So, if you're in the homeschool world, you probably already know that there is one "homeschool group that is trying to take over the world". You may not call it that, but it has the word Classical in it. I think the reason it is so successful is that it's a great business model, although I disagree with the whole learning philosophy in general. So I figured I'd come up with a "business model" for a cottage school to go along with my general Charlotte Mason Philosophy.
When: 3 days a week, 9am-12pm.
Where: An open, bright environment with large rooms, various seating arrangements, lots of hands on learning tools, and easy access to the outdoors. Ideal environments could also include several homes within the same neighborhood broken up by age group. For example, babies through preschoolers at Jones house with 3 parents, kindergarten through 3rd at Smith house with 2 parents, etc.
Who: Everyone! Ages 1-high school (parents of infants should get a maternity leave if they are in a co-op in my opinion). Based on ages and number of participants, general groups could include babies and toddlers, preschool, Kindergarten through 1st, 2-3rd grade, etcetera (not age based). Student teacher ratios vary, but should never be more than 7 kids per teacher and 12 kids per group.
What: For those homeschoolers who feel unprepared to handle a certain age or ability level or for those whose children work best in a group environment. Follow a pre-planned curriculum that all parents/teachers can agree on (some suggestions include Heart of Dakota, My Father's World, Five in a Row). Include math and language arts, but mainly as group activities or hands on learning. Include daily outdoor time with nature journals, group read aloud time, hands on activities, music and art.
Cost: Almost free! Materials would average about $100-$150 per child per year depending on curriculum and materials chosen. If it's set up as a co-op (Every parent participates as a teacher or facilitator for an equal amount of time relative to the number of kids they have) then there would be no "teacher cost". If you want to pay teachers, it would be about $160 per student per month with at least a 5 student per teacher average. So the approximately 40-50 hours per month a teacher would spend teaching and preparing would be covered at about $15 per hour.
What do parents have to do: Parents would still be homeschooling their children. The other two days a week could be filled with more individual work (math, language arts), field trips, science experiments, gardening, nature walks, unit studies, and more.
Why: I believe that so many more parents would be homeschooling parents if they had the support of a truly well-run group environment. The reason the classical co-op I'm talking about is so popular (we can call it CC if you want) is that families are looking for that extra help. However, CC's model is really only part of the equation. Once a week is not really enough for more than a very brief break, and by the time you get there and back you've wasted a whole day for maybe 2 hours of sitting in a classroom and 1 hour of fun stuff. With a schedule full of active learning kids can get on task more quickly, and because of the larger time commitment weekly, they will fall more quickly into routines rather than covering those all over again every week.
Just my opinion really, and not an official business model, but I thought I'd put it out there if anyone is looking for a new adventure in homeschooling, but just needs a little bit of community. I've actually considered starting something similar in my area, but I don't feel like I'm quite at a place in my homeschooling experience. For now, we're planning on joining a very laid-back co-op, but we shall see how this next school year goes for us.