Every homeschooling co-op is different. Although co-ops are started to meet the needs of homeschooling families in a particular area, the way each one grows and develops is as unique as the students involved.
Suzanne Brown is a long-time homeschooling mom and a founding member of the Upstate Homeschool Co-op, one of the largest co-ops in the upstate of South Carolina. The Upstate Homeschool Co-op (UHC) began in 1997 with 19 children. Today it serves more than 500.
UHC is organized and administered by a volunteer committee of home schooling parents, though the teachers are paid professionals, many of which hold degrees in the fields they are teaching. Classes are offered on Mondays and Wednesdays. But like any homeschool co-op, UHC is designed to enhance the learning that goes on at home.
The following interview was conducted by UHC student Kylie Lewis. She asked Suzanne about the changes in the co-op since it first began. If you’re part of a co-op, you might recognize some of the challenges Suzanne mentions, as well as some of the rewards.
Why was the co-op first started, and where did you get the idea?
Well, I didn’t really have an idea to start a co-op. I had an idea to get moms together to do some activities and some different learning units with their children, and we started in my house. We did music and art, some history and science, and we all split up and taught different things. One of us would watch the “little people” who were not quite old enough [to participate]. So, I didn’t really set out to start a co-op, but it has evolved into that.
When did the co-op become a two-day per week program?
We began the high school program about 10 years ago. It’s really hard to get the high school classes in with only one day per week.
What has been the hardest thing about heading this co-op?
I think the thing that is not necessarily “hard” but is challenging is working around the different facilities, trying to honor their needs versus our needs, and always working around the schedules. I do think one of the challenging things personally is being a mom and a wife and managing my family. I have seven children, so managing all those pieces while still giving my time to co-op [is a challenge].
What has been the most enjoyable thing about heading the co-op?
I love working with families, and I love working with students. I really enjoy helping parents meet the educational goals they have for their students, and I enjoy helping kids that maybe don’t fit inside the box. They either need to be challenged if they’re super bright, or they may have some learning struggles and need some accommodations to graduate high school with a strong program. I really enjoy that type of work.
Has your own co-op seen any significant changes since it first began?
Photo by: Upstate Homeschool Co-op