So Now You’re Home for Schooling and Want a Co-op…

I am a part of several online homeschooling groups and just lately I’m seeing post after post of people who are looking for coops and activities.

Friends. There’s a pandemic happening.

That’s why you’re unwillingly homeschooling. So you can avoid the germs.

I’m baffled.

I’m also completely understanding because the homeschoolers who’ve been homeschooling for a long time are also deep in the trenches of “where did our social life go?!” Where are the field trips? The learning opportunities?

Am I really going to be counting on National Geographic for our outside world exposure?!

We all have different views on comfort level but even if you’re firmly in the “this is a bogus hoax” camp you’re dealing with the “and now you’ll be putting a mask on before you enter my grocery store” camp so… what to do?

If you’ve been thinking of joining a cooperative learning experience this year, here are a few things that helped us make a decision (and, spoiler alert, we decided we aren’t participating at all in organized educational activities this year).

We suspended ours because we don’t have the capacity to do what would need to be done to make sure we are not potentially causing a problem. Having to take temperatures, mandate masks, social distance small kids … that’s not what we do best and just the volume of clean up necessary to protect our church meeting space is exhausting to consider.

Questions to Answer:

Fees. Does this group you’re considering cost anything? It is money you feel comfortable just throwing to the wind and losing if need be?

Many groups have a no refund policy. I can’t blame them at all because you can’t organize well without hard numbers. But still… if something happens and you never receive a refund because it’s already been spent on supplies are you going to be ok with that?

What is the refund plan if the group can’t meet?

What about if the group goes online midway through the year?

Ask those questions ahead of signing up so that everyone is clear. And consider this from the group leaders perspective – they’re going WAY above and beyond what they typically do to even provide a service during this time. Be grateful!

Don’t be the headache to someone else and start asking for money back if things look different or your family gets sick and misses weeks at a time. This is a risky time. Don’t commit unless you can handle the risk.

Liability. Who is carrying the risk for your involvement? This is just the kind thing to ask as a human being.

Everything I’ve read suggests that if you’re asked to sign a Covid waiver, they’re basically worthless and won’t actually protect anyone from anything.

So, if there’s an outbreak.. and if that requires hospitalization ($$$)… it is literally the insurance company’s job to recover their lost finances. That means they’ll be going back to the location where the outbreak happened (if possible) and they’ll be trying to recover damages there.

If it happens that there’s a homeschool coop that hasn’t been following the best practices for their area – like wearing masks, temperature checks throughout the day, cleaning religiously, social distancing the little squirrels called children – the leadership of that group is going to get nailed for those damages.

I wish I were joking. But I’m not.

So ask the question before you get involved. Is this a corporation? A sole proprietor or partnership? Do they have insurance? If so, what are the insurance stipulations so you can know about it and help follow them? Be a helper instead of a consumer and ask the questions and understand the answers.

(I can’t imagine taking on that type of risk for the entire community as a leader… and thus I can’t imagine enrolling my kids in a coop and asking someone else to take on that risk so my kid could participate!)

Location. Where will the meetings take place? If it’s in a church, are there specific areas that are allowed to be used and how will they be sanitized?

Do the children themselves understand the importance of not getting into the unsanctioned areas? Is there a schedule set up so that other adults are monitoring the area? Or is that landing solely on the group leadership?

For our community we met in a church. I would be beside myself trying to clean everything so that our group didn’t accidentally spread Covid-19 to the elderly population of the church. That’s a massive amount of cleaning every time we get together to do an art project.

Is it in a home? Does that person carry homeowners insurance that covers group meetings? That covers trampolines in the back yard or the mastiff that’s roams through the house if there’s an issue? (And are you all contributing to this poor family so they can get cleaning help every time you meet? There’s an exhausting amount of preparation needed when people meet in homes. I’ve known way too many burned out Bible study leaders in my time… and most of it has to do with cleaning before people arrive and guest children getting into things they shouldn’t.)

Are you paying anything to be a part of this home-meeting group? If so, are they zoned to be allowed to run a business out of their home? This article is excellent at laying out things to consider that don’t immediately show up as “homeschooling” issues: Can parents hire a tutor this fall and call it homeschooling?

Local Mandates. In my state we are not to be gathering in groups larger than 10 people. And we have a large family which means if we’re following the local mandates we really don’t get together with people.

Even if you don’t agree with the mandates, if you’re a Christian there’s a strong Biblical argument for obeying the government. And there’s no sin in limiting gathering sizes. The answer to the frustration is to get involved in local politics, not slide into some under-the-table group activity and teach your kids to be sneaky.

Just this last week some friends of mine were gathering in the park and someone reported them to the police for not social distancing or wearing masks in public. (I know. I know. People need better things to do with their time but it seems that that is not something they have a desire to pursue.) Instead of enjoying the fresh air these mamas had to interact with the (very kind) police and it really put a damper on their day.

If you’re outside… in a group with many kids… someone’s going to notice and say something. Are you ready for that? Do you even want to mess with it?

All of this is so negative that I feel badly. But really – have some thought as you start posting about coops and whether to attend. There’s a reason so many people are educating at home this year and it’s because you are choosing to stay out of groups. Other home educators aren’t inherently healthier than the general population (despite what their bag of essential oils might suggest).

Here’s another great assessment that you should read before you commit: Pandemic Pods: Are they Homeschool Co-ops?

Be wise, be kind, and good luck.

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