Homeschool Co-Op in Indian Wells

What is a “homeschool co-op”?

A homeschool coop is a group of homeschoolers coming together in cooperation to provide educational and social activities for their children. They are a private enterprise and can be very formal or informal depending on the leaders of the group and its membership. They can be as simple as a park day meet-up once a week where someone plans some sort of activity each week, to as complex as daily classes and projects. Some offer organized field trips. Some ask for a membership fee. And most involve some level of direct parent involvement.

For those in the Coachella Valley, there is a great co-op available called “Desert Valley Cooperative Learning Collaborative” or DVCLC.  Check out their site HERE for details!

If you don’t have something like this in your area, consider starting one! You can start by creating a weekly park day. It takes some time, but after awhile you will gather a group of like-minded people that might be ready to pool their resources and start offering some fun and educational meet-ups for all the kids. It doesn’t have to start out large and complicated!

Here are a few articles and websites that might help you get started!

“8 Questions to Ask When Starting a Homeschool Co-Op” from The Homeschool Mom

“Starting a Small Homeschool Co-Op” from American Home Education

“How to Start a Homeschool Co-Op” from Eva Varga

Calling All Charter School Vendors

I like to be completely candid on this blog. I hope many of you can appreciate that. And while this page generally promotes home education through private means, that doesn’t mean I’m unsympathetic to folks that choose the public school options. I have recently talked to a few small business owners that had concerns about being paid as vendors through public charter schools that cater to homeschooling families and decided to take my concerns to social media for answers.

At first, you’re probably thinking, “You’re not a charter school parent. Why do you care?” What business is it of mine what the charter schools are doing? I have several reasons.

First off, I’m a taxpayer and that means that part of my family’s income pays for those public schools even if I don’t utilize them. That makes it important to me and that’s what causes problems with this type of system. That is a whole other topic and blog post, not one I’m going to get into here. Let’s just say that even if you don’t have children or use the public school system at all, you are paying for them and you should be concerned with how they spend your money.

Second, I’m a member of my community and it’s small businesses and those small business owners are generally friends in a small town. The businesses that are becoming vendors aren’t necessarily “school” connected. Many of them don’t really understand what a charter school is or how they work. I’m connected to the homeschool community, so I decided to try and find some answers for them.

For small businesses, if a parent asks you about becoming a vendor for a charter school because there is “free money” involved, I’d suggest doing a search for that school and read up on them. They usually have a public list of current vendors. You could try contacting a random sample of them and asking how it’s going. I’ve also learned that there is a lot of bureaucracy in these schools, paperwork needs to be done a certain way at a certain time. Be proactive about finding out exactly what you need to do to get paid by the charter for your services to the school.

Here are a few articles that might help you understand what a charter school is and how it works.

HSC’s page on Charter Schools – There are links within this article with more information.

Also, there is now a Facebook group especially for vendors of charter schools called Charter Vendor Only Discussion. It was created so that businesses can post their concerns and how they’ve made things easier for their company. It’s brand new so it will take some time to gather members, but once it gets rolling I’m sure it will be a valuable resource.

For parents that utilize these schools, be sure you are getting all the information from your school and holding up your end of the bargain for the company’s that have decided to become vendors for that school. As customers using funds other than our own, we need to be extra vigilant about this. Small businesses typically have a very small profit margin and can’t afford to continue to put out services and not get paid in a timely manner.

There are many groups out there that can help you navigate the waters of charter school rules. The one I’ve found most useful lately is a Facebook group called So Cal Charter School Info. Unfortunately, I haven’t found anything helpful outside of Facebook groups. If you are connected to Yahoo Groups, there may be one there. Do a search there for “California charter school support.” The best thing you can do if you are considering using a charter is to talk to other parents about the school they are using, ask a lot of questions, find out what they really require. You should also set up an interview with a person from the charter you are considering and ask a lot of questions about it to see if it is a right fit for your family. You can take the answers to some message boards or groups, even your local park day, and see if other families are experiencing what the charter representative is claiming. Enrolling in a charter school should get the same scrutiny as buying a new car. And just because that car is right for one family, doesn’t mean it will be right for yours. That’s my advice!

I hope you found this information helpful. I’ll keep an eye out for more and pass it along as I find it.

Why should you support a statewide homeschool group?

Homeschooling in California is completely legal right? No one needs to hide in the shadows. Even the Department of Education itself is on board and giving the green light to public homeschool programs. Why would we need to pay $30 a year to a homeschool advocacy group? What does that group offer me? A monthly newsletter or magazine? I can get those types of articles online for free. Social support? I can get that through my local park day or charter school for free. Annual conventions? My family can’t afford a weekend in a hotel plus registration and eating out. Group camping trips? Maybe, but why do I need to be a member for that?

The real reason you should belong to one or more of the statewide groups is the same reason you should belong to any advocacy group because watching the legislation that comes through our state and federal governments takes a lot of time, energy, and knowledge. That is what groups like

CHN and HSC do for homeschooling families. And it’s vital to keeping our rights. Both groups have committees that are well versed in the intricacies of legislation. They watch what is being talked about and put forward across the state, talk about it, and inform the membership in the case of any changes that may affect our families.

It may seem like everything is going swimmingly. And in the history of California homeschooling, it is. It’s just about the easiest it has ever been to homeschool in California, but that can change with one new law and it’s not a scare tactic to say so. It’s just the way our government works. Social media has made it easier than ever to get the word out about any potential problems or laws that might change things for us, but if not for statewide advocacy groups, we’d have to just trust that someone out there is watching what the government is doing and is ready to let the citizens know about it. The annual membership dues that CHN and HSC get, in part, go toward keeping a committee of knowledgeable people that watch these things. Having a large membership base gives those groups the power to get the word out to a lot of people all at once before any bad legislation can get moving too quickly to stop.

Over the past eight to ten years, homeschooling has begun to grow exponentially, especially with the invention of public charter schools that cater to parents wanting to take control of their child’s education. But membership to advocacy groups has declined. I believe it is due to everyone feeling confident that nothing can go wrong. Complacency is a dangerous attitude in our style of government. It gives the state the leeway to take advantage of the people and they will, not because they are evil but because they believe they are doing the right thing and there is no one there to voice their opinion otherwise.

This isn’t just about homeschooling. We’ve all grumbled about how difficult it is to keep track of what laws are being passed and who to believe when it comes time to vote. Advocacy groups hold a special place in the workings of our government. They are the groups we can trust to watch things for us while we peacefully live our lives. And they are the ones that let us know when we need to pay attention and listen in on what the government is doing. Homeschooling advocacy groups got us where we are right now. They are the people that fought the legal battles to make it so easy for us today. We need to continue our support of these groups so that they have the money and personnel to keep the up the watch. It’s only about $30 a year to become a member of these groups. Like the commercials say, it’s only pennies a day to keep a good watch on our rights! Isn’t it worth it?

Statewide Homeschool Organizations

Becoming a member of a statewide homeschool advocacy group helps all homeschoolers in the state as well as those that may consider it in the future. Your some $30 to $40 a year helps to fund all the great things they do all year around, including keeping the website information up to date, providing support, and keeping it legal. Your name on their non-profit rolls shows the world how many people support the idea of home education and you know what they say, there’s strength in numbers! Please consider joining one (or both if you can) of the amazing California groups, not for what you may get from them but to support their cause and help bring the joy you’ve found in homeschooling to other families!

HomeSchool Association of California

California Homeschool Network

Community Service Project

The Morongo Basin Homeschoolers have been using the Yucca Mesa Improvement Association‘s Community Center for weekly enrichment classes this past “school year”. It’s been a wonderful place for them to gather every week and they hope to keep using it next year. As a thank you for opening up their facility they’ve been looking for an opportunity to help the non-profit group somehow. It’s Spring in the desert and with Spring come the weeds, so they’ve offered to clean up the planters around the property and spiff it up!

Next week they’ll bringing their yard tools and gloves before classes start and digging in. I’m sure they can get loads of work done in an hour or so with so many eager hands there to help!

Does your group rent a facility or meet at a park regularly? Is there something your group of families can do to pitch in and keep the place looking nice for the neighborhood? Contact the facility or the city and see if there is something you can do!

Field Trips & Group Tickets

Homeschoolers are notorious for two things: being late and backing out. It can be incredibly frustrating for people that attempt to organize a group tour or field trip. I think there are two things we can do to minimize the effects.

The first one is for the organizers themselves. We need to understand that a few of the reasons most people decide not to send their kids to school are because they are fairly independent people and they desire more flexibility with their schedule. An even bigger reason is that they hope to focus on their child’s individual needs instead of the groups. We need to remember that when we schedule an event and people sign up. Things we can do are:

  1. Be sure to let people know as far in advance as possible. The farther out we plan, the more likely they are to have time for it. And send reminders as the event gets closer; i.e. one month out, two weeks out, one week out.
  2. Give them an excess of information about the event. When? Where? How much per person? Do parents need to pay too, or just students? Do we need to stay together as a group when we get there, or can we enter together and go at our own pace? Do we need to pay in advance or have cash on hand when we get there? Can younger or older siblings come?
  3. Know that some will back out and plan accordingly. If you need a minimum group size, be sure you have more than enough. If there will be no refunds after a certain date, be sure to say so right up front.

The second one is for those that sign up for these events. We need to remember that in homeschooling groups, it is typically another parent setting up a field trip, not a paid professional. Typically, a parent finds something interesting they’d like their children to attend, so they voluntarily take time and energy away from their own families to set up and organize a trip for a whole group. They are just as busy as you are and just as dedicated to homeschooling their own kids. They are not professionals. They have the same faults that you have. They may not be as organized and communicative as they hoped they would be. So we all need to be a little understanding when things don’t get done perfectly.

Here are some things to think about it before we sign up in the first place.

  1. Is this going to be something my kids actually want to do? You may be interested in the tour of a nice art museum, but your toddler and six year old may not be. Interest is so important in successful homeschooling. Uninterested kids can be terribly distracting to others who might be very interested in the topic. We need to be respectful of other families attending.
  2. Is this something my family can do on our own? I love live shows, art and history museums, and parks but sometimes my sons are interested in other things. I want them to experience other cultures, different kinds of art, live performances, etc. These things can sometimes be experienced much cheaper if we are able to get a group/school ticket and we have to take advantage of that. But sometimes it’s only a few dollars more to experience things on our own. It may be worth that extra money to be on our own time table. Check the website of the event you’re thinking of attending and see if you can’t swing going on your own as a family instead of a group.
  3. Where is it? Will it be worth the drive? Is this event too early/late in the day for my family’s lifestyle? I’ve done this a thousand times. I get invited to an event, see that it starts at 9am, decide it’s no problem for us, and sign up. Then I see that it is over two hours away with traffic making it sometimes three hours. We’ll need to be up by 5am, dress and eat, and be in the car by 6am to get there in time. Be sure to look at how far away the event is and what time it starts. And don’t forget to schedule in “getting moving” time, especially for the little ones. One of my sons has no problem waking up and getting in the car to go somewhere, but the other one needs at least an hour to wake up before he can even think of getting ready to go. That’s one of the best parts of homeschooling, the fact that we can cater to our own styles. We use these “school age” years to help our children learn their needs and get them met on their own, conforming to what everyone else is doing only when we feel it’s something very worth while.
  4. Remember when we sign up that we are making a “commitment”. It’s understandable when life gets in the way and we can’t make it to something we signed up for. Kids get sick, cars break down; that’s just life. The fact that you just don’t feel like getting the kids together and moving around that day isn’t an excuse to back out. The rest of the group may be counting on getting that minimum number of people to get their group discount.

Above all we all need to be extra polite, kind, and communicative when we plan and when we attend field trips with our homeschool friends. We are all working outside the box and could probably use some kind words of support even when things aren’t going as smoothly as we had hoped. If you have to cancel, let the organizer know as soon as humanly possible and be understanding when you don’t get a refund. They probably have no control over that and if they did refund you, it might have to come from their own pocket. If you’re organizing and attendees are backing out more than you figured they would, try to be kind and compassionate about their reasons. They may not be good reasons to you, but they are to them.

Group tickets, field trips, tours, and other events are a big part of what makes homeschooling so much fun. Let’s try to keep it friendly. The more fun it seems, the more people will want to plan more of them and that is great for ALL of us!

Nearby Homeschool Groups

A local homeschool group is a wonderful resource and thanks to the internet and especially Facebook, getting in touch with other homeschoolers is easier than ever! But what about groups in adjacent areas? Where we live there are a limited amount of field trips available just because there isn’t much out here unless you like rock climbing, hiking, and off road riding. So I belong to some other groups outside my immediate neighborhood that are specifically set up to create field trips and let people know about events that might be of interest to homeschoolers.

A two hour drive is about all I’ll do for a day trip (not for weekly or daily thing), so I set my radius at about 120 miles. For something really special though, I’ll drive three hours! I looked at the map and started searching for homeschool groups in cities and counties inside my circle. I have been able to tag along on lots of field trips that I would never had known about if I hadn’t been a part of that group.

Here is a list of some that I’ve found for our area. Of course, your driving tolerances will be different than mine, so think about that and create your own circle of influence!

San Diego Homeschool Field Trips
This may sound far, but going the back way down the 15 freeway really has very little traffic and it takes about two and a half hours to get from the desert to downtown San Diego.

Inland Empire Homeschoolers
Great stuff is posted here and usually with an hour an a half from home.

SoCal Field Trips
All kinds of events posted from all over the southland, just be sure to look at the start times for events! You don’t want to say you’ll be there on time at 8am for an event that is three hours away. Traffic in Riverside and going into LA can be a bear!
They can also be found on the web at the SoCal Field Trips Website.

There is a Meetup group called Riverside Area Homeschoolers. This one has a small membership fee but they plan wonderful group trips.

Last but not least is SoCal Roving. It is also a Meetup group but has no fees unless you sign up for an event. I have found them well organized and easy to contact.

Once last thing I wanted to mention. When I first started signing up for homeschool field trips online, I was worried about sending money to a stranger. Most of the events are paid through PayPal accounts and you are emailing a stranger money. The beauty of the Meetup and Facebook groups is that there may be a scammer among us once in awhile but people catch on to them pretty quick and spread the word. Look at how many members are in the group or how long the group has been around for reassurance. You can also google the name of the poster or group organizing and see if there is any negative feedback floating around the web. Anyone that jumps on a group, posts a field trip, asks for money, and then flakes on everyone usually gets talked about and won’t be able to do it again. Personally, I find this an amazing advancement!

Field trips are one of the BEST parts about home education! There is nothing like living in the world to learn about it. Zoos, aquariums, amusement parks, shows, etc. It’s all there! Go have some fun!