Let me first start with the definition, in my opinion, of what a co-op is. A homeschool co-op is a group of homeschool families that come together on a regular basis - weekly, monthly, etc, to learn, teach, and socialize. It is a Co-Operative experience. Meaning that all families must participate in a teaching, assisting, leading and/or cleaning role. "Many hands make light work", "It takes a village" - use whatever cliche you like - it means generally the same thing.
This is different from a "homeschool group". When I think of a "homeschool group", I simply think of support and random gatherings. These can be a huge source of help and socialization as well - and may or may not meet on a regular basis. It could be just a FB homeschool group that you belong to for support and information, or it may be something that you meet with to gain friendships for yourself and your kids. Homeschool groups don't necessarily include teaching and classes.
Now back to co-op talk. Every co-op has a different culture - big, small, religious, secular, academic, strictly fun, etc.
It is truly like a big puzzle and your family is one of the pieces. You try to find the puzzle that your piece fits into. That does not mean that just because you didn't "fit" into that group that it isn't a good group - just not good for you and your kids. I know - I have tried several. We tried two or three groups while living in TN - just couldn't make a good fit. That was ok - we survived. Upon moving back to Oregon, we tried a group for a year, it was fine - but just never felt comfortable. This year we are trying a different group and LOVE IT!! Seriously - my kids count down the days until classes start again - and they love the get togethers with kids in between sessions. I enjoy it too - not always the extrovert - I have come to really enjoy talking with the moms and spending time with them.
Our first term I tried my hand at teaching a class for the first time. "Learning about Mexico through Art" - Thank you Deep Space Sparkle and Art Projects for Kids. I enjoyed it so much, that I taught two classes in the next term - Literature and Art and Butterfly Life Cycle. Of course part of my desire to teach classes initially was to make sure my own kids got classes that they wanted - but now I am just having fun - so I am doing for the enjoyment of it all.
Is a co-op right for you and your family? Do you have the time in your current schedule? Do you or your kids need more socialization opportunities? Are there things like art or science lab that you would like to do OUTSIDE your house? Weigh the opportunities - we have been truly blessed by both our co-op, Firmly Planted and our homeschool group - Faith at Home.
As with anything there are different seasons. Although we have loved our Firmly Planted co-op, we are feeling the need for a change in the 2017/2018 school year. What that looks like yet - I don't know - but it is always exciting to investigate new opportunities.
Do you participate in a co-op? What has been your experience?