This can be just as effective in today's world. Most of use have some very talented friends with kids the same age as our own. Set up a swap of skill. Do you have a mom out there that is an avid runner? She can take the kids on a fun run one afternoon a week. An engineering, math-minded dad? He can set up a once-a-week building experiment. A mom or dad that likes to cook? How about a cooking class.
If you have a friend that is so overwhelmed that you would like her and her kids to participate, but they have no time and sadly no skill to offer, this friend can provide the food for the cooking class, help drive the kids back and forth, or be responsible for a once-a-month picnic in the park.
The benefits of this type of consortium is that you can build strong bonds and friendships between the kids. It also doesn't hurt to have multiple eyes on your kids. In my neighborhood, people actually used to tell the parents when they caught their kid doing something. I didn't just watch out for my own mother when I was up to no good, I watched out for everyone's mom and dad. Another huge benefit is the costs. Let's just take a moment to remember how much business-sponsored classes cost. Join karate? $100 a month. Tutoring? $100 a month. Learn how to play tennis? $100 a month. Heaven forbid you do all three. $300 a month. Think of what your group can accomplish for that kind of money?
Now here is the most important part of a consortium, you need to make ground rules and stick by them. Ask around to those people in your groups, maybe send out an email offering what you can do and what you are looking for. Make sure that you are not asking some people to do more than any other. If you want to find five skilled friends, ask for one hour a week. Fill it up Mon, Tues, Wed, Thur, Fri, or even a Saturday. Never ask for more then one day a week. Give people an out. Have them agree to a two month agreement. That way if it doesn't work out or becomes difficult for the person to continue doing, then they don't feel like they are letting someone down. Maybe the next go around, they just provide money to the group events and join back up the next cycle.
Potential problems to address:
What time of day? Pick a set time. It will not work for everyone, there is nothing that you can do about that. If you are looking for an after-school activity group then make it right after school or before most dinner times. Since you cannot please everyone, make that clear in your email from the start. Something like, "I am looking to start an after-school activity swap. I know that it is impossible to work within everyone's schedule. I wish I could, but I cannot. I am looking for four parents to host a different activity at their home one day between Monday and Friday starting at 4 pm to 5 pm." The first person to say, "I want to participate, but I can't at that time, can you change it?" let them know that you would love to possibly attend a consortium that they start. Add in that, hopefully, they can participate next cycle.
Someone offers up something that makes you roll your eyes? Underwater basket weaving not your thing? Don't knock it. It can be the one thing you never thought your kids would enjoy. Give it a whirl.
My child doesn't want to do a specific activity? There really is no easy way to say this. Do you give your child a choice whether they get to go to the school or to the dentist? Enough said. Kids learn from trying things they think they will like as well as those that they do not. Each cycle is only for two months. At the end of that time, opt out for that activity. You do NOT have to go to every activity in your consortium. Some kids do have other outside interests. Of course, you can always plan that "necessary" activity on the day your kiddo really tried it and it did not work for them. That way you have no hard feelings.
One of the mom has six kids and the rest of us only have one or two. That happens. The best way to deal with this is to understand the kids will only be with each person for one or two hours a week. I have always found it beneficially to mix single and dual kids in with families that have more kids and vice-versa. It opens their views to other families structure. That does not mean however, if one of the activities is a craft hour that might cost a lot more per child, that it is unreasonable to ask that any child over lets say two, pay a $5 per class cost. Remember put that in your email.
One of the kids can't behave or doesn't get along with the others. Again, while this is frustrating, it is part of life and how children learn to tolerate others when they are older. As much as we would like, children will not always encounter people they get along with. Does that mean you should have to put up with a kid interrupting every class? Of course it doesn't. Put it in writing. Maybe have each "teacher" give out a sticker for the kids that listen. That can clue in a parent that a child might be having social difficulties. Maybe a group treasure chest for so many stickers collected. It is also appropriate to ask the parent to stay with the child during the lesson because "Little Johnny may not be as interested in the lesson as I had hoped. He prefers to chase my cat and Mittens has been in hiding ever since. Can you come and help see how I can get his interest?"
Most importantly, relax and enjoy your child's new group of friends. They will all remember you fondly as they grow up because of the memories you helped create in their lives.