When I was 14 my dad decided to start going to church on a recommendation from one of his close friends. What started was an amazing journey that I will always be thankful for. Read more about that here. Inside that house of God we had our first glimpses of homeschool families that were really making it work. It was a bizarre new world, but my dad and I were intrigued.
After doing a ton of research and talking with several homeschool families we decided to take the plunge. I was a Freshman in high school at the time. It was a natural fit for me. I loved reading for hours on end anyway, and I was always an above average student – homeschooling was just a breath of fresh air from the mundane noise of public school.
So, all of this was taking place in the early 2000s and homeschooling co-ops were not that prevalent – at least not in my small part of the world. It wasn’t something that we considered because we had no idea they existed. It wasn’t until I began the homeschooling journey with my boys that I first heard about homeschool co-ops.
In the Fall of 2016, my oldest son was going to be starting kindergarten and my youngest was going to be starting preschool. Even though I had been through the homeschooling process myself I started to worry about socialization for my boys – mostly because I was getting pressure from a few different people who did not approve of our decision. My husband and I set about looking for different programs and groups to get the boys involved in to help appease the unapproving crowd. It was around this time that a childhood friend of my husbands wrote a post on Facebook about homeschooling. She was a mom of 4 who had recently pulled her children out of public school to start their homeschooling journey. She felt the need to post all of this because there were several people in her life who did not approve of the decision. I started to get excited. Being a homeschooling student is easy – you do your assignments and activities and you’re done, but being a homeschooling parent is a completely different ball game. You have fears and worries everyday, and to see that I was not alone in this made my heart soar.
My husband ended up reaching out to his friend via Facebook Messenger, because she was getting rid of some school desks and we just so happened to need a couple. While they were talking about the desks she let him know about a homeschool co-op that was just beginning near us, and asked if we would be interested. My husband and I talked about it at length. He looked to me for answers on this one and I didn’t have any because I’ve never been a part of a homeschool co-op. When we went to pick up the desks we got to talk with her a little bit more about the co-op and what it was all about. We found out that she and two other moms were the founding members, they were leaning on Jesus to guide this whole process, and they were praying for just 10 families to start.
We went home that day discussing this possibility. Was it the right move for us?
After numerous conversations, tons of research on homeschool co-ops, and a lot of prayer on my part we decided that we would give it a try. It couldn’t hurt anything and there wasn’t really a huge obligation. We didn’t have to sign a contract, so if it didn’t work out we could just walk away.
The first meeting of all the moms was exciting. We learned that in order to be a part of this co-op everyone had to help out. We would all teach classes and have a hand in making snacks and cleaning up. The co-op was structured to where the classes were enrichment based – not curriculum based. It’s a place to come together and do big group projects or projects that may be hard to do with just one or two kids. I was on board from the beginning! I was absolutely loving this idea!
For some reason my husband started to doubt our decision. He didn’t think it was right for the boys and me, and he really wasn’t sure about some of the people that were a part of the co-op. On top of that we were still getting noise from the people who just didn’t want us to homeschool. It was turning into a very tough time for me – spiritual, mentally and emotionally.
Before the semester even starts a couple of the moms back out. They thought that this was going to be more on the educational side of co-ops. We were going to start the first semester with 7 families total.
Because of a lot of the pressure we were feeling on the homeschooling front we decided to enroll our oldest son – KB – in online public school (not our finest hour). Each morning we had to sit in a live online class with a teacher and other students that went from 9:00-9:45 a.m. Co-op started at 9:00 every Thursday, so that meant every morning we would be coming in late. Every Thursday, we had to get through KB’s class, rush to get to the church for the classes, and then we had to make it back home in time for me to make it to my part-time job. Every Thursday, my husband and I would fight because he still was not sold on this whole co-op thing. Spiritually, mentally, and emotionally drained – that’s how I felt after about 6 weeks of this happening. I just kept praying that God would work in the lives of those around me. Soften hearts and just help me make it through this time.
To say that the first semester was tough is an understatement. There were 7 moms split between 4 different classes, and we were trying our best to keep the 25+ kids engaged in what they were learning. My youngest son – E – was incredibly shy. To the point that he did not want to go into the classroom with the other kids. The mom leading his class would sit a chair outside the door for him until he felt comfortable enough to walk in the room. My oldest is a social butterfly and wanted to talk the entire time. There were many times that I would look around in the middle of the chaos and ask myself why. Why in the world was I doing this?
In the thick of the storm – even though I was questioning my decision, even though I was fighting with my husband – I did see wonderful things that were happening.
I was there. I was present. And so were my boys.
My youngest son would get off of that chair every Thursday and tried to participate for at least 15 minutes, which was just unheard of with him at the time. My oldest son was learning the value of listening and participating in a group setting. They were making friends with not only kids their own age, but with older and younger kids as well. I was making friends with the other moms. We were going through similar struggles; had similar battle wounds. We traded stories of the same sorrows and triumphs. My faith began to grow just being around such awesome ladies. I had found my tribe.
But outside of those walls trying to convince my family that was the case was one of the hardest battles I’ve ever fought…and won.
At the end of each semester in the co-op we hold a Showcase. Each family can invite whoever they would like to come and see what we have worked on all semester long. There is normally a semester theme song and verse that is performed and then each class will come up together to share what they did during the nine weeks they were together. In the Fall of 2016 we had our first Showcase and my boys couldn’t make it. They had terrible colds. I had to leave them home that night, which meant none of my family wanted to come to the Showcase – if the boys weren’t going to be there neither were they.
In the Spring of 2017, after completing another semester together – with many of the same issues – we held another Showcase. This time the boys were healthy, and our family would be there – including my husband.
My stomach was doing flip flops leading up to the opening. I wanted nothing more than my family to see all of the great things that have come about in this little co-op that I have grown to love and depend on.
Joy, love, and pride filled my heart that night watching all of the kids and moms up on stage! It was an amazing time. Everything went smoothly. Before my husband was even out of his seat he told me how awesome that was and that he wanted to help out next semester. At the end of the Showcase families are invited to come to the different classrooms to view the kids’ work throughout the nine weeks. As I was walking back to the classrooms my mother-in-law told me that the program was just beautiful. It wasn’t at all what she imagined.
This Fall the co-op will be starting it’s third year. We have been blessed beyond measure in this little endeavour. We are now up to 16 families, 50+ kids, and more joy than any of us can hold in. I was asked after that second Showcase to join the Leadership Team – a core group of moms who handles all the planning, finances, and behind the scenes business of the co-op. The Sunday after the Spring Showcase my husband went to church for the first time in almost 10 years. A few short months later he gave his life to the Lord. Our boys were dedicated at the church we attended. I was bursting with joy.
That small co-op that started with 7 moms trying to hold it all together saved my family.