Is this offbeat homeschooling idea possible?
March 16, 2010 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible, legal, and/or wise to form a homeschooling collective?

My daughter isn't even two yet, and the public school system, at least in the elementary grades, kind of freaks me out. My main complaints are the sit-down-and-shut-up methodology that needs to be employed if a teacher is going to run the average too-large class. Also, the paucity of resources means that kids don't take enough field trips, don't get enough exercise, etc. You've heard this all before.

Here's my fantasy:
Right now, and presumably when my child is of school age, I have friends with various talents who also have children the same age as mine. None of us can afford private school.

So far as homeschooling, I want to work for pay, which I do as a freelance writer. My husband is a freelance writer as well. All of my friends presumably want to keep their full-time jobs as well.

What I would be willing to do would be to host "class" for 10 kids or so once a week. I could teach them English in the morning, and my husband could teach Math, Spanish, and computers in the afternoon.
Then, the next day, the group of children could go to my friend's house, where she could teach the children science, and her husband could teach them art.

The children could go from house to house (or we could rent a small space) over the course of the week. Each family would only have to "teach" for one day a week.

Is this a really dumb idea? Is it even legal?

Thanks for any advice.
posted by tk to Education (14 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
This is heavily jurisdiction-specific, so it would help to know where you are. In Texas, homeschoolers are considered private schools and could (and frequently do) do a lot of what you're talking about. Elsewhere the rules are more stringent.
posted by katemonster at 12:11 PM on March 16, 2010

Response by poster: Sorry--location is NYC (Brooklyn). Thanks for the reminder.
posted by tk at 12:13 PM on March 16, 2010

I think the phrase you're looking for is "homeschool co-op". This is done more often than you might think. You might want to get connected with a support group in your area.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 12:18 PM on March 16, 2010

In Brooklyn, there are alternatives to the sit down and shut up school system. There is also a lot of support for homeschoolers in NYC. To get this going beyond the fantasy stage there's a lot of information these people can give you.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:22 PM on March 16, 2010

There is a school in Austin that evolved out of a similar idea. It's a more formal "school" than what you seem to be describing, but from what I know of the parents and teachers there, it's designed to support parents who want to homeschool (and the flexibility that it entails), but also want the benefit of teachers with expertise in other subjects and the community and socializing that goes on in a school environment. It might be worthing looking at:

AHB Community School
posted by pantarei70 at 12:50 PM on March 16, 2010

This is done more often than you might think.

Totally. I grew up in Iowa, and there were huge home school co-op things.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:52 PM on March 16, 2010

I know a few people who do homeschool co-op for young kids (2-4). We're probably going to give it a shot too. Especially after we found out that we missed the date for the lottery to even be able to apply to spend 12k on a 3-year old class for only 3 days a week. WTF. For a second I thought 'oh no we've doomed our child to a lifetime of mediocrity' but then realized the absurdity of the system.

No idea about elementary school, but all the parents I've talked to have had great experiences with public school (though it obviously depends on the district). Does the public school system freak you out because of what you imagine it to be? or because of direct experiences?
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 1:14 PM on March 16, 2010

This is very common, what you're describing, though it's usually, IME, more like people meet in a central location every so often (once a week, twice a week, twice a month, etc) and various classes are offered. I've never heard of any that go 5 days a week (my reaction, and I think the reaction of many homeschooling parents I know, to that idea might be, "What's the point of homeschooling if you're going to have your kids in school five days a week?" Even that community school pantarel70 linked to is part-time). One I'm slightly involved with where I am is relatively new but operates through the local Community Education system, though it's organized and run by some homeschooling moms, and so all registration and fees are handled through the community ed department and parents aren't required to lead classes as is true in many co-ops.

I think there are even books about how to start and run a homeschooling co-op.

Do check your local laws; I know here in Michigan you can easily homeschool (we have some of the laxest laws in the country, I believe--no registration, no tests, no submission of portfolios. You just do what you're gonna do) but there are laws about providing instruction to other people's kids. Probably what you're describing wouldn't rise to that level--I could get in trouble, for instance, if I had other people's kids here five days a week teaching them, I'd be in violation of the law. But if you look into your local homeschooling community (and I am sure you have one) the people there will know about the laws. Nothing you're describing, though, is outside the realm of things homeschool co-ops do regularly, except for the five-day-a-week piece.
posted by not that girl at 1:17 PM on March 16, 2010

NY is one of the more rigorous states when it comes to regulating homeschoolers, but it is legal and co-ops of some type are certainly in existence. You probably won't have to start from scratch as a nearby homeschool co-op probably already has things going, all you'll need to do is pitch in and do your part. Find a co-op via Google, the link in the post above, maybe Craigslist or check Yahoo Groups for local resources.

Neither of my kids have ever gone to a traditional school. We never did the formal co-op thing, it was more of a loose knit type of support group that worked best for us.
posted by COD at 1:26 PM on March 16, 2010

Yes, it sounds like a co-op might fit your needs. You may want to check out the Parent Cooperative Preschool International organization. A co-op is an incorporated entity all its own in many jurisdictions, which would provide a number of benefits to the parents that participate from a liability perspective, and actually may be required from an insurance and licensing perspective - as opposed to operating yourself as an informal collective.

In addition to any rules and regulations related to the operation of a co-op as an entity under that specific legislation, there is likely also legislation related specifically to the care of children that you would be subject to. For example, here in Ontario, there are specific restrictions in something called the Day Nurseries Act that outlines the requirements to run a child care operation in one's home, including the ages and numbers of children that you are limited in caring for at any one time. I would check with your state's department of education, or child services (they may be one and the same), or even at the municipal level, to see what the requirements are or if they have any guidelines that you could use. Education vs. child care will likely depend on the age of the children involved in the home schooling and whether or not there are particular curriculum issues that need to be met in a teaching environment, or if this is more of a child care situation.
posted by Cyrie at 1:27 PM on March 16, 2010

We had this for one of the years when I was homeschooled. Once a week, we'd meet up with other homeschooled kids in a church, and have sort of lectures or arts-and-crafts things or field trips.

It was a lot of fun, but very church focused, unfortunately. And a lot more fun than the time my mom said we were going over to another homeschooled house for some schooling time, and it ended up just being stuffing and addressing envelopes for the next homeschool association conference.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:54 PM on March 16, 2010

Best answer: With homeschooling, it's great to pool resources with others. But there's often a temptation to formalize expectations of the community, and that can lead to the recreation of the bureaucratic distance you're trying to avoid.

I've seen once-a-week work quite well. It requires a few people who find it rewarding to design schedules and manage expectations of the whole group. It seems to work better with "fun" topics like science experiments and historical figures, rather than high-stakes subjects like reading and math. Those are topics where working one-on-one and tailoring the curriculum to the child really pay off.
posted by bendybendy at 2:06 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's pretty common among religious-type homeschoolers to have a homeschooling co-op or whatever that is focused on giving kids the opportunity to do group sports, band, etc. while the primary instruction still lies with the parents.
posted by dagnyscott at 3:20 PM on March 16, 2010

I used to be a student in a homeschool co-op, and it was very much as you described. I LOVED it, got a lot out of it, and I think it's a great idea! Keep in mind, however, that students may be required to take yearly state tests to make sure they're meeting standards, so whoever is teaching the subject matter should have an idea of what these standards are.

I, too, am planning on pursuing this myself when my son is older.
posted by Happydaz at 7:21 PM on March 16, 2010

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