Support Groups and Co-ops: Should you Attend?
August 23, 2017
Hey Mama,

The definition of a  support  is  something that bears weight or keeps something in an upright position.  Maybe that’s not the type of support you were thinking of when you read this week’s topic, but sometimes that’s the type of support I need. I don’t know about you, but I can always use friends who help me bear the weight of homeschooling and mothering, and sometimes those friends are all that are keeping me in an upright position. (Grin)

Check out these articles from  The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine  (always free to read):

And remember to pray tonight. Not that I'd expect you to forget; after all, you are very faithful. But as you drift off to sleep, set your sights on the throne room. The Lord has called you to this important mission called "your children". He gave them to you for just a short time, and I know you appreciate the gift—of course, you do! However, you (and I) also grow weary at times; but do you want to know what's really encouraging about that? He says He "knows our frame." Check this out:

"For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust" (Psalm 103:14 NASB*).

In other words, He is not some far off entity just watching us, waiting for us to fail (again). No, His yoke is light, and He loves you and me even more tenderly than we love our own child(ren). He knows what we're made up of (dust!) and He is intimately acquainted with our very frame. He is mindful and cares deeply when we stumble, AND He empathizes with how we feel when we do stumble. Mama, that should comfort you!
Call out to Him, "Lord, don't forget my frame," when you are struggling or when fears grip your heart again. Or even better, this: "Thank You, oh Lord, that You know my frame; help me to remember that You do!" Lean on Him. He's got this. He's got YOU, because you have relied on His word, and you strive to follow Him. You pick up your cross daily and cling to Him alone. Forsaking the world, you seek the things from above, loving your neighbor as yourself. Turning away from what is evil. Loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Jesus Christ is your LORD and SAVIOR.

And in all honesty, He sees what's going on before you even call out to Him, because His hand is already resting lovingly on your head (just like you cradle your child's head when he/she needs you). The Lord won't let go. Not ever. If you are His, He is yours.

Just know this, to sum it up: He doesn't ever forget your fragile side, your humanity. He knows very well that you are flesh, blood, and bone; He custom-made you for your joy and His glory. And He walks right beside you. Lockstep, as you follow Him.

So get up tomorrow, and walk again, recognizing that your heart belongs to Him and that you are LOVED DEEPLY. You are pouring LIFE into these children, and doing a good job! Your Father has fashioned your very frame for walking this road, and you're going to make it, Mama. He's fashioned those hard-headed kids of yours, too. Stop looking at today and all its troubles, and "fast forward" yourself to ten, twenty years from now. A new day is coming. "Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her . . . " (Proverbs 31:28 ESV**).

His mercies are new every morning. Today, keep walking faithfully. Tonight, drift off to sleep with your thoughts on the One who loves you. Peace and much love to you. 


*"Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible® (NASB),
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,
1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation 
Used by permission."

**ESV Copyright and Permissions Information
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®)
Copyright © 2001 by Crossway,
a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved.
ESV Text Edition: 2016
The Canadian Adventure book is a province-by-province virtual trip. Take you and your kids on a tour of Canada, from Newfoundland to BC and through the three territories. So real, it is like you are there!
  Lisa Marie Fletcher  
3 Reasons I love Facebook for Homeschool Support
1. It's always close by.

Being a family with one car (which my husband uses for work), means that I can't usually get our family to local homeschool groups and activities. Although, ideally, I'd love us to be able to know and connect with people in person, it just isn't possible all the time. Instead of needing to wait until the next time we can meet up with our friends, I use Facebook to connect with people any time I need support, ideas, or grown-up conversation. In homeschool groups, there is almost always someone online who I can chat with.

2. I get a wide, diverse range of experiences, wisdom, styles, and viewpoints.

I love my local friends and our shared common experiences, but sometimes it's awesome to hear from someone who does things differently than me. Groups on Facebook are filled with amazing diversity and offer me a great chance to learn from someone new. That, for me, is one of the biggest draws of the online community: The opportunity to hear experiences from a wide variety of people.

3. There are both small and large groups, allowing for close connections and wide ones.

I belong to a lot of online homeschooling communities. Some of them are small and intimate–where I can chat with friends on a more personal level. Some of them are based on my faith–allowing me to connect with people who believe the same as me, so I can chat about faith-related things. Some are based on my geography–meaning I can relate to them on a patriotic level. And some of them are huge–and give me the opportunity to have a wider conversation and community.

While I still think that connecting in person is important for both myself and my children, I love that there is so much potential and experience available on Facebook.

~Lisa Marie

Lisa Marie is a mom with 5 kids ranging from 2 to 13. Between teaching the kids, chasing littles, and pretending to clean the house, she works on her site,  The Canadian Homeschooler . Her mission is to connect homeschoolers in Canada with each other and with resources that will help them on their journey. 

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Jodi Riddle
Support groups and co-ops come in many forms and varieties. I have heard of some that offer very intensive main courses for students, some that offer just “fun, but educational” classes that you normally wouldn’t do in your own homeschool setting, some that just basically plan social events, and some that just offer time throughout the week/month for you and your children to get together with other homeschooling families, and enjoy one another’s company.

I don’t think anyone can really tell you what is best for your family, but what I can share are some pros and cons that I found along the way that may help you consider if attending these groups is right for you.

1) Consider what the objective of the group or co-op is? Is it intensive course work? Are there classes being offered by other moms/dads that may or may not be “required” subjects, but rather “elective” ones? Is the main purpose just a time of moms sharing ideas and children freely playing together?

2) What are the time constraints, and is there a cost involved? This really can vary from one to another, but is definitely worth considering and getting the facts before you attend. Some are free; some have a one-time fee, and others you pay by class or trip being offered. Some require an hour or two a week or a month, and others require much more than that. Only you know what you can afford and how much time you have to put into it.

3) Once you know the objective and the time and cost involved, consider how that will fit into your personal homeschooling atmosphere. Intensive courses may require work outside the co-op time. Can you plan that into your regular schedule so that it will not stress you (or your child) any more than you may already be? If the classes are “electives,” do you have an option of whether your child participates or not? I add this because sometimes classes like this can include materials, ideas, and/or religious views that are not consistent with what you are teaching at home. When co-ops are set up with this style, it is always good to ask for some type of syllabus or outline from the teacher before you start.

And, if it is less structured and just a time of “free play” for the children, just realize that while it is a great opportunity for your children to make friends and have fun with others, they can, and most times will, pick up on how other children speak, act, and conduct themselves. This can be a positive experience for your child, but it can also be a time for your child to pick up on things that are not so positive. Just something to consider . . .

4) Will you have an opportunity to interact with other homeschooling moms/dads? It has been my experience that attending co-ops or support groups that have an area set aside or a time to chat with others about curriculums, ideas, and resources available is very beneficial. This can be a real encouragement to you when you are struggling! You can also be an encouragement to others and share what has worked for you or how you got through trying times. I do know that if it wasn’t for a co-op that I attended, I would not have learned about what our area locally had to offer to assist in my homeschooling efforts, or how and where to find resources online and elsewhere.

With all of the resources available online, many answers to your questions or classes that a child wants to take are readily available. Blogs and chat rooms are everywhere for moms and kids to get encouragement and help. But it is also nice to build those relationships with the physical “real” people and know where they are in your community when you need some help or just someone to talk to. Co-ops and support groups can provide those avenues for you. Do your research; see what is available, and prayerfully consider what is best for your family. The choice is ultimately yours!


Jodi has been with TOS since April 2016. She serves as a Human Resource and Operations Assistant and also the Homeschooling with Heart blog manager. Jodi is a pastor’s wife and has three boys. She has homeschooled for 17 years and also taught in private and public school settings. Jodi enjoys teaching, playing the piano, scrapbooking, and making cards. Her heart’s desire is to help others learn to enjoy these things as well!
Topical courses utilize graphics to examine aspects of the Christian faith from a Biblical perspective. Perfect for youth or families! Meaningful study couldn’t be easier. 

Marcy Crabtree
In my experience, Homeschool Co-ops can vary greatly, from small, informal groups of two to four families getting together to study nature, to large, 100-family co-ops, run by a board, teaching everything from writing to higher level math to science labs, and everything in between. 
There are pros and cons to using homeschool co-ops as an educational option. Here are a few considerations on both sides:
Pros of Homeschool Co-ops
  • Oftentimes, co-ops offer classes you may find challenging to teach. Science labs, foreign languages, art, and higher level math come to mind.

  • Many wonderful friendships, both for you and your children, can be formed at co-ops.

  • There are sometimes opportunities your students may not otherwise have—geography and science fairs, spelling bees, singing in a choir or playing in a band, participating in a play.

  • Having the opportunity for your children to learn and take direction from another adult can be good for them. Others may find strengths and weaknesses in your kids that you have not realized. Hopefully, they will be loving and gracious enough to share both with you.

Cons of Homeschool Co-ops
  • Many times, the homeschool co-op is merely replicating the public school class you are trying to avoid—age-segregated, textbook-style learning, with too many students for anyone to get much attention. And cliques. Chances are good, there will be cliques.

  • There will likely be at least one student in your child’s class that will have behavior issues that will be disruptive to learning. Sometimes, that student may be your own. Parent-teachers are not always equipped for this, and things can go downhill quickly if that is the case.

  • Unless there are strict guidelines for what is taught, you cannot know if your child’s teacher will have the same worldview you have. This can be especially important in classes such as science and history. The larger the co-op, the more truth this statement may carry.

  • Preparing to teach a class or two at a co-op will take a lot of time and effort on your part.

  • Depending on how many children you have, co-ops can be expensive.

If you are considering a co-op, here’s a list of things to consider before making the semester- or year-long commitment: 
  1. From what worldview will the classes be taught? Is everyone in agreement about that? Is there a statement of faith that teaching parents must sign? Do you agree with it?
  2. How much time can you give personally for class preparation? In my experience, you need to set aside about 1-2 hours a week in order to be fully prepared to teach. That’s per class.
  3. Why do you want to join a co-op? Is it the social aspect? Or do you want strong academics? Make sure the mission of the co-op meshes well with your expectations.
  4. What are the “rules” of the co-op? One local co-op I know of doesn’t allow ANY children in a family to attend co-op if ONE child is sick. If you have five children and one gets a cold, chances are they all will. By the time the cold makes it through your entire family, you will have missed most of the semester. Make sure you’re comfortable with whatever the “rules” of the co-op are.
  5. Does your child do well in a class setting? And if he doesn’t, due to ADHD or some other issue that can cause poor behavior, is the co-op tolerant of that? Do the parents who will be teaching your child have experience with kids like yours? Some co-ops have rules about class behavior that may not work well with your child. And a mom of two little girls, who are always sweet and compliant, may not have a clue about what to do with your easily-distracted, always-talking, ever-in-motion little boy. Trust me.

No co-op will meet all of your expectations. They take work, compromise, and a lot of grace in order to be successful. But the rewards can be great. Just be picky!


Marcy Crabtree is a Christian homeschooling mom to one teen son. An encourager at heart, she is passionate about cultivating relationships with other moms and spends much of her time doing so both on her blog,  Ben and Me , and in social media.
As far as support groups go, the short answer is YES! We’ve gained a pile of benefits from being a part of a local support group. It’s hard to even describe how much these people have impacted our family. Friends in real life give you something special.

It’s tough being a mom in an online world. You open social media and see someone’s perfect eclipse cupcakes in a lovely kitchen. What you can’t see is the 87 ugly cupcakes she sent to Cub Scouts tonight, or the perfect wreck of the rest of her kitchen. We too easily end up discouraged by other people’s carefully edited online world. Real friends let their guard down—so that you can, too.

IRL friendships are a special kind of support net. We have tons of friends online and we really appreciate them, but when the baby’s sick or Mom’s got a migraine, social media won’t bring a casserole or give your kids a ride to band practice. We all need support and encouragement, and real life friendships are people you know well enough to laugh and cry with, to whine, or to share real concerns.
You need to meet real homeschool families, not just their online highlight reels. Besides, your kids need real life homeschool friends, too. Find a group locally, and if you can’t, ask your state organization—they often have lists of available groups.

What about co-ops? Same advice? Well, yes and no . Co-ops can be a few families gathering for informal enrichment classes, or they can be highly regimented programs that dictate your homeschooling the rest of the week! Make sure these are a blessing and not a burden by asking a few questions:

  • Can we afford it? You can homeschool perfectly well without a co-op, so don’t stress your family over something optional. Some programs can be pricey and time consuming. Is it worth the investment?

  • Does the co-op’s plans match our kids’ needs? Maybe the co-op will let your artistic daughter learn from a real artist or let a native speaker teach your kids a good accent. However, if it’s not best for your child, let it go—even if all your friends are doing it. We remember the mom of a dyslexic child who put him in a popular co-op that required reading aloud and writing in class. That wasn’t good at all.

  • What are the rules and expectations? Are parents expected to teach? You need to make sure you have time to prepare and do that. Do parents stay on site? If not, there might be discipline problems and social issues. Can your family meet the expectations without losing too much freedom or gaining too much stress?

Co-ops can be a great addition to your homeschooling. We’ve loved the enrichment co-ops we’ve joined, but we’re not huge fans of co-ops that take over our curriculum decisions and add stress to our family life. After more than two decades of homeschooling, we’ve seen that each child is different and needs different educational guidance from us. We love that freedom!

It’s your decision—figure out what works for your family, and go for it! For more on making the co-op decision, listen to our podcast on this subject !

Hal & Melanie
It's that time of year again! Get ready with our "Back to School/Higher Education Resource Guide" in the Summer 2017 issue of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine! Find fresh ideas for all ages in science, literature, spelling, history, art, Bible, etc. Don't forget: TOS 2017 Annual Print Book has resource guides, too.


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* Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™
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For the month of August

Easy Grammar was written by an English teacher who felt there should be a program that not only taught each foundational concept, but continued to build upon it in order to achieve mastery. Easy Grammar is a comprehensive, yet straightforward approach to teaching grammar. Dr. Phillips uses a method I have never seen before, in which the student learns first to identify prepositional phrases. This helps eliminate problems with identifying other parts of speech. Following prepositions, the table of contents includes verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, sentence types, friendly letter, interjections, conjunctions, sentences and fragments, sentences and run-ons, capitalization, punctuation, and writing sentences.

To facilitate a review, I received a complete Grade 5 Set, which includes the Teacher’s Manual, Student Workbook , and Student Test Booklet . I used this set with my ten-year-old who is currently finishing fourth grade. The teacher’s manual is just over 700 pages and includes introductory information on how to use the program, a copy of every worksheet in the student book, and an answer key. You will also find pre-test and post-test assessments, as well as sample lessons for Daily Grams: Grade 5, which is another Easy Grammar series.

The Student Workbook is around 320 pages and begins with a list of prepositions to memorize. While the Teacher’s Manual is very useful, the information in the Student Workbook is clear and concise, and a motivated student could utilize it almost independently. It gives a quick introduction and definition of the topic of study and a couple of examples, with key words and phrases emphasized in bold print. Simple directions are followed by only a handful of exercises on each page. I think this makes it easy for students to work quickly and efficiently. Once the student learns prepositions, they may move on to other concepts, but cumulative reviews allow the student to continuously practice previous material. The Teacher’s Manual encourages you to break the reviews down over several lessons if necessary to enhance learning. ( . . . )

YOU can WIN this three-book set for your homeschool!

TO ENTER : Email  Kathleen  with your name, mailing address, and phone number for contact purposes, with the subject line, “ Easy Grammar ” for a chance to win it for your family! 
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