A cooperative preschool is one that is run by parents. There are full time teachers and other staff members, but for the most part, the parents make-up the board and do in-classroom volunteer work. A co-op preschool is definitely not for everyone, so it is best to do your research and see what fits well for your family.
Our oldest started a cooperative preschool last year. Though it is time consuming for me because I work full-time and have a 20 month old as well, the teacher and other parents are very supportive and helpful, and have welcomed us whole heartedly.
So far it has been a wonderful experience and good fit for her and our family. Here I have listed some pros and cons from our experience at a cooperative preschool.
Pros of a Cooperative Preschool
- Low cost/tuition.
Since parents are giving their time for free in the classroom and as board and committee members, a co-op runs with fewer paid staff and thus at lower costs than most traditional preschools do. This way, the tuition and other costs are significantly lower for the parents.
- Parents are highly involved.
Short of preparing the class curriculum (which the teachers do), the parents do it all. They are in the classroom as the teacher’s right-hand person, helping with the kids and supervising. They form the board and all the positions on it from president, to VP, to secretary, etc., and they also take part in meetings and all the decisions made for the school.
- Parent education.
Most cooperative schools have a parent education class. Along with their regular parent meetings, they offer parenting classes (often taught by the teacher or another professional), and information on child development, behavior, and social development process. This is seriously the best!
Parenthood does not come with an instruction manual, and often times we wing it especially when we have to modify behavior and communicate effectively with our kids. But parent education classes are helpful because they teach parents how to handle and respond to kids’ behavior at home as the teachers do at school. This is not only easy on the children but also the parents because come on, time out is not always the best way to control a tantrum! 😊 Besides you learn more about child development in general which helps you be a better parent and mentor for your little ones.
- Sense of community.
By working with other parents and families, a community is formed. You volunteer with other parents, attend classes and meetings together, as well as help take care of each other’s children, and this brings families closer together as a tribe.
- Easy home to school-life transition for children.
Having a parent in the classroom (once a week mostly) can be easier on the children as they transition from their home to school life. Parents are actively involved in what the children are experiencing and learning, and this encourages and motivates the kids as they begin their academic journey.
Cons of a Cooperative Preschool
- Time consuming.
Since parent involvement is mandatory and is what “runs”ka cooperative preschool, you can believe that it is time consuming. If you are a full-time working parent such as me, it can be challenging to balance work, home, life, and parent participation at the co-op. Even though volunteering in the classroom may generally be once a week, it is still time away from a fixed work routine that you may have. The meetings, and other board related duties can all add up and be time consuming and exhausting, therefore it can be difficult for families without schedule flexibility.
- Working with others.
Everyone has an opinion and they all matter in a cooperative school. And since the parents basically run the school, you will be required to work with parents who may have difference in opinions.
We are still enrolled and loving our little cooperative community. I am on the board and am actively involved in the decisions pertaining to the school, the budget, and the events and activities held at the school. It is time consuming but definitely worth it. My youngest will be going there as well.
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