Growth of Oklahoma Homeschool Co-Op Highlights Expanding Movement

Published September 21, 2016

Enrollment in the Luther Academic Barn (LAB), a homeschool cooperative located in central Oklahoma, has jumped by more than 50 percent in its first year of operation, reflecting a nationwide trend.

A homeschool cooperative, or “co-op,” is “a group of homeschoolers coming together in cooperation to provide educational and social activities for their children,” reports.

Cassandra Olsen, a mother of four homeschooled children, renovated a metal barn with her husband on their 40-acre property in 2015 to host the LAB co-op. The barn now has seven classrooms, including rooms for music and art. During its first year of operation, 35 families enrolled in LAB. This year, enrollment is up 51 percent, to 54 families.

As students made their way back to school in August, reports of expanding homeschool co-ops made headlines across the country. Tennessee’s Knoxville News Sentinel reported the 115-student Oak Grove Homeschool Cooperative has leased space at a larger local church because enrollment growth caused the co-op to outgrow its old space.

Florida’s Tampa Bay Times reported on the success of a “ministry co-op” that supports homeschoolers by offering “special classes for all grade levels and opportunities for socialization for the children.”

Arizona’s White Mountain Independent reported the Northeastern Arizona Homeschoolers support group nearly quadrupled the number of families joining the group in its second year.  

‘So Many Homeschool Families’

Olsen says she collaborated with other homeschool families to make the LAB co-op a success.

“I got tired of driving to all the other co-ops, which were over 30 minutes away and constantly full and hard to get in,” Olsen said. “There are so many homeschool families in the area, and we were able to network with so many professional people to make this happen.”

Parents ‘Still in Charge’

Olsen says co-ops enable parents to control what their children learn.

“Co-ops don’t take over a child’s education,” Olsen said. “The parents are still in charge of their child’s education. LAB is just a way for kids to be around other kids and get instruction from someone else two or three times a week.”

Brian Ray, founder and president of the National Home Education Research Institute, says proponents of traditional public schools think it’s the government’s job to educate children.

“The strong-government-school advocates say these parents have ‘pulled their children out’ of public schools, but large portions of them never gave their children to the government school educators in the first place,” Ray said. “Government schools have a presupposition that they have a right to the child, to the education of the child, and the parents take it away from them. Government-run schooling is a form of school choice. Parent-led education was the norm for millennia.”

‘Multiple Reasons for Homeschooling’

Parents who choose to homeschool “are hard to stereotype,” Ray says.

“Most homeschool parents have multiple reasons for homeschooling,” Ray said. “On the one hand, a return to parent-led education is proactive; many people are looking at the education of their children and saying, ‘It’s my job; it’s not the government’s job to teach worldview, etc.’ Then there’s a reactive response that says, ‘Oh, I need an alternative to public schools.'” 

Olsen says she decided to homeschool her children because she thought their educations were limited in public schools.

“There is so much more educational material out there than is made available in public school,” Olsen said. “I started homeschooling because when I began searching home-based education information, I found all this material out there and thought, ‘I want my kids to know that!'”

Jenni White ([email protected]) writes from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.