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The Road To Homeschooling In A Co-Op

I’m going to be very honest.

I used to be one of those people who thought homeschooling was weird and detrimental to kids.

I had the same misconceptions about home-schooled children that are widely shared by many folks.

  • They are not properly socialized.
  • They don’t learn to plan and have deadlines.
  • They aren’t tested to see where they stand academically.
  • They won’t get into college without a diploma.
  • They aren’t challenged to be the best they can be.
  • They miss out on the school experience.

The Adventure

In 2013 we decided to go on an adventure, got an RV and traveled the country full-time. We committed to a year and thought nothing of pulling our youngest son out of school to enjoy our adventure.

Aiden finished his fourth grade year and I resigned as PTA president. We went through the process of legally pulling him out of school and proceeded to spend the next year traveling and using our travels and a new curriculum to ensure that he would not fall behind for his fifth grade year.

I had him working on math, science, literature and history as his core subjects. He also had to read for one hour every day and journal about it. I included cursive and a few other subjects.

I chose to focus on American History for his social studies since we were traveling the country. We visited Virginia’s Historic Triangle and toured the Jamestown Settlement as well as other historic sites that covered the settlers, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. He was also able to visit Independence Hall in Philadelphia as we covered the American Revolution.

We traveled cross country and visited countless monuments and national and state parks that were rich with history and offered Junior ranger programs.  It was an awesome adventure and one I am truly grateful for.

Idependence Hall Junior Ranger
Aiden filling out his Junior Ranger certificate for Independence Hall in Pennsylvania.
Junior Ranger Badge from Independence Hall
Sporting his first Junior Ranger Badge from Independence Hall in Pennsylvania.
Pima Air & Space Museum Arizon
Pinning his hometown at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Arizona.
Mammoth Caves Kentucky Junior Ranger
Another Junior Ranger badge for the collection from Mammoth Caves National Park in Kentucky.

Homeschool Time vs Public School Time

Our year turned into three and we continued to travel with a group of families like ours who had kids and were on the same adventure. My son would complete his work in 2-3 hours and go outside to play in the woods and fresh air with his friends the rest of the day unless we had a trip planned.

Why did it take him only 2-3 hours? There are a few reasons.

  1. He learned to manage his time on his own. He knew that he could go out and play as soon as his work was completed.
  2. He wasn’t sitting in a classroom where the first 30 minutes of each class was spent with the teacher getting the kids in attention mode.
  3. He didn’t have to wait for the teacher to reprimand the ones who were chatting or not paying attention.

If you’ve ever sat in a classroom, you will have noticed how little time is really spent teaching the curriculum. It’s mostly the teacher babysitting. You would think that after an 8 hour day there should be no homework, and yet there is.

After being involved in the PTA, my love of and respect for teachers has grown immensely. They are essentially doing the jobs parents are supposed to do but where so many fall short. They are teaching morals, self respect, respect for others, time management and so much more.

When you remove that element, the learning and work happen a lot faster. Some days took longer, especially when there was a difficult lesson or there was studying for tests. But it was never a full 8 hour day like he spent in school.

Learning the Important Stuff

I also added a few more subjects to his curriculum like reading the news every day and writing about it. After seeing him create a political and world view from this, I am convinced that every kid should be doing this in school.

You would be surprised by how cool it is to have a conversation with a pre-teen or teen who learns about current events. Sometimes you’re the teacher and sometimes they are.

The Co-Op

After three years of travel, we decided to spend a few months in Williamsburg, Virginia to visit our oldest son. During that visit I decided to place Aiden in a homeschool co-op for a semester. I mainly wanted to ensure that he wouldn’t fall behind as he was now in eighth grade, and the math and science were at levels I really didn’t want to tackle.

He thrived in classes like Honors Physical Science and Algebra. He sat in classes of 10 students or less with teachers who were subject matter experts with a degree. For example, his science teacher is a working scientist.

We decided to make Virginia our new home to be close to our oldest and daughter-in-law who is in the military and made the co-op his official school.

My kid loves school. He loves going to his classes and his teachers. He takes a lot of pride in his work and studies like a maniac for tests, because he wants to challenge himself and do well.

Trust me when I tell you it’s not because he is a brainiac. He is mostly a jock who loves baseball and video games. But since learning has been fun and non-institutionalized for him, he doesn’t dread it.

The Misconceptions Revisited

OK, let’s revisit those misconceptions I had when I was ignorant about homeschooling. By the way, saying I was ignorant is not a negative thing, it’s just the truth. When you don’t know about something, you are ignorant about it. Ignorance is something that can be easily rectified.

  • Socialization: My son and most homeschooled kids I have met, and there are hundreds across the entire country, are perfectly socialized. They also tend to be very polite and comfortable speaking with both adults and children.
  • Planning & Deadlines: My kid is like every other kid. Sometimes he is great at it and sometimes he procrastinates and deals with the consequences. He has never missed turning in an assignment or studying for a test.
  • Testing: It’s easy to test your child. There are many resources both local and online in every state to make sure you know where your child stands with standardized testing.
  • College Acceptance: Colleges and Universities LOVE homeschoolers! Most of the homeschoolers I know have been accepted into their favorite schools armed with their transcripts, which it is your job as a parent to create. Again, it’s a very simple process.
  • Being Your Best: Some kids will always be the leaders, and that will come out in any setting. I think education in general whether it be homeschooling or public/private school are essential to allow our children to be who they are meant to be. I do believe that when you allow a child to blossom into who they want to be without the stresses of regular school, it does wonders for their self esteem and love of learning.
  • School Experience: Yes, this is true. They miss out on being treated like cattle and the bullying and cliques that are part of the school experience. Schools are institutions and the only other place I know of that is run the same with a cafeteria and recess are prisons. Co-ops give the college experience by having classes once or twice weekly and then leaving the work completion up to the student. It teaches time management and responsibility like nothing else.

One last thing I want to tell you about the co-op experience. A co-op has children of all ages and all capabilities. You will find everything from the gifted and genius level to children with downs syndrome. I can’t tell you how beautiful and heartwarming it is to see the future generation interacting and embracing peers with severe learning disabilities with kindness and patience as a natural part of their lives. There is zero bullying among hundreds. It gives me tremendous hope for our future.


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