How to Plan a Homeschool Co-op Course

When I joined our local homeschool co-op, we had recently moved and the only open class was grammar for my older two kids. Meredith got into a class where they watched videos for an hour.

It took us over an hour to drive round-trip for one hour of class, and the kids complained constantly about their boring subject. They weren’t making friends and it felt liek a mistake.

As the term progressed, me dragging the kids to co-op every Friday, I sat in Nursery with baby Sophia, chatting with other moms who complained about how hard it is to get all the kids out the door and get to co-op on time. “If they didn’t love it so much, I wouldn’t do it at all.”

Um, yeah, what was I doing? Co-op was just not worth the effort. I was ready to quit for good. I described my situation to the ladies.

They suggested I give it another chance, planning for a full day and registering early so I had the best pick of classes. Our co-op offered earliest registration for children of teachers, so they suggested I teach a class.

Who, me?

I wasn’t qualified to teach (haha, yeah, I’m homeschooling). The only classes I knew about were grammar and watching video classes: BORING! What were other options? Apparently, pretty much anything I was interested in was fair game.

I had to choose a course subject and age group. I looked over the current course list for ideas and figured I could teach preschool crafts. Preschool siblings of schoolkids needed something to do for the long day of co-op, and I figured they would be the least critical of a new teacher.

I’m not the most crafty person (understatement of the year), so I didn’t have an arsenal of plans at my fingertips. The best thing about my first semester teaching was that I loved the kids and they loved me, too. Prepping for class was a challenge.

I had planned to order a bunch of ready-made supplies from Oriental Trading Company, but most of their crafts were too easy. The simple assembly required could never fill my 55 minute time slot. Of course, I learned this only a few days before co-op started. Curse you, procrastination!

Instead of having a box full of assembly packets ready to go, I slugged my way through the semester a week at a time. Co-op was on Fridays, so I spent most of Thursday afternoon and evenings googling new craft ideas and purchasing materials. On top of homeschooling my kids, my schedule was too crazy.

I loved interacting with the students, and my own kids had gotten their first choice of classes in all four hours. We ate lunch at co-op and were making friends. I was determined to keep teaching, but to be as prepared as I could.

I taught classes for 3 1/2 years to ages 2 through 14. Most of those years I taught 3 classes a day. My class offerings included “Preschool Crafts,” “Little House on the Prairie,” “Passport through the United States,” and “Cooking Around the World.”

Here’s the system I used to organize each class:

  1. Begin master planning a few weeks ahead of the start date.
  2. Determine how many times co-op meets during the semester. Ours was 12.
  3. Grab that number of file folders. Since I taught multiple classes per semester, I used colored file folders to help distinguish classes. Green folders= Preschool Crafts, Red= Little House. I needed 12 folders for each class.
  4. Each week gets it’s own folder. Label with class name and week number. Ex: “Little House on the Prairie – 4”
  5. If your classes are sequential, each class building on the prior lesson, or say you’re reading a book, you need to split the material into the correct number of weeks so you can be sure you’ll finish in the allotted time. Ex:  Little House on the Prairie has 13 chapters, so I skimmed to find out which chapters I wanted to combine in one lesson. I identified two chapters with less activity potential and planned to read them together in one week, so I fit 13 chapters into 12 weeks.
  6. Build on others’ ideas to develop your lesson plans. Google and print plans for each week and put them in corresponding folders. No sense in finding out your printer is out of ink on co-op morning. That’s one bad way to start the day.
  7. Gather supplies ahead of time as much as possible. If you found a great new idea online, try it out at home. Know your material.
  8. Store the folders by class title, in numerical order.
  9. Once co-op has started: On any given week, pull the corresponding lesson plan by it’s number the day before co-op and read over it, double-checking supplies. Repeat this review for each class you’re teaching. Your material will be fresh in your mind for the next day.
  10. Pack your car with supplies the night before. A plastic laundry hamper was a favorite carry-all at my co-op and my personal favorite.
  11. Replace the folder when you get home and look over next week’s plan while you’re at it. Note any supplies you still need to pick up before next time and add them to your Household Shopping List Template.

Teaching co-op classes were a treasure during my homeschool years. I loved the students and they enjoyed class. After all, the students have often chosen your class as an elective, and co-op is a day off from their routine.

For some reason, other people’s children give you more respect as a teacher than do your own. It’s a nice change when you’re spending all day, every day, with your kids. You can do this!

I’d love to hear what courses you’ve taught and how you structured or prepped for your classes.

Enjoy!

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