Homeschool cooperatives come in all shapes and sizes. Some families adore their coop experience and others avoid them like the plague. If you are attending a cooperative for the first time or are well seasoned co-oper, here are some tips to make it a great experience.
1.Know the start and end time of classes.
This seems a silly thing to post but your coop teachers are there on time (usually volunteering) to provide your children with a great learning experience. Arriving and ending on time shows others that you value their effort and time. There is nothing worse than signing up for a class and having to leave early because it conflicts with your other child’s music lesson, or being consistently late for a class because it interferes with your toddlers nap time or your work schedule.
Teachers should make their best effort to attend at each class session. Teachers are often busy with their own kids and inevitably, someone will get sick and they will need to miss a class. Email your students and parents and the coopertive directors as soon as you know you can’t attend, so other arrangements can be made. Familiarize yourself with the coop’s guidelines on repeated absences if there are any.
2.Research any added supply fees or needed supplies not found on the class listing.
Supply fees for classes are usually stated in the registration process. Sometimes additional supplies are needed outside the stated cost. Be sure to check which week they are needed and if you are able bring extras please do so — someone always forgets and other mom’s will appreciate the thought and help. Ask your cooperative director what stock items they need replaced and donate them if you are able. Crayons, pencils, paints, glue sticks, paper, tissues and wipes are always needed items and help to keep costs down if donated.
3.Understand what the class fees cover.
Cooperatives usually need to cover high insurance costs, building/rent costs, technology costs, cleaning supplies, stock items like crayons and pencils, printing costs, advertising, electricity and other necessessities (like toilet paper!) and paper towels. Some cooperatives pay teachers as well, others are on an all volunteer basis.
4.Know the rules, read the handbooks and volunteer.
Many cooperatives have their own building but others rent space or share space with other tenants sometimes in a church or office building. Landlords set the rules as to what areas are accessible and the general building and property rules due to their own liabilty. If using shared space, be aware of offices in use, noise levels, playground rules, off limit areas and traffic patterns in the parking lots. Be sure you make yourself familiar with the property and adhere to rules and guidelines set by the building managers and cooperative program.
Cooperative directors, committees, teachers and admins spend lots of time creating handbooks so that participants have all the information they need to get started and have a successful experience. Information on parking, directions, class expectations and where to eat lunch are usually included. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the handbook and contact a director or teacher if you have questions.
Most cooperatives have a volunteer component. It takes hundreds of hours in preparation and in the everyday running of a cooperative to make it successful. Volunteers are needed for many jobs whether it’s clean up, a second adult in the classroom, teaching, sweeping floors, corraling kids or restocking supplies. Lift a hand when you can!
5.Don’t overshedule.
Some cooperatives require you to be there all day, others allow you to register for only one class. Know your child. Some thrive in an all day setting, others may only do well in one class or a smaller or larger cooperative program. Watch for signs of tiring and adjust as necessary. Bring lots of water, bring snacks for when energy runs low, bring quiet activities for down time and bring coffee for you!
6.Let children choose classes when possible.
Class descriptions are usually posted weeks ahead of the registration process. Let children choose classes that interest them. Class experiences are enhanced when children have chosen what interests them. For the very young, get them excited about being with others and class time.
7.If your cooperative experience is fantastic — tell everyone. If it’s not —tell the director or program manager.
Cooperative programs are a lot to manage. If there is something that needs attention, please speak with a director or program manager or teacher so the situation can be addressed. We want your experience to be happy and fulfilling and strive everyday to make it so. And if you adore  your cooperative program, share the information with others and be sure to thank volunteers. Nothing makes us more happy than happy kids and parents.
Happy Homeschooling!
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