook experience, and the parents love seeing their children blossom with newfound confidence and abilities that may be difficult to impart at home.
Team sports were another regular standby, allowing the students to continue developing their abilities in basketball or volleyball. Players and non-players alike benefited from seeing teamwork in action. Non-players were recruited into supporting roles for managing competitions and concession stands.
— Many of our families felt writing was their weakest area of teaching, so we tried to have some form of writing classes each year: journalism, creative writing, poetry, novel writing, etc. The group classes provided the students with friendly, non-threatening competition and a wonderful melting pot of ideas.
Art classes were another favorite among the students, and we had several Moms who were able and willing to give basic instructions.

4 — Strive to provide the areas that are difficult to do/organize.
Some things are worthy of your efforts, even though they are not easily done, spur of the moment events. Yearly photos and testing are examples of events that require no talent other than organization from your member pool. Often with events like these, many parents are needed for traffic-flow, crowd-control, or just to serve as room monitors. A parent who shies from the task of teaching a large group of students may not hesitate at making the series of phone calls required to set up an event led by someone else.
— Science (group lab experiences)
— Hands-on history (field trips or special events)
— Standardized testing
— “School” photos

5 — Utilize or follow the natural inclinations of your group’s students.
Aeronautics, fashion history, and journalism were the strong interests of some of our students. We often allowed an older student to teach a single session class in his favorite field, sharing his knowledge and interest with the others. We took field trips and held multiple session classes to explore other favorite fields and spread the enthusiasm around to other students.

6 — This is a good idea; let’s find a way to teach it.
Discover your “growing edge” by daring to tackle something new. I have been a fan of the space program ever since NASA launched their first manned rocket, but I never dreamed I would lead dozens of children on a virtual trip into space! One Mom suggested it, we asked a few questions, did a little research, made a few phone calls, and I soon found myself spearheading an endeavor taking upper elementary through high school students on a space shuttle simulation trip to the moon. The hard part was all handled by professionals at a science museum, and I just coordinated the logistics of dozens of parents and their students (with my daughter’s capable tutoring in computer databases), telling them who had to be where at what time. It was a great idea, and we found the way to make it happen.

Another time I mentioned an educational game my children enjoyed playing, and asked if anyone else would be interested in it. Suddenly I was challenged with revamping the table game into a team sport, building a scoreboard, and posting the needed information to a website for the students to download. Again, we had a good idea and modified it to fit our group.

7 — Do not allow 1 or 2 dissenters to veto a perfectly good idea.
If you have majority support for the class, interested students, a willing and able teacher, and all the necessities (access to any required special materials or locations) for holding the class, then do it! One or two objectors should not be permitted to ruin a good opportunity for all the others by whining until they get their way. Encourage any who disagree with the idea to make alternate plans for the day, then proceed.

One time, children from a certain family were enthusiastically participating in a long-term group project when one aspect of it brought strong objections from their father. Those students withdrew, their vital positions were filled by other students, and the project was allowed to continue for the benefit of the group. However, I was very nervous for a while, worrying that the entire group could actually be forced to sacrifice their united efforts for the beliefs of one person.

Ideas for classes can come from the most unusual sources. Even the smallest of ideas can be expanded to fill an hour of time, and larger ideas can be spread over several meeting periods. Once you have an idea for a co-op class, talk to others in your group and see what they think. Do not be intimidated by a lack of experience. Everything was done for the “first” time sometime. Seek input for ideas, then seek help in transforming those ideas into reality. If the idea is good, surely you can find a way to make it work.

[For more detailed information on organizing co-op classes, see Co-op Classes: A Primer. For general information on cooperative classes and group activities, visit Topical Index: Co-op Groups.]

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