5 Great Reasons to Join a Co-Op Preschool
By Christy Vant, Mom at Capitol Hill Co-op Preschool
There are many great reasons to send your child to preschool, and a co-operative preschool offers hidden perks you may not have known about. Co-op preschools provide your child the joys of a more conventional, drop-off preschool as well as joys to you, the parent! Here are five benefits I discovered when I enrolled my child in coop preschool:
Friendship and community
Your kids will likely make friends anywhere, but at co-op preschools you'll make friends, too! My first year isn't even over yet and I've joined a relay team with one mom and had Easter dinner with another. We all have a shared purpose of helping our children learn and play together, which makes the bonds form easily. We've supported each other – growing families received meal trains and baby items have been passed on. But best of all: a room full of parents you know and trust with your child, and who your child looks forward to seeing. Oh, and the babysitting possibilities! Our class has arranged carpools, play-dates, childcare swaps as well as babysitting. I have like-minded parents as friends – great for moral support – and did I already mention the potential for free babysitting?
Parents in the classroom
I love being in my preschooler's classroom because I love to watch her play. You get to share in their first memories of school and spend quality time together. Having parents in the classroom offers continuity for the children, and makes the transition to a formal school environment easier. You have first-hand knowledge of what is going on at preschool and can build on it at home. There is a higher adult-to-child ratio than in most childcare settings and it keeps tuition costs low, since parents do much of the work. Co-op tuition is about half the cost of other childcare options, and many co-ops have tuition assistance and/or scholarship programs, with the goal of making it affordable for everyone. The best thing about having parents in the classroom: the children love having a choice of so many laps to sit on at circle time.
I love my daughter's art, but I love it even more when it doesn't leave a mess in my house! I also love that there are so many creative projects at school that someone else coordinates. It's not just art projects, there are lots of toys, books, games, puzzles and activities that aren't available at home. It is nice to have a break from planning kids' activities and to let someone else take the lead. I love learning new songs that we can sing together in the car or at bedtime. My daughter's favorite CD is a mix CD, made by her teacher, of all the kids' favorite songs plus some recordings from class.
I happen to be a stay-at-home mom at the moment, and joining the co-op has given me the chance for personal growth and fulfillment. My co-op job helps me feel professional while I am taking time off from paid work. Co-ops offer ample opportunities for resume-building while you're doing the parenting gig. Not so much if you go for the towel-washer job, but there are so many jobs to choose from (and ways to be creative in them) that make a difference to the kids and the preschool (I don't know about you but I do enough loads of laundry already!). Co-ops can be for working parents too-- there are many co-op parents who either send a nanny or grandparent, or juggle their work schedule to arrange time at school.
One of the perks of joining a co-op preschool is the parent educator who is part of the curriculum. It's like having a personal parenting coach! While we may all feel we are amazing parents, it doesn't hurt to have some pointers now and then. In our parent meetings with the professional educator, we've discussed temperaments, common behavior problems, milestones to watch for, safety, potty training, overindulgence and how to talk about "the birds and the bees". It is heartening to hear what other parents have gone through and what has worked or not. This same educator comes to class periodically, and is also available by phone or email for one-on-one advice. Because co-op preschool is operated as an actual class, or "learning lab," through the local community college, you get the added perk of being eligible for student rates again!
So keep thoughts of perks for both you and your child foremost in your mind – choose the co-op preschool experience!