Almost everyone I know who does not already have school age kids has suggested this to me. On the surface it makes sense; I know a lot of progressive, educated families with young kids who have limited cash, a parent at home full time and a desire to spare their kids the difficulties of public school.

I know someone who has actually done this, in Toronto. She and a group of six friends rented out a shop-front, hired a teacher and took turns volunteering one day a week in the school, so there was always one parent there assisting the professional educator they’d hired. They only did it for 3-5 year olds, though, because they were lucky enough to have a public-charter Waldorf school in their neighborhood.

So far so good. However I suspect it would be a lot like cohousing: I know a dozen families who think this is a cool idea, but each of us has slightly different needs and expectations about what this dream school would offer. We’d have to hold a lot of meetings to hammer out the details. We’d have to agree on ground rules for consensus and create a governing structure for our school. I have ideas about how to do this, but I’m sure my friends all do too.

We’d have to agree on a curriculum, or lack thereof. “Coop homeschool” could cover anything from unschooling to Waldorf to Montessori to a standard curriculum with lots of parent involvement. There are real differences there we’d have to agree on.

Then we’d have to find a space. An affordable space we all liked in a location convenient to our homes. We’d have to create a legal entity (say, a corporation) that we could put money into that could lease or buy said space.Then we’d have to furnish and decorate the space, and acquire all the learning materials.

And we’d have to interview and hire a teacher.

My daughter goes to a coop school now, that was founded by parents in the 70s, so I have some idea of what work is involved in maintaining one. There are work weekends several times a year, every parent must participate in at least one committee, there are evening meetings once a month and each family volunteers twice a month to be a teacher’s helper in the classroom. It’s not a small thing.

Also, we live in greater Boston, where we are lucky to have several schools that were started by collectives of parents some time ago. Why reinvent the wheel?

To answer my own question: because all those schools are too expensive, slightly too restrictive in their curriculum (except SVS, which maybe goes too far the other way) and not actively coops (that is, they don’t require parental participation in the classroom).

Still, I think it is too much work. My experience with cohousing has taught me to look before I leap into organizing that kind of thing, and I don’t want to spend the next ten years pouring my heart into a dream that will manifest as something more expensive and more compromised than I’d envisioned, too late for my own daughter to attend it.

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