How to start a Co-op/Keeping it Small

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  • megsmom25

    I’m planning to start a Nature Study group in my area this fall and want to keep the group fairly small to start out with (no more than 4-5 families). That being said, I know of several families who homeschool (we all used to belong in a Classical co-op last year) and I’m not sure how to go about saying that the group is “closed” without hurting anyones feelings.

    I realize this is a very junior high question, but I really want only families who love and have done nature study in the past so we can have a common vision and get the group rolling. Next year, we might be able to take on a few more families, but I think a smaller group is best for now.

    How would you suggest I go about limiting prospective families?


    You could simply say what you just said something to the effect of “we are just starting out and want to start out small and work out the kinks and what works before too many families and children are involved.” Offer to keep them informed throughout the year, updates as to if you think it will grow or not, or even suggestions if others would like to start their own.

    I know many families that start their own mini coop, just a few families, I do not take offense at all. 🙂 They want to try it out, like an experiment, so I cheer on from a distance and enjoy learning for their experiences.

    I should add that sometimes when they post on social media about their co-op adventures I do have a “twinge” of “missing out” so if it was me, I would not “advertise” the group if you want to keep it small, but that might just be me 🙂


    I think if you require a time and/or money commitment of some sort, you will naturally get “only families who love and have done nature study in the past”.  This could be everyone taking a turn teaching a lesson, giving a presentation, planning the field trip and/or paying a club fee.  It needs to be something more than just casually showing up whenever it’s convenient for them.  Otherwise, I think you will hurt some feelings by telling them they cannot be a part of your little group.  We have had this happen to us.  Not advertising it is a good way to naturally keep it small, too.  I’d sure like to be a part of your group though!

    Another idea is to keep something ongoing, like a group project or nature book.  You needed to be there at the beginning to take part in it throughout the year.  Your enrollment period could be limited to annually in August.


    I lead a medium co-op of 26 families. We have nature study as part of our group that I began in 2009.

    Two options –

    1- invite specific families you know are interested.  If others ask, directly say you’re trying something small and leave at that.  You do not owe further explanation.

    2- have an application process with guidelines as to what you require.

    My advice…

    Do what works for your family and do so unapologetically.  You’re putting in the bulk of the work to organize and plan.  I have always been upfront about that.  For the amount of work I put in, it must work for my family.  No it isn’t all about me, but I did take the initiative to start, organize, and run it and while all of our families contribute, the amount I pour in is significant.  I wouldn’t do it if it didn’t meet my family’s needs.

    Recognize you will never make everyone happy and that’s ok.  Invite others of your choosing to join you on the journey.

    I also think having families on the same page is extra important with a very small group.  There is no buffer if you have one that isn’t a good fit.

    Best wishes.


    <p style=”text-align: left;”>I’m actually wanting to do the same thing in my area this year. From just what I’ve seen with groups I have been a part of over the years is that things like this may work themselves out. What I mean by that is that it may initially sound so awesome to lots of people but after a few weeks, schedules get busy, other things come up, and the ones who are still coming and consistent are those who have decided it is a priority. I also agree that having some kind of purchase up front (required materials, the scm journaling in nature book or even just simply a blank notebook, field guides, and colored pencils) weeds out those who are not as serious. This is what I’m planning on doing.</p>

    But bottom line, if you have very specific people you want in the group and they are interested, no need to advertise! Just get together and go and don’t feel bad about it. And if someone else finds out and is really interested, invite them along! But chances are they won’t all be because of busy schedules and whatnot.

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