Advertising for a Home-School Coop

This fall, will be the inaugural year of SHINE, which is an acronym for Students at Home in New England. It is a low-residency home-school cooperative for children in commuting distance from the Pioneer Valley, in Western Massachusetts. I have run a nearby home-school cooperative for the past ten years, and I am moving the program on-line. I will be running an online meeting with WizIQ once each week and I will also have tutorials and online classes. The kids will also meet once each month to learn and play together. You can read more about it at

Finding students

Recruiting has been a project. The home-school world is, justifiably, pretty tight. People do not trust anyone with their children. Many families that home-school participate in cooperatives that have grown up organically as their children have. Though I have experience running a home-school coop, that has a great reputation, it is about 30 miles east of where I want to live. Also, many families only want programs that are free or very inexpensive. Nonetheless, I am offering a solid program, and I am sure that I can find families that see the value in it.

This is what I did:

1) I put myself out there, in every way that I could think of. I created a website, and unabashedly declared who I was, the values that I espoused and the coop that I wanted to create. I had never created a website before and it was much easier that I had expected.

2) After years of reluctance about social media, I decided to learn about Facebook, twitter, Linked in, and the like. I wish I had paid more attention to these things for the past decade, but I am now.

3) I subscribed to all of the home-school list serves that allow for-profit postings. This is tricky, because many do allow some for-profit posts, if they are of interest to the community, as long as they are not obnoxious or excessive. I post about my coop every month or so.

4) I held several events, including a picnic and an informational fair. I advertised the events on the list serves, and paid a flyer service to hit targeted areas. I recruited organizations to come to the events that would be of interest to home-school families. The idea was to create publicity for all of us. I was really surprised how many people there are who are eager to work with and market to home-schoolers.

5) I meticulously keep track of any inquiries, and check in with everyone once each month to see if they have any new questions or thoughts.

What has worked: Virtually all of my students have come from the website and from social media. I currently have 7 students enrolled for the fall and am mid-conversation with two more families. My goal for the first year was 8, so I am mighty close. Most people found the website referred to on a list serve, liked the idea and then realized that we have a common friend.

I am wary to spend another cent on posters, events, or any print advertisement. It just doesn’t seem to work.

What I think will work: Frank Grinrod, who runs a successful outdoor ed program in Western MA, suggests, “Just run the program, even if it is initially at a loss.” If the program is any good, people will hear about it, and you will get students. That is the plan that I think will ultimately work. I want a curriculum and a program that will actively wow my students and leave them with a more fully examined world view. I have a lot of the pieces in place, but there is still a lot to organize before it becomes a reality.

I am a teacher, hiker, mother, dancer and home-maker. I have taught pre-school through SAT prep. I am exploring ways to create on-line learning communities for home-schooled middle school and high school students. In particular, I am starting a low-residency on-line middle school. I would like to help young people explore important ideas while enjoying their lives! You can learn more about my programs at

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