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mms

Making a co-op high school friendly

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I never thought I'd join a co-op after a perfectly useless experience when my eldest (DD10) was in K.  But, an established group recently moved quite close to us from a different location and the children already had established friendships within the group: they requested we join and so far it has been a good experience.  It is an enrichment co-op: classes in fairly specialized historical topics, logic/debate/journalism, choir, group field trips that sort of thing.  Highly educated, committed group of parents leading the group.  Next fall will be our first crop of high school level kids but there won't really be a sufficient number to separate them out from the middle school group.  We were hoping to attract some more high schoolers to make a separate high school program worth while for them and needed some ideas on how to do so.

I realize that most of the posters here would NOT use a co-op at the high school setting because of relaxed academic standards.  However in this case, though the co-op is for enrichment, we are all academically oriented home schoolers so everyone is on board with creating something that is worthwhile to spend time away from home.  For example, for the fall I am teaming up with a biophysicist PhD to offer a physical science lab.  The idea being that parents would teach whatever program they want at home and we would provide 8-9 high quality labs over the course of the year that would not really be feasible to do at home (we have access to microchem & physics lab equipment).  The co-op actually meets once a week.  Simply by offering this one lab class several families have already expressed interest in joining us if there was more offered for the high schoolers.

Any other ideas for what we might offer on this day to grow our high school group to one sizeable enough to make it worthwhile? None of us have students currently in high school and hence don't really have a good idea of what needs we might be able to meet.

Also, what other circumstances would make or break your decision in being interested in something like this? One thing that occured to me was the time of day classes are offered (maybe leaving mornings open for school @ home) or requirements for parents of students, etc.

Edited by mms

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My kids this year have art and piano lessons at an all day co-op. They do a study hall in-between and while the other does piano. The art class has upper elementary to high school, but she's made the projects where we've had work to do at home on them and my teens could really excel, and the middle kids could rush through them in classes alone. They've done some amazing work with her. It's just a half day for them. My preschooler stays all day, and they walk home to work on their own stuff after their classes. 

In the past when we've done all day co-op we've had Latin, science, pe, and art as constants up through high school. 

They've also had speech, state history, drama, yearbook committee, and journalism. They created a nice yearbook that we had printed. And they made a monthly newsletter in journalism. I counted these as extra curricular for my kids. We always had older teens who would have books go work on their own stuff for part of the day at all the co-ops we were in while younger sibs had some classes, but we tried to have worthwhile things for them too. Next year for 12th and 10th and k will be the first year we aren't going a co-op out of the house weekly. 

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We love our co-op, which has classes for kids K-12.  It's enrichment only for youngers, but high schoolers can take enrichment or academic classes.  Depending on your state, there may be requirements that are more easily done in a group (like public speaking) or where you just need to check a box so lax academic standards are less concerning (in our state, it's health class - and you might be able to do CPR/first aid training for the group).  You could also offer classes that fulfill a specialty niche - fine arts or PE.  My kids will likely take foreign language and certain language arts and history classes at co-op, but I'd have to see who is teaching and how it fits our schedule.  But, my non-artsy kid will likely fulfill the fine arts requirement with either an art or film appreciation class or ballroom dance, depending on what is offered when we need it.  The fencing class will likely fill the PE requirement (we do plenty of sports, but I don't want to sort out extracurricular from PE class).  It's only weekly with no homework, so I wouldn't have enough hours after 1 year unless I add something, but since kiddo will happily take fencing for 2 years, that's plenty of hours for the 1 semester (half credit) that we need.  I think that the biggest advantage for us is that everybody doesn't need to take the same schedule -  you just pick what you want to take.  I do all math and science at home.  I once had one of my kids take a composition class because I wanted somebody else to comment on their writing, but it wasn't intended to be a full course.  Our high school classes don't work like that, but you could choose to - something that's a supplement, like a short writing intensive.  

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I teach high school writing and literature at our co-op. It is a credit worthy class that requires work at home, and time in class is devoted to literature discussions and writing instruction. They also have summer reading and reading over the Christmas break. My class and the high school science class we offer are big draws for high schoolers that homeschool. In fact our high school class next year will have around twelve kids. For our small farming community, that's huge.

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19 minutes ago, Chelli said:

I teach high school writing and literature at our co-op. It is a credit worthy class that requires work at home, and time in class is devoted to literature discussions and writing instruction. They also have summer reading and reading over the Christmas break. My class and the high school science class we offer are big draws for high schoolers that homeschool. In fact our high school class next year will have around twelve kids. For our small farming community, that's huge.

Yes, a writing class was one idea that was floated around.  The concern was with having homework requirements and having families join who would not enforce homework from co-op.

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I'm part of the leadership team for our mega co-op of 110 families. We are bucking the trend of upper grade families vanishing from homeschooling. About 2/3 of our families have students 6th-12th. I think this helps because the families in our group are vested in community and what our group does. Last year we had a bumper crop of graduates. I'm trying to remember, but I think it was 25 seniors that graduated from our group. You can have both academic and enrichment classes which reach different needs of the group. We have also invited outside teachers to offer classes to our group as well though the vast majority of our classes are parent taught. The key is ownership by the partcipating families to cooperatively offer what is needed/wanted. What I mean by this is that it works best when parents offer what their families need. Mostly high school offerings have been offered by parents of high school students. This gives families ownership rather than creating a situation where people were just joining for a service provided if that makes sense. It was detrimental to our group when people joined just because they wanted X class and not necessarily to be a part and contribute cooperatively to our community if that makes sense. We do lots of social activities as well and usually even host a dance or two every year so we are a busy group for our upper grade students.

Best of luck to you as you form your group. 

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In my first post I suggested some non-traditional classes because that seemed like what you were looking for.  If you're considering offering traditional full credit classes...yes, you'll probably have students that don't do the work.  Some families won't be on top of their kids' work, and others will be pulling their hair out because their student doesn't do the work, or forgets to bring it to class, or slops through it...because there's only so much that you can make a teenager do.  But, the majority of the students tend to do what they're supposed to, and many of them will be good students.  All you can do is teach and let students earn their grades (although I can offer more support if needed).  

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32 minutes ago, mms said:

Yes, a writing class was one idea that was floated around.  The concern was with having homework requirements and having families join who would not enforce homework from co-op.

 

It's a problem every year (having some students who don't do the work), but it's a problem in any teaching seting. I teach the class, I grade the work, and I give a grade to the parents. What the parents do with that final grade is up to them.

I will say that for the most part the kids do the work because they don't want to be the one that isn't participating. Positive peer pressure is a beautiful thing at that age.

Edited by Chelli
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Things that homeschooler's need help with for high school that can attract them to a co-op:
- science labs
- writing class (essays, research paper with citations -- both instruction and grading/comments)
- math or math tutoring
- public speaking
- quality art / music instruction
- class that knocks out the required 0.5 credit of Gov't or Econ

Having a few specialty or "enrichment" classes for variety is nice, too:
- computer coding
- sewing
- drama
- robotics
- Speech & Debate team
- Mock Trial or Youth & Government

Edited by Lori D.
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Offering high school classes in a co-op environment is my passion. Over the years I've found that the classes with the highest attendance/interest were those the parents/families either could not or did not want to offer at home: Government, Economics, Psychology, Physics, Literature/Writing, Ethics, Speech/Debate. The students think it is fantastic to have peers with whom to discuss ideas/opinions and the parents are relieved to have someone else assigning the work.

I quickly grew tired of pouring as much time (average 1.5 hours/day of prep work/class) into kids who were not doing the work so I offer options: Exposure/Audit, Standard, Honors/AP. Families get a breakdown of what is required for each one as well as what I will do depending on what they/their kids decide. For example, if a student wants to take a Literature class for exposure only then I do not assign any writing and will not assign a grade.

I've never required parents of high school students to participate. I know most are unable to find the extra time and, honestly, I don't want anyone teaching who isn't passionate about doing so. My "requirement" is a roll of toilet paper each semester and near perfect attendance for those students who are seeking credit for the class.

The last thing I can think of with regard to high school classes is that I need a longer time slot (1.5-2 hours) each week. As we only meet once/week there is no way I can accomplish what I need/want to in only an hour. I always offer CLEP prep and a party after the test for those who want to take that as a final exam (always a good incentive).

 

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Commenting on the problem with students not doing the work. We have allowed (I've been one of them) teachers to set the conditions for remaining in a class (generally this has been academic). Students have been removed from classes if they fail to do the work. This is in the class description prior to enrollment. Students and parents are warned about this ahead of time. They are given warnings about what they need to do in order to continue in the class. And yes, we have had students dropped from classes. The leadership backs up the teachers on this as we are all volunteers so there is no expectation for putting up with this when the expectations are clearly laid out. 

I will also add, we do have policies for misbehaving students as well. Generally this is a 3 step process, but it rarely gets to the final stage where a student is asked to leave a class since the last recourse prior to that is that the parent is required to attend with the student for the student to remain in the class.

This may sound strict, but we do this because we value our parent teachers who volunteer their time and effort to offer classes. Not protecting them from these situations is a fast track to burning out teachers and not valuing them.

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I only have experience with co-ops that have solid high school membership. One leans more academic, and one leans more enrichment. Both provide a good amount of events/activities outside of their weekly class schedule, and I think that’s a big part of it. Both also give the teens a lot of leadership opportunities. They’re very much a community within a community, rather than just random kids who take classes together.  IMO, that’s the glue.

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The weekly co-op we belong to is K-12 and has at least 100 families.  There are enrichment and academic classes.  All the classes have a charge.  The teachers are paid.  You're paying $300-$400 per class per year, for high school classes.  They offer all the core academics for all 4 years of high school.  This is our first year with them...my senior is taking Gov't/Econ and my sophhomlre is taking Algebra 2 and Biology.  I think having to pay helps people take it more seriously.  

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This is so helpful!  Thank you. I will definitely be presenting all of these ideas to the group.

14 hours ago, ClemsonDana said:

In my first post I suggested some non-traditional classes because that seemed like what you were looking for.  If you're considering offering traditional full credit classes...yes, you'll probably have students that don't do the work.  Some families won't be on top of their kids' work, and others will be pulling their hair out because their student doesn't do the work, or forgets to bring it to class, or slops through it...because there's only so much that you can make a teenager do.  But, the majority of the students tend to do what they're supposed to, and many of them will be good students.  All you can do is teach and let students earn their grades (although I can offer more support if needed).  

Personally, I am not interested in an academic co-op.  I have a good grasp of what I would like accomplished on the academic side of our home school.  One of the things that attracted me to this group was the strong sense of community and a seriousness about the enrichment that made it worthwhile to take a whole day our of the week to attend.  For example, my eldest is in a class on our state's history.  The lady who leads it does a fantastic job of targeting the age of the students and providing room for growth in skills: she directly teaches note taking skills, for example.  The field trips are always really well planned as well. And there is a large chunk of the day set aside for free play or organized group games that are just not possible for a single family.

As we look forward to growing (no interest in a huge group, just large enough to make it more interesting, lol) one of the things that occured to us was,  that we're not really interested in attracting those who already have a co-op they are happy with but rather people who might not have been interested in a co-op in the first place (like me) but who might find our group a great way to fill a need.  All that to say, any and all ideas are really appreciated: we do not yet have a clear idea of whether we will continue with an enrichment focus or offer more academic subjects as time goes on.  We do know that those of us who are part of the community now would really like to continue with the community, but in order to make it worth while for even our own (future) high schoolers to continue to participate will require adding a few more families.  And given the wide range of talents available, it should be possible to do so in a way that does not really compete with other co-ops (there are a lot of cottage schools around here as well).

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Offer science and they will come. Lol 

Our enrichment group serves hundreds and offers classes for K-12. The first high school classes to fill are always the science classes (most of which are anchored to Apologia but offering labs seems to be central) and then the improv class. 

We aren't interested in mostly academic classes but enrichment. My kids have taken military history and art and theater and music and culinary arts classes. We have other plans for core topics. 

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19 hours ago, calbear said:

Commenting on the problem with students not doing the work. We have allowed (I've been one of them) teachers to set the conditions for remaining in a class (generally this has been academic). Students have been removed from classes if they fail to do the work. This is in the class description prior to enrollment. Students and parents are warned about this ahead of time. They are given warnings about what they need to do in order to continue in the class. And yes, we have had students dropped from classes. The leadership backs up the teachers on this as we are all volunteers so there is no expectation for putting up with this when the expectations are clearly laid out. 

I will also add, we do have policies for misbehaving students as well. Generally this is a 3 step process, but it rarely gets to the final stage where a student is asked to leave a class since the last recourse prior to that is that the parent is required to attend with the student for the student to remain in the class.

This may sound strict, but we do this because we value our parent teachers who volunteer their time and effort to offer classes. Not protecting them from these situations is a fast track to burning out teachers and not valuing them.

 

The above is what works. Lay out the participation expectations (including attendance and homework) ahead of time, and follow through with consequences if they are not met. It also helps if they are paying something for the class and there is a no refunds consequence. Somehow people will always put more effort into something they have paid for.

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On the science labs specifically: It would be awesome if the class would choose a text and present a syllabus, and match the labs accordingly. It can be completely optional, parents could choose a separate text, and do their own thing entirely, and just show up for the labs which could be complementary to any bio/chem/physics class. But for the parents who would prefer a more coordinated effort, they could choose to follow the chosen text and syllabus, and therefore their child could have labs that line up with the current topic they are studying at home.

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We just moved and have recently joined an academic co-op  with 800 students.  The high school classes that filled up the first day of registration:  chemistry (three sections being offered), econ (.5 credit), govt (.5 credit), fine arts elective (art one day, music another - we have a 1 credit fine arts requirement in our state).

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57 minutes ago, Pink and Green Mom said:

We just moved and have recently joined an academic co-op  with 800 students.  The high school classes that filled up the first day of registration:  chemistry (three sections being offered), econ (.5 credit), govt (.5 credit), fine arts elective (art one day, music another - we have a 1 credit fine arts requirement in our state).

Yes, there are several groups like that in the area: people are not actually lacking for strictly academic resources here for their high schoolers.  We are a far smaller group and want to keep it that way so we're looking at how to grow while fulfilling a niche need rather than turning into a cottage school type scenario.

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9 hours ago, Jackie said:

On the science labs specifically: It would be awesome if the class would choose a text and present a syllabus, and match the labs accordingly. It can be completely optional, parents could choose a separate text, and do their own thing entirely, and just show up for the labs which could be complementary to any bio/chem/physics class. But for the parents who would prefer a more coordinated effort, they could choose to follow the chosen text and syllabus, and therefore their child could have labs that line up with the current topic they are studying at home.

I thought of that and have a text in mind.  I might just go ahead and design a course I'd want for my own (theoretical) high schoolers and offer it to parents who might want more guidance on how to make this into a full science credit for their students.  Thanks for pointing this out!

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I think I'm your target demographic . I just joined a small co-op this spring, after swearing off co-ops long ago. I would love a science lab section, and it wouldn't need to be connected to a particular curriculum for me, but I would be very, very enthusiastic about the hands on part and lab reports being taught. Along with science lab, I would love to have some sort of speech class or group - speech, debate, mock trial, model UN - something where my student was practicing public speaking and persuasive argumentation. I went to the open house for the co-op because they offer high school level fine arts - currently drawing and painting; in the future sculpture, fabric arts, digital art, choir - for teens without younger students in the class.

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Our co-op meets every other week, but we have consistently had parents who want science and writing/lit for high school. This is our 7th year, and we do a survey each year before we plan classes for the next. Those win out every time. And that's what wins out for about 3rd grade and up as well.

One difference in our co-op from what you are planning is that our students all use the same curriculum. Most of our parents want help with understanding science, being prepared for the tests, etc., along with doing the labs.  We have 17 high school students this year and offered physics. We offered a choice of a writing only class or a literature based class. We also offered a choice of logic or government/economics. All these classes had required curricula and homework assignments. 

Next year we will offer an ACT/SAT math class, and that has become a big draw for our seniors to stay at the co-op even though they are finished with science credits. It is the first time a non-core class has been so attractive. I think that is because by high school, most feel they don't have time to go out to a co-op unless it is really part of what they are already doing. 

As far as electives that are not for credit, we have a mom teaching woodworking next year. That class is full and has a waiting list! We have offered classes in personal finances, so some families studied economics at home on their own during that semester. We've offered art, health/PE, etc. None of those had the draw that these for next year seem to have. 

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We have about 80 kids in our co-op and close to half of those are in high school, but our co-op was begun as a high school supplement and continues to make that its focus. Some of the things that we offer for high school that seem to be helpful to most families are: upper-level science classes with labs, Spanish I and II, writing class, speech, drama, literature discussion classes, and volleyball. Most of those things are just easier to accomplish in a group setting. 

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On 4/16/2019 at 1:43 AM, calbear said:

Commenting on the problem with students not doing the work. We have allowed (I've been one of them) teachers to set the conditions for remaining in a class (generally this has been academic). Students have been removed from classes if they fail to do the work. This is in the class description prior to enrollment. Students and parents are warned about this ahead of time. They are given warnings about what they need to do in order to continue in the class. And yes, we have had students dropped from classes. The leadership backs up the teachers on this as we are all volunteers so there is no expectation for putting up with this when the expectations are clearly laid out. 

I will also add, we do have policies for misbehaving students as well. Generally this is a 3 step process, but it rarely gets to the final stage where a student is asked to leave a class since the last recourse prior to that is that the parent is required to attend with the student for the student to remain in the class.

This may sound strict, but we do this because we value our parent teachers who volunteer their time and effort to offer classes. Not protecting them from these situations is a fast track to burning out teachers and not valuing them.

Our co-op has the same policy, but in my six years there, I have yet to see a need for it to be enforced. 

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When we switched to every other week and afternoons, we got a lot more teens. We do enrichment classes like Arduino projects, coding, robotics, art, public speaking. We don't have good facilities to do high school science. They are fine for elementary level science though. I would like to do math, but we have all the high school kids together in one class, so I'm not sure how it could work. 

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