As the popularity of homeschooling grows, so do the opportunities. The many opportunities also increase the things we must consider to find the right fit for our families and homeschooling styles. Furthermore, as each of us develops a deeper understanding of our chosen philosophy of education, whether it be a Christian Classical, Charlotte Mason, or another approach to education, we are increasingly more concerned with what things are taught and how they are taught. In addition, everything from cost, parent requirements, amount of work for students, and more all play a role in deciding the best fit. It can be a daunting decision, and unless you are willing to start a community, chances are there will be ways your community does not meet some of your ideals.
In this post, I am introducing the three basic kinds of homeschooling communities and outlining what -in general- you can expect in terms of cost, parent involvement, and teacher/tutor/mentor involvement. I am focusing on academic communities rather than extra-curricular or field trip communities. I am sure there are groups out there that are a combination of two or more kinds of homeschooling communities. Nevertheless, understanding these three basic kinds will help you navigate the best fit for your family and what is fair for one to expect from a given homeschool community. I will also explain how Paideia Academics can support you in developing and leading each kind of homeschooling community.
The Cooperative Homeschool Community
Cost: Free – Almost free
Parent Involvement: Highest
Teacher/Tutor/Mentor Involvement: Varies Greatly
Quality of Teaching & Content: Varies Greatly
The first kind of homeschool community is the homeschool cooperative, more affectionately known as the homeschool co-op. In this model, every parent must teach, assist, or be involved in another major volunteer role. It is “ALL hands on deck” at the co-op level. The amount of teaching and assessing done by the presiding teacher varies based on each co-op’s decision. Likewise, the quality of what is taught and how it is taught varies. The bigger and more diverse the group is, the more the quality will vary. In co-ops, moms often end up assigned something they have to teach, or they choose a subject they like best or where they have the most experience. Unless the group started with the understanding that everyone would align themselves with a certain philosophy or method, every class could potentially be taught through a different approach to education. Co-ops generally offer a sweet community, ample opportunities for making friends, and a certain amount of academic support. Before you decide, be sure you know exactly what the expectations and responsibilities are for teachers/tutors/mentors, parents, and students.
Anyone can teach
Usually, the greatest variety of options for classes
Easiest to find and form
Participants can encounter Community and Fellowship
Anyone can teach
Usually no or very few standards for teaching and content
Little to no integration across subjects/disciplines/arts
There is usually no alignment or a very weak alignment with any one educational philosophy
:: How Paideia Academics Can Help
Paideia Academics helps to alleviate some of the cons of choosing this model by offering done for your course of study plans and syllabi, training, and guidance to the leadership team. The training and course of study invite everyone to be on the same page about educational philosophy, what to teach, and how to teach. The leadership team guidance provides way to create harmony and clarity as they lead the whole group towards the common goal of a classical liberal arts education while honoring the desire for flexibility. If your leadership team and the parents enrolled are interested in classical liberal arts education, this can be a fantastic option. Learn more about our consulting and course of study packages by scheduling a discovery call.
Cost: Moderate $150-$1200+ per program (A program includes several experiences across a variety of subjects)
Parent Involvement: Moderate; a few things are taken off your plate
Teacher/Tutor/Mentor Involvement: Facilitator and Leader for class experiences
Quality of Teaching & Content: Varies Some
The experience-centered community is probably the most misunderstood of homeschool communities and is somewhat unique to the Classical/Charlotte Mason model because of our belief in experiential/poetic knowledge. The goal of most communities like this is three-fold. First, to offer community; second, to offer accountability; and third, to do things together that are more difficult or much less enjoyable when done alone. The teacher/mentor/tutor is there to be a leader in the experiences the class encounters. Common experiences would include science experiments, literature or history discussions, debates, art projects, theater, and the like. With this model, parents are still very present but not required to teach. Parents who are not teaching/tutoring/mentoring would maintain and support the community atmosphere by helping with logistics, clean-up, lunch monitors, yearbook (if the group does this), end-of-year party, and the like.
The thing that makes this model hard is a couple of things. First, this kind of community assumes that everyone wants to learn more about the educational philosophy at hand. If this is not communicated upfront, families not interested in that education method will feel out of place. Second, sometimes it is easy for tutors/mentors, parents, and students to view the role of the mentor/tutor more like a traditional teacher. Much of this is because it costs money. However, the cost of this model is still far less than the traditional cost of classes. This misconception pressures the mentor/tutor to do more than they have the energy and resources to do. If there are parents and tutors who hold to this misconception, one of two things happens. One, the mentor/tutor maintains their begins to diminish. Two, the mentor/tutor does not maintain those boundaries and burns out, and their resources and energy diminish.
I have heard it said that for work to continue, you must have resources, goodwill, and energy. Therefore, the form, responsibilities, and expectations must be CLEARLY communicated for this model to work. If you are looking into a group, ensure you know what is expected of everyone. The more experiences one program offers, the more expensive it will be. Also, the more corporate the group is, the more expensive and inflexible it will have to be, which also means they can provide more resources and support. A couple of classical examples of this model are Classical Conversations (corporate example) and many Schole Groups (independent example). If done well, Experience Centered Community is an incredibly life-giving and joyous way to participate in a homeschool community.
More integration across the different classes
More standards for mentor/tutor/teacher
Most parents who love learning could take on a tutor/mentor role
Usually aligned with one specific philosophy of education
Opportunity to do things in community that are difficult or impossible to do by one’s self
Some work is taken off the homeschool parent’s plate
Mentors/tutors/teachers are compensated a little for their hard work
Community and Fellowship in a context of learning experiences
Less flexibility than a co-op
Generally costs money (more of a con if a family has several+ children or if they are in financial hardship)
Greater need for precise clarity in communicating exactly what this model is all about
A greater need for collaboration between parents and tutors/mentor
:: How Paideia Academics Can Help
Paideia Academics helps alleviate some of the cons of choosing this model by showing you how to offer this cohesive model at a lower cost for your families. Homeschool communities can choose to use our course of study plans and syllabi rather than coming up with their own plans or having to join a community that does not align with their goals. Secondly, we offer parent and teacher training. The training and course of study invite everyone to be on the same page about educational philosophy, what to teach, and how to teach. Third, we offer leadership guidance. The leadership team guidance provides a way to create harmony and clarity as they lead the whole group toward the common goal of a classical liberal arts education. Learn more about our consulting and course of study packages by scheduling a discovery call.
Traditional or Homeschool “School” Community
Cost: Highest Cost ($400-$700 per year-long class)
Parent Involvement: Very Low
Teacher Involvement: High
Quality of Teaching & Content: Higher quality, with some variation from teacher to teacher, usually based on educational philosophy
Homeschool “school” communities offer tremendous help to parents who want to homeschool but do not have the time to invest in teaching their children and cultivating their teaching skills. Homeschool “school” communities also offer great fellowship opportunities for students to develop friendships with other students. It is important to remember that even with Homeschool “School” classes, you are the homeschool parent and, according to the state, your homeschool’s administrator. You are still responsible for overarching governance and transcripts, end-of-year tests (if your state requires it), and other administrative responsibilities.
Quality teachers in this model can be expected to teach the class content and skills, assess all work, and send regular correspondence to parents about their children’s performance. In this model, the teacher, or presiding organization, decides what the class will include. In this model, it is not really fitting for a student or parent to decide what he or she will or will not complete. Students need to be ready to be all in if they participate in this sort of community. Parents also need to ensure they provide enough time on non-class days for their students to complete assignments. These kinds of communities usually meet two to four times a week, and then students complete reading, writing, and other assignments the other days of the school week at home.
The biggest problem for most homeschool families in this kind of community is that it costs quite a bit more than other opportunities. Several wonderful programs and classes are available in person and online that are more than worth the cost. Search your local homeschool listings for opportunities. Paideia Fellowship Online Homeschool Academy is one of these options. We offer all the benefits at a lower cost because we integrate 5 classes rather than offering them separately. You may also consider online options like The Raphael School or Whittenberg Academy. There are many other individual curricula, communities, and online classes. The schools mentioned above provide a comprehensive online homeschool “school” community opportunity where the same students take several classes together.
Takes almost everything off a parent’s plate (teaching, assessing, end of year report -not including transcripts)
Strong Community building opportunities
Teacher-intensive help for students
Teachers have usually invested time in developing their skill set and knowledge in the area in which they are teaching
Teachers and organizations are more clear about their teaching and educational philosophies
Extremely integrated across the curriculum (not all programs are this way)
Parents can rightly expect certain things since they have paid for it
If homeschool parents are hired as teachers, they need to make teaching more like their profession and less like simply being part of the community.
Parents are not tremendously involved.
:: How Paideia Academics Can Help
Paideia Academics helps alleviate some of the cons of choosing this model by showing you how to master the art of teaching so you can feel confident offering more involved classes. Like with the other models, we offer the option to use our curricula and course of study or coaching on creating your own course of study in The Fellowship, our online classical teacher fellowship. Additionally, if your community is interested in developing a group that offers this kind of teaching, we can support you through custom consulting and teacher training. Like with the other models, we offer guidance to help you decide what to teach, how to teach, and how to lead your classical liberal arts academic community. Learn more about our consulting and course of study packages by scheduling a discovery call.
So there you have it. The three kinds of homeschooling communities. I hope this helps you see what kind of group best fits your family. Using this guide, you can browse your options based on your main needs. For example, if your family is busy, both parents are working, or you are a single parent, you may prefer the Homeschool “School” Community, or if your family is in financial hardship or you want ultimate flexibility, you may prefer a co-op. If you are looking for a community to enrich your homeschool but still really love learning and homeschooling and have the time, then look for an Experience Centered Community. This guide should also help you clarify what you can expect from each kind of community.
If you are unsure what group style fits you best, I would love to talk with you. Feel free to schedule a laid-back discovery call. You can find our free scheduling link here.
Blessings and peace as you navigate classical liberal arts homeschooling.
Omnia Vincit Amor,
Jennifer Ruth Dow