When homeschooling, parents and children can benefit from joining a homeschool group or cooperative (co-op). Sure, you can teach your children solo at home but adding fellow homeschoolers into your routine can help support and encourage your family on those tough days. Your students will also enjoy the socialization they get from spending time with peers.
Many things make homeschooling in Orlando enjoyable, including free and cheap homeschool resources. As a fellow homeschooler, I am sharing these homeschool groups in Orlando to hopefully help make your homeschool experience more enjoyable.
Kinds of Homeschooling Groups in Orlando
Listed in alphabetical order
Homeschooling is more widespread in today’s environment than it used to be. Because of this, chances are high that you will be able to find a group that fits with your lifestyle and needs. Here are some of the groups in the Orlando area.
Black Homeschoolers of Central Florida
A group to offer support to families of color in educating their children at home.
City of Oviedo Homeschool Activity Program
While this is not a traditional support group, it does offer classes for homeschooling students to meet peers and learn in a structured environment.
Homeschool Teens of Central Florida
A specific group for those students 13-18 years of age to meet virtually and in person.
Homeschoolers of Lake County
This group offers online support, curriculum sales and monthly activities for homeschool families in Lake County to meet.
Integrity Homeschoolers Orlando
This group focuses on community through support, friendship and mentorship to enhance homeschooling.
Established in 2001, Mid-Florida Homeschoolers has accrued thousands of members. There’s no shortage of useful homeschool information here!
Orlando Homeschool Network
A virtual group of homeschooling families in Orlando. Questions can be posted as well as events on their calendar.
Secular Seminole Homeschoolers
This small Facebook group is a great resource for Seminole County Homeschoolers who are looking for activities and ideas. Events, dances, and other fun activities are offered throughout the year.
Sunshine State Homeschoolers
Created for active homeschooling families, this group has the benefit of online support and in-person activities.
Listed in alphabetical order
The Classical Conversations curriculum is worldwide and focuses on teaching students how to learn and how to think. There are several groups in the Orlando area. Click on the group name to search in your community.
This group is unique in that it’s not an academy but more than a support group. Libertas Scholars offers classes twice a week to enhance the learning of homeschooled students.
NearHim Home Educators
A homeschooling group supporting families through class meetings for all school-aged children.
Orlando Christian Home Educators (OCHED)
A co-op hosting weekly classes and other activities for students from elementary through high school.
Watermark Homeschool Enrichment
This group is led by Christian teachers who cover a multitude of subjects.
Willow Creek Home Educators
A group of homeschooling parents offering co-op classes, field trips, fairs, and holiday parties.
Registration is required, as is active parent participation. $80 registration fee.
BONUS IDEA – FLVS Students & Parents – Florida Virtual School Facebook Group: If you’re utilizing the Florida Virtual School either full time or FLEX this is a great group to join.
Choosing the right Orlando homeschool group for your student
While the amount of support groups for homeschooling families offers a lot of options, it can feel overwhelming to pick the right one for your children.
Begin by deciding if secular or faith-based is your desired target. From there, read the group’s mission statement and values to see if they are parallel to your beliefs.
Do you desire a group that meets regularly, offers educational classes or solely has fun field trip events? Meeting regularly can help relationships flourish but this also means it will take up more of your time. Random meetings are laid-back for time management but it may take longer to make meaningful connections.
How much do you as the parent want to be involved in a co-op? Some co-ops require the parent to be present and participating while others allow students to be dropped off freeing up parents to do other things.
What are the fees? Do the fees fit into your budget? Some groups are free, some charge a registration fee, and others charge registration and per-class fees. Be sure to receive this information up front so there are no surprises.
Once the group base is narrowed down to a few top choices, contact the administrators to discuss their co-op. You will be able to gain insightful information from chatting with someone who is representing that group.
Request to visit a meeting or event the co-op is hosting. You will quickly be able to tell if you and your children will mesh well with the other members of the group.
Benefits of participating
- Socialization. Participating in a co-op allows your children to learn to interact with other kids of all ages and different walks of life. The socialization process helps children with cultural norms and behaviors in society.
- Support. You as a parent have the opportunity to meet other parents walking the same education path. You’ll be able to ask questions or share some struggles you’re dealing with in homeschooling.
- Curriculum. Because all of the other parents are also homeschooling, you’ll be able to tap into that resource when it comes to curriculum. Other parents will be happy to share the curriculum they use along with the pros and cons they have found. This is how I found the current curriculum we use in our homeschool.
- Learning. Your children will have the opportunity to learn a vast array of topics from someone besides you. They can be exposed to different teaching styles and personalities while learning new things. All of these things will only help them into adulthood.
- Life skills. In co-ops that offer classes, your children will learn valuable life skills. For example, speaking in front of a group, collaborating on a project with others, listening to others and waiting for their turn to speak.
- Discounts. Being part of a larger group can provide discounts for field trips and experiences. Price breaks on entry fees are usually offered at local attractions for parties with a minimum number of people.
Avoiding common pitfalls
- Over-scheduling: Many co-ops offer an abundance of activities for you and your children to be involved in. You do not need to attend every single event on the co-op calendar. Choose those things that are the most important to you or that are mandatory and let the rest float on by.
- Unrealistic expectations: I am sure every member of a co-op had a vision of what to expect when joining their group. Try to push all expectations aside and go into the experience with an open mind. Having unrealistic expectations, whether good or bad, can leave you feeling disappointed and let down.
- Disorganization: If the administrators and leaders of a co-op are disorganized, it’s likely the group will be too. When you leave your co-op, you should feel reenergized and encouraged. If not, take a step back and reevaluate your family’s involvement with a pros and cons list.
- Ignoring your children’s input: Most likely, your children are your “why” to homeschooling. Listening to their voice when it comes to a co-op is important too. You don’t want them dreading an activity or group of people. They shouldn’t have the final say but considering their input will boost their self-esteem and strengthen your relationship with them.
Remember that there will never be a perfect co-op or support group. We live in a world with different personalities, different world views, and different parenting styles. Thank goodness!
There is bound to be a conflict at some point with another child or parent. Don’t shy away from these moments but use them as valuable teaching tools for your children to show them how to handle conflict. Once they are adults, conflict is inevitable. Prepare them with life lessons from an experience.
Some homeschool groups offer those “extras” that public school attendees enjoy. For instance, yearbooks or plays. This is something to ask when reaching out to your top choices.
Not all co-ops are created equal and are not a one-size-fits-all. Maybe you join one and decide it isn’t working for your family. It’s okay to switch to a different group or take a break from co-ops altogether.
Don’t fret if you have to try more than one group or don’t find the right fit right away. Homeschooling is a fluid journey that changes from year to year and, sometimes, season to season.