2021 Homeschool Support Association Winner – Madeline Cliffe

A Co-Operation

The word ‘cooperation’ implies an operation that is accomplished by two or more figures. In this case, the operation is raising and educating a child, and the figures are literal ones: the child’s parents, parents of other children, and peers. This group of like-minded individuals form a co-operative syndicate, and work as one fluid machine, pouring life into their young pupils. So, the homeschool co-op is aptly named. Personally, I have experienced homeschool with and without a co-op, giving me impartial eyes to judge its benefits, both socially and academically.

My beginnings as a homeschooler involved teaching my peers a new language.
“You don’t do school?” they would ask.
“Yes I do, I just do it at home,”
“So… you don’t do school?”

The homeschooling community that was started in the small, ex-pat town of Ras Tanura, where I spent my elementary years, had its origins in one family alone; ours. I spent three-and-a-half years of my childhood endlessly appeasing questions such as these. All this left me with a lingering sense of isolation and ‘otherness’. My parents suffered verbal condemnation that was even more grievous. While they persevered in what they knew to be the right direction, it is never easy to continue while people question and criticize one’s every move.

After moving back to the United States, our family eagerly plugged ourselves into a homeschool co-op that met in the building of our home church. These hundred families underlined the stark difference in culture from my previous experiences seven thousand miles away. Most everyone shared my beliefs, restrictions, and childhood experiences. This new forum granted me the experience of school communality, without the constant barrage of criticism and hostility that frequently wafts from the public arena.

While an improved social life had a profound effect on my emotional health, this commitment would not be a worthy investment if it did not concurrently bolster my academics. Co-op was a supplementation in two major aspects: it trained me with experts from specified fields, and gave me experience with a large girth of homework. Over the six years that I attended, my harder subjects were gradually transferred into the co-op’s hands, and it became the primary source of my education.

Homeschooling with a co-op provided the things that independent homeschooling was deficient in. It gave me social and peer interaction, it took a great load off of my parent’s shoulders, and my education was an even more well-rounded thing because of it. Not everyone that I know has had such a recommendable experience – co-op must succeed where homeschooling struggles while not undermining its charm, which not all of them perfect – but in general, I have found that it beautifully supplements homeschool using the benefits of the outside world. This is how the cooperation combines talents to produce masterpieces that are hailed at every graduation: the finished product of a student.