Why Your Town Needs a Catholic Homeschooling Cooperative

Why Your Town Needs a Catholic Homeschooling Cooperative

Why Your Town Needs a Catholic Homeschooling Cooperative

This week my daughters practiced being excommunicated.  Their activity leader thought a great way to study Martin Luther would be to play “Pin the Theses on the Church Door.”  It’s like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, except at the end, an instructor dressed as the Pope kicks each child out of the Church.

Needless to say, we aren’t planning to re-enroll next year.

What’s a Family Like Yours Doing in a School Like This?

How’d it come to this?  This summer we had the chance to enroll my sixth grader in a rigorous English course, and the program offered fun educational activities for the younger siblings.  It was all being hosted at a nearby evangelical congregation that I was long familiar with, and with which I’d never had a bad experience.

The class is great, and overall I’m happy with the program.  But no surprise, non-Catholics don’t hold a Catholic worldview.

Most Homeschoolers Are Not Lone Wolves

People imagine homeschoolers as pasty recluses huddled around the kitchen table, like hermits of old, only not so sociable.  People imagine homeschooling mothers as gurus-of-all-trades, patiently bobbling the preschooler on the knee while the older children circle around for lessons in physics and calculus and sentence diagramming.
Nope.  Just like everyone else, we seek out companionship and assistance.  We don’t do it all.  We network and we outsource — because it’s better that way, and because sometimes it’s the only way to get our children the education they need.

Provide a Catholic Option

What that means is that if there’s no Catholic option for the class or support group your local homeschooling family needs, they’ll end up with a non-Catholic group.  And that eventually leads to weird moments like Excommunication Day.  The families in your community deserve better than that.

Start Planning Now for Next Year

If your community doesn’t have Catholic homeschooling classes and support, now’s the time to get organized.  Look for another family, or two or three or four, and start chatting.  What classes do parents want for their children? What class would you like to teach your kids next year, that you’d be willing to offer to other students as well?

Our parish started a co-op this summer.  It started with plans for just one small class every other week.  Next thing we knew, we had a full slate of teachers and courses, and more in the pipeline for next year.
More and More Catholic Choices

There are many options and resources for Catholic homeschooling groups. Here are a few to give you ideas for getting started:

Co-schooling.  Check out Erin Arlinghaus’s blog for details about how she and another family homeschool together.

Parent-Run, All-Volunteer Co-ops.  That’s what our parish is doing.  Each parent teaches or volunteers at no charge, and we each contribute as-able to supply costs.

Formal Off-the-Shelf Co-op Programs.  Take a look at Catholic Schoolhouse for an out-of-the-box cooperative program with strong administrative support.  If you’ve never taught groups before, they have a thorough rundown of the kinds of problems you can expect, and how to avoid them. Catholic Schoolhouse materials can also be purchased a la carte – our group is using just their art class; the teacher’s manual provides everything we need for a lay enthusiast to lead the class.

Classically Catholic Memory for elementary, and Catholic Icing’s Catholic ABC’s for pre-school, provide similar co-op curricula options for those who don’t need a headquarters office to provide teacher training.  Catholic ABC’s lays out every detail of a weekly preschool program that the instructor can lift right off the page and use as a lesson plan.

Hybrid Schools – Franchise Style or DIY.  Regina Caeli Academy is a two-day a week classical-style hybrid school, with satellite campuses in several states.  From the website:

RCA continues to grow with satellites in Fayetteville, GA, Houston, TX, Hartford, CT, Dallas, TX, and Austin, TX. If you are interested in bringing Regina Caeli Academy to your city please contact Kari Beckman kbeckman@rcahybrid.org for information on starting a satellite campus.

To get more ideas about what Catholic hybrid schools can do, visit the websites of St. John Bosco Academy and Sacred Heart Classical Center. You can create a hybrid school using classes you write yourself, picking and choosing from your favorite textbooks, or following your favorite all-in-one Catholic curriculum.

Courses for the Whole Parish.  Homeschoolers aren’t the only ones who need tutoring and extra-curricular activities.  Visit the Academy of Culture and Arts at St. Sebastian’s for ideas on what your parish might be able to offer.
Classes at Your Local Catholic School.  Not every Catholic school can offer classes to homeschoolers, but some do. Allowing homeschoolers to enroll by-the-course is one way to fund full-time instructors for specialty subjects.  It also lets prospective students begin part-time before enrolling full-time in future years.

Catholic or Bust?

Are parents guilty of poor team spirit if they enroll in a secular or non-Catholic program?  I say no.  It’s the responsibility of the Catholic community — those of us blessed with the ability to teach — to offer affordable, quality education that actually meets the needs of the families in our parishes.

No one school, center, or co-op is going to be perfect for every family.  Our Catholic communities need to offer a variety of options, from the full-service, extended-care parochial school to the unschooling playgroup that meets for park day twice a month.

“Community” Means You

There is no “they” who are going to magically swoop in and fill the educational gaps in your town.  Catholic education happens when, and only when, individuals decide they’re going to take action and start teaching.

What are the needs in your community?  What classes or programs are parents asking for?  What have they quit asking for, and sought out someplace else?  What role can you play in the next twelve months, to help bring Catholic choices to the children in your parish?

I’d be interested to hear about what’s working in your area. Share links if you’ve got them!


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  1. I came across this blog post, and it fits into a dilemma my wife and our family is dealing with in some regard. I’m a stay at home dad, with no education background. I have entertained the possibility of educating our kids at home…… but the lack of a background in education along with other factors is the reason my wife and I haven’t been compelled to make the final leap. We live in Charlotte, and like most places the cost of Catholic education is too high, and the Catholic values aren’t what they should be. Our scenario we have four kids, 6 and under, with a baby due at the end of the month. So you can see the thought of Catholic education is very daunting in regard to financial obligations. But as parents we owe it to our kids to give them the best, without sacrificing responsible parenthood.

    Your article speaks on the community factor…….. and I ask, to get others thoughts and feedback. Shouldn’t we the Catholic community demand more of our Catholic diocese to offer affordable, and orthodox education for our kids? I wonder if the prevalence of entering the public system, and opting to home school has let the Catholic church off the hook, of helping educating the future generations in a Catholic environment?

    Instead of choosing home school, and settling for public school, we need to raise the stakes. Put our children in the schools, and advocate change. Is this too idealistic? Have the majority of Catholic dioceses abandoned the faithful that there is no hope of a return…… to orthodox and affordable Catholic education?

    I would invite others to share there experience, the dilemma they face regarding their children’s Catholic education.

  2. Dan,

    A few thoughts for you:

    -First of all, since you live in Charlotte, track down the homeschooling community in the area. There is a strong, faithfully-Catholic subset that is to be found. Catholic Schoolhouse is based in the region, and their weekly cooperative would be something you could use a spine for your curriculum, and work from there.

    -Do not be intimidated by a lack of a teaching background. Homeschooling is not for everyone, but many non-teachers make excellent homeschooling parents. The skills needed for teaching your children at home are very different than what is needed in the classroom.

    -Don’t assume you have to pay full retail for Catholic education. If there is a parochial school that is an excellent fit for your family, ask about financial aid. You’d be surprised. I have no idea what’s going on in the diocese of Charlotte, but I recently spoke to a school in my area, and was told that our bishop is very serious about getting Catholics into the Catholic schools, and that greater parishioner discounts and sliding scale tuition reflected that. They also suggested that you please just come in with your income info, and do an informal inquiry to find out what kind of financial aid you could expect. (The school outsources the actual financial-aid process, but the director can generally ballpark what you’ll qualify for so you can decide before applying.)

    ” Shouldn’t we the Catholic community demand more of our Catholic diocese to offer affordable, and orthodox education for our kids?”

    This is where we the laity need to step up. Schools don’t come from nowhere. As parents *we* can form the schools we need, whether that’s a full independent Catholic school (Diocese of Charleston has a number that have formed over the past couple decades), a parish-based supplemental program, or an informal group of parents who get together to help each other out.

    The advice I was given: Don’t wait to be asked, don’t wait to be thanked.

    Just jump in, pray like crazy, and see where the Lord leads.

    Dan, best of luck to you! Oh, and check out the IHM conference in Charlotte next spring. Great place to meet other faithful Catholics in the region.

  3. Pingback: Get Next Year’s Homeschool Co-op Started Now | CatholicMom.com

  4. Danielle Jones on

    A little late to the party here, but I am part of a Catholic Homeschool Coop that is just getting started. We would love to talk to some veteran coops about how they are administered, specifically how they function within their parishes – are they associated with a parish, are they considered a ministry of the parish and how each of those situations looks/works.

    Thanks –

  5. Danielle,

    We’ve participated in a co-op that is part of the homeschool support group ministry of the parish. It’s a parish that doesn’t have a school but does have a classroom building, which is relatively rare in our area. (We have other parishes with parish homeschool groups but no place for classes.)

    Participants register with the parish as part of the co-op (we’ll make exceptions if necessary – example we had an inquiry from the family of a non-Catholic pastor who really just couldn’t do that) and participate in parish life as-able, even if they have a second “home” parish. We follow all the same requirements as any other parish organization, including having our courses approved by the pastor, meeting parish child-safety requirements, etc.

    I know some other parishes in our diocese have allowed Catholic co-ops to come in as outside groups – ie with their own insurance, a formal agreement on rent, etc.

    It all depends. You can also meet at an external location. We have a public library with meeting rooms that is next door to a parish with daily Mass, so that would be a good back-up type location if a parish is unable to host. (We also have non-Catholic churches willing to host, but that would require us to back off on just how Catholic we are.)

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