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staceyobu

Co-op admission requirements?

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If you are part of a co-op, how do you allow new members to join? First come, first served? Some sort of application process? I'm trying to figure out if we need an application process and how to prevent that from feeling like a sorority where the cool families get in.  

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The original groups that were in existence when we first started ran the gamut.  One had no admissions forms to fill out.  One had a rigid SOF and an 8 page document to fill in.  One required contact information and a brief outline of which family members were homeschooling (ages mainly).  All of them morphed over time and then most restructured/became defunct/spun off other groups.

 

What became really apparent in watching these groups function and change was that it was really paramount to have some sort of policy in place for removing families that were causing harm to others.  Bullying (parents not the kids were actually the issue, BTW, but kids can obviously be a problem too), vandalism, one parent being a registered sex offender and other problems arose that needed to be addressed.  Without some sort of policy in place and stated up front regarding expectations of behavior and responsibility it became very hard to effectively address issues.

 

I think this depends on what the co-op will actually be furnishing as to how structured it needs to be regarding rules of joining/membership, though.

 

Will the co-op be offering classes?  Field trips?  Play dates?  Student Council?  Yearbook committee?

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At ours it's first-come, first served. Current families register, and then they open it to new families based on how much space we have. New families don't apply - they register with a form about names and grades of kids, and they can add classes based on what's available. Our co-op is one where you pay for the classes that you want, so some families stay all day, others take a 1/2 day, and others come for just 1 or 2 classes. Some families use the co-op for enrichment, others for academic classes, and many take a combination of both (for example, my kids have taken fun classes like art, choir, PE, and fencing, and also foreign language, a games-based math practice class, hands-on science experriments, and a composition class to work on writing skills, among many others - we've been there 7 years).

 

Parents and students also sign a behavior contract that explains behavior expectations, responsibilities (like signing in and out, family work hour requirements, etc), and consequences for not following the policies. Consequences range from mild (calling parents, having students sit in a hallway to calm down) to moderate (if you miss the work hours that you sign up for, you have to pay a sub since the job needs to be done) to severe (if families repeatedly break rules, are disruptive, etc, they can be asked to leave). It sounds strict when I write it out, but most families participate for years without having any problems, or no problems beyond a teacher asking for a parent to talk to a chatty student. We usually have around 100 families, 300 kids in K-12.

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I ran one for years that was first come, first serve. We had current families register and then later, new families were allowed to sign up. We had a couple of legal forms required, a few rules and regulations (added to over the years as needed), and an orientation meeting so everyone was on the same page. 

 

Current one is recommendation by current member only. So you have to know someone to get in, and they have to like you enough to recommend you. Then, there is an interview process to make sure you're a "fit"; there's also a statement of faith to sign. 

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Ours had some requirements - read this book, attend a visit of co-op in session, and agree to co-op policies and procedures. Then get in line based on space availability. There was a preference given to families with kids 12+ in age. When the wait list got long and we had too much turnover they also required mom to attend a book/discussion group once a month (kids could go to co-op classes those days) for a couple of months so everyone had a good understanding of expectations.

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The one I'm in now is kind of you get in if there is space--but they are more likely to find space for teens.  As a result there is a good size group of teens.  You do have to visit and have an expectation talk with the director.

 

The one I ran had an interview process.  I did not like that we didn't take everyone, but my board disagreed.  However, I did not like how difficult and entitled some of the families were either. In other words, I did not want to exclude anyone, but I didn't have the time or energy to deal with all types of people either. It was a conundrum and I left.  I started a tiny group at my house with people I could work with who shared some curriculum with me.  But it was too small and my teens needed a new social group, so I just joined the above co-op, but will not be a leader.

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Our co-op allows teachers to register for classes first (so moms that teach classes). Then it opens up to all other co-op members to register. And lastly, it opens up to new families.

 

ETA-each class has a maximum number of students it can take, so when a class is full it’s closed. When we joined as new members, my son was able to get a nice schedule but my first picks were full. This year I’m teaching so I know he will get the schedule we want.

Edited by mytwomonkeys

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Our co-op allows teachers to register for classes first (so moms that teach classes). Then it opens up to all other co-op members to register. And lastly, it opens up to new families.

 

ETA-each class has a maximum number of students it can take, so when a class is full it’s closed. When we joined as new members, my son was able to get a nice schedule but my first picks were full. This year I’m teaching so I know he will get the schedule we want.

That would be so nice! We had to teach 3 of 4 hours (every mom) so it wouldn’t have worked at our co-op. But I disagreed with the teaching 3 of 4 hours policy too (it was because we had soooo many young families - eg 4 kids and the oldest is 7 - so lots of nursery teachers were needed).

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Our co-op allows teachers to register for classes first (so moms that teach classes). Then it opens up to all other co-op members to register. And lastly, it opens up to new families.

 

ETA-each class has a maximum number of students it can take, so when a class is full it’s closed. When we joined as new members, my son was able to get a nice schedule but my first picks were full. This year I’m teaching so I know he will get the schedule we want.

 

 

This is similar to our co-op.  Anyone who is part of our larger homeschool group is eligible to take part in the co-op.  The way our registration works is that the co-op board gets first registration, then the teachers and then the general population.  We do have many classes that close during teacher registration but those coming in under general are usually able to find something if they are flexible.  We normally have around 70 families who participate some only take one or two classes while other are there for all 5 periods.

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We don't advertise our co-op publicly, so it's only through word of mouth. We only want families that someone in our co-op already knows because they are working with our kids. 

 

If a family is interested, they contact me, the director. I discuss how our co-op operates and what would be expected of them. If they want to join, they send me a bio through email. I ask them to tell me about their family, why they are homeschooling, and in what ways they can contribute to the co-op, such as subject areas they are willing to teach. 

 

We have a board of 5 moms who then vote on accepting new members. 

 

 

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I'm amazed by how many different policies there are, though I guess I shouldn't be. Ours is also open to anyone as space allows. Current members and families of teachers (sometimes a family comes in and a parent wants to teach right away) register first, then a couple weeks later registration opens to the public. The co-op offers classes during 4 hours and kids can take anywhere from 1 to 4 classes. The board tries to arrange at least one class for every age group at each hour. The 4th hour is always lightest and many people, us included, only stay for three hours. Each class has a limited number of students, so when it's full it's full. Some popular classes do fill up before registration opens to the general public, but there are usually other choices for that age group. We have to sign a behavior contract but it's pretty basic stuff, and there's no statement of belief. There are families with a variety of beliefs who participate.

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For those of you that are in groups that have a more selective process for admitting new families, have you found that it cuts down on issues like students not doing their homework for class or other lack of commitment issues?

 

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Our current Co op requires a background check for any adult who will be on the premises. When we signed up last summer they were accepting any new families. The only requirement was at least one school age child (so you can't join just for the preschool options. We offer those for younger siblings.) Now we have nearly reached capacity at our meeting place so for next term they are only accepting families who have at least one kid over 11. But that is to try to even out the demographic which is currently 6-9 heavy. If we get into the new space we're hoping for it will open back up to any family with school age kids.

 

We have four moms who are on the board and they make the big decisions. I assume they handle it if a family needs to go, but I haven't seen any indication that it's ever been an issue.

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For those of you that are in groups that have a more selective process for admitting new families, have you found that it cuts down on issues like students not doing their homework for class or other lack of commitment issues?

 

I'm really curious to hear answers to this. I'm wondering if a first come/first served policy will come back to bite us!

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For those of you that are in groups that have a more selective process for admitting new families, have you found that it cuts down on issues like students not doing their homework for class or other lack of commitment issues?

I don't know if ours is truly selective, but we have good participation overall. We have had issues this year with a couple of families. One of those is moving away, so that issue resolved itself. Tomorrow we have our planning meeting for next year, and I plan to discuss the importance of full participation. Most of our teachers don't seem bothered by it, but a couple definitely get annoyed.

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For those of you that are in groups that have a more selective process for admitting new families, have you found that it cuts down on issues like students not doing their homework for class or other lack of commitment issues?

 

Ours doesn't have a selective process, but we don't have commitment issues. We have a per family fee that is reasonable but not cheap, plus some individual class fees, so people aren't going to join just for an occasional play date. The only families in it really want to be there and get something out of it. Plus everyone has a job to do all day. No one just drops off or hangs around talking waiting for their kid's class. Everyone has to teach or co-teach a class. Blocks you're not teaching you are assigned somewhere else to be to help out. We have somewhere to be each hour and we have an assigned week we stay after to clean. We have an active fb page and if you won't be at co-op you post to the group so they can shuffle people to fill in for you. Every week there's a family or two out, but with so many families that's inevitable. People get sick or go on vacation. No one just flakes out and skips for no reason. 

 

Individual teachers also use the fb page to post things about their class. So the ones who have homework can post it there each week and tag the parents who have a kid in that class. I'm sure that helps some of the older kids with keeping on top of work. My oldest has only had one homework class but the one week I helped in that class every kid had done theirs. 

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For those of you that are in groups that have a more selective process for admitting new families, have you found that it cuts down on issues like students not doing their homework for class or other lack of commitment issues?

Yes. Not entirely, but somewhat. We are a large co-op (80 families). We tell people up front that we expect them to make co-op a priority, that it's not a "come when you feel like it" group because we are counting on them to participate. We tell them they have to find a sub from within the co-op when they can't be there, both for their classroom duties and their clean-up duties. We have a larger, general membership from where we pull applications for the co-op, and we rely heavily on personal recommendations, as well as what they might offer in the future (willingness to teach is a big plus). It hasn't been the case for years that we are able to take everyone who applies, and some years we don't have space to take anyone at all (the church where we meet limits us to 200 children).

 

We still get people who are somewhat clueless and flakey, but for the most part they know that it was difficult to get in to co-op and they respect that it is a commitment. I hate turning people away because I think the community we offer is important, but we have limits on our size and we have to draw the line where it most benefits the co-op as a whole. We had years early on where we took all comers, and while we didn't have a huge problem with commitment then, it was definitely easier for people to drop out or just not show up. Some of the people who joined then are still around, and even now their commitment is not the same as those who joined when it was hard to get in.

 

That's pretty much just for attendance and doing what's expected of you (teaching/assisting/cleaning up/supervising your kids). We are an elective co-op, so the homework issue doesn't apply as much. When we do offer academic classes, we make it clear that there will be homework that each student is expected to do, and that students can be dropped from the class if they are just there as a warm body and not to paricipate actively. Our high school academic classes have a student/parent agreement to sign, because teaching a high school class is no small amount of work for the volunteer teacher, and we only want students and families involved who are going to take it seriously.

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