6 Steps to Starting a Home School Co-op 

by Niki Parsley 

Home school co-ops! What exactly is a co-op and how can you start one yourself? The word  “co-op” is short for cooperative learning. This is a method of schooling in which students of  various ages and backgrounds work together in groups to achieve the same educational  goals. Research shows that cooperative learning mimics life in the real world and teaches children how to interact with those around them who have different experiences, knowledge  bases, and opinions. 

A typical homeschool co-op meets one or two days a week, for a few hours or possibly all  day. There may be several class periods, including a lunch break. They are usually held in a church or large building of some sort. Some may even be at a family’s home. Most homeschool co-ops offer a variety of classes for all ages. They might include such topics as  biological science, American history, sign language, PE, drawing, astronomy, geography, and more. The possibilities are endless. 

Starting and managing a homeschool co-op can be a lot of work, but it can also be  rewarding for you and your family. Below are some things to consider when thinking about  starting a homeschool co-op. 

Step One 

The first thing you should establish is your co-op’s mission statement. This will include your Biblical and worldview stance, as well as your educational philosophy. Do you want to create  a tight-knit Christian community or be open to outreach? There are also co-ops that focus  on a subject, such as science or the arts. Some offer a classical method of education,  assigning students homework, while others are more interested in social activities such as  field trips and holiday parties. It is very important to determine your co-op’s beliefs and  goals before you move forward. 

Step Two 

You will want to decide the size of your co-op. A large co-op (usually more than ten families)  can offer a greater variety of classes for students to choose from. Having a bigger staff, parents may be allowed to drop their children off, so take this into consideration. Usually, the teachers are paid for teaching a class. Larger co-ops can oftentimes be harder to  manage with so many children, teachers, and staff. On the flipside, smaller co-ops (around  two–ten families) offer more intimacy. You hand-select the families and get to know  everyone involved. Parents usually stay the whole day to help teach, make crafts, provide  snacks, and clean up. The size you decide to make your co-op depends on what works best  for your family. 

Step Three 

There are costs to consider. Some co-ops charge one-time fees, while others choose  monthly payments. And yet, some co-ops may be completely free, if full parental  involvement is required. Either way, there are typically supply fees for science labs, literature books, workbooks, and art supplies. 

Step Four 

You will need to build a team of well-vetted teachers and leaders. You should personally  know your teachers and staff to verify their character. They will likely need to do a  background check for everyone’s safety. Be sure that your teachers share the worldview of 

the co-op’s mission statement. Nothing is worse than clashing worldviews mid-semester. Along the same lines of safety, be sure to confirm that your building is safe and secure. 

Step Five 

Plan how you want your teachers and leaders to handle discipline and conflicts. In the  classroom, rules and procedures should be stated on the first day. If children are passing  notes, chatting, texting, or simply not paying attention, encourage your teachers and parents to reinforce the rules. Teachers should be supported by the director, whether that  be you or someone else, when disciplinary issues arise. Always keep parents aware of their  child’s behavior. Establishing clear rules will ensure that the students have a safe, nurturing,  orderly environment to learn in. 

Step Six 

Lastly, strive to create a co-op that makes learning fun and encourages student friendships. Children should be productive and happy, not bored and distracted. You may want to  provide extra activities such as history fairs, plays, science shows, or book clubs. Dress-up  days are always a hit as well . . . pajama day, crazy hair day, or mix and match day. Sometimes, it’s these silly things that bring kids closer together. 

Cooperative learning, in the form of homeschool co-ops, can provide an unforgettable  experience for your children and other homeschool families. Students learn how to  encourage each other, learn from older students, and help along younger students. Co-ops  create a supportive community for homeschool children and parents alike, allowing families  to form new friendships and nurture old ones, which is why homeschool co-ops are such a  blessing.

Niki Parsley, along with her husband, Tommy, homeschooled their three children for 20  years. She directed a large co-op in Pinellas County, Florida, for 12 years and taught a  variety of homeschool workshops, including creative writing, lapbooking, nature journaling, and living history. Niki and her family started a small publishing company, Heirloom  Publishing Company®, which specializes in homeschool curriculum and heirloom quality  children’s picture books. Their philosophy is to preserve childhood and encourage imagination through wholesome literature and old-fashioned curriculum. Copyright 2023, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the  Author. Originally appeared in the Winter 2023-24 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine,  the trade publication for homeschool moms. Read The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine free at, or download the free reader apps at for mobile  devices. Read the STORY of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine and how it came to be.

Read more homeschool news by clicking here.

Stay informed on Tennessee home school news by subscribing to Homeschool Roster newsletter.

Follow Homeschool Roster on Facebook.