Richardson co-op provides support for families who home school their children

Richardson Home School Association began more than 30 years ago with a goal of providing educational support for families who homeschool their children, according to Director Stephanie MacMiller.

In the early years, parents who were strong in academic areas, such as science and math, would teach a group of students. Since then, the co-op has replaced parents with credentialed teachers who choose the curriculum, assign homework and provide additional help if needed.

“We have committed teachers who love being there for two kids or 20 kids. That gives us a really great environment where people want to come,” she said.

Students meet once a week for most classes and twice a week for more advanced courses, MacMiller said. Families can choose how many courses their student takes with the co-op.

The association has the added benefit of fostering a support system for families who homeschool, MacMiller said. According to the National Home Education Institute, there were an estimated 2.5 million American students who were homeschooled in spring 2019, which represents 3%-4% of school-age children nationwide.

“A co-op gives you a community, and it keeps you from feeling isolated,” she said.

The association is also able to help parents and students with transcripts and college applications, MacMiller said. This is part of the group’s mission to prepare students for the future, she said.

“I feel strongly that we intentionally home school so that our kids can be successful and adapt to college,” MacMiller said.

Families pay an annual registration fee of $200-$250 per student in addition to paying the teachers a monthly fee per class that ranges from $40-$65, MacMiller said.

Seventy-two families were enrolled for school year 2019-20, yet only 39 families have signed up so far for next year, MacMiller said. She credits the nearly 46% decrease to fiscal and health concerns related to the coronavirus.

“That’s the real challenge of COVID-19 right now,” she said. “Families still want to meet, but funds are limited.”

The loss in students could affect the business, which uses tuition to pay rent on its building, MacMiller said. The association is hoping to enroll more students but may have to ask for donations, MacMiller said.

“If 40 families want to meet, we should meet and not allow money to stop us,” she said. “I believe strongly that there are so many givers in our community who are looking for a place to give, and our [co-op] is a place to give to support our families, to support our community and to offer this service to homeschool families.”

The co-op transitioned to a virtual platform in March, MacMiller said. As it is not a private school, the association is not required to comply with the July 16 order from Dallas County prohibiting school reopenings until September 8. However, association leaders continue to look to the state for guidance as they prepare for the upcoming school year, MacMiller said.

For starters, students may not arrive early for classes or stay late, and temperature checks are required before students can enter the building.

“We are following all government requirements, whether it's cleaning or masks or that we can’t meet,” MacMiller said.


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