Now British friends correct me if I’m wrong, in the areas I grew up in there weren’t cooperative preschools. We had nurseys which I believe is the same as preschool here in the states.
Preschool also known as playschool or nursery school, can be full time – a few hours a day, five days a week or part-time – a few hours a day, a few times a week depending on individual family needs. The majority of preschools offer Infant care averaging from 6 weeks to 12 months, Toddler care from 13 months to 24 months, Early preschool at 2 years, Preschool at 3 years, and pre-kindergarten at 4 years. Some also offer school-age care and summer camps in addition to these.
A cooperative preschool’s main difference is that it is run by parent volunteers. There is a full-time teacher on staff but parents are heavily involved in all aspects of running the preschool, from helping teach, administrative support to tasks such as cleaning, cooking, etc.
Cooperative preschools also follow the school year starting in September and taking holiday breaks at certain times of the year in conjunction with schools in the surrounding areas. Cooperative preschools also usually start at age 2, with your child having to turn 2 before August 31st to start in September of that year.
Some cooperative preschools also offer classes starting from a younger age, we didn’t have one close to us that offered this. I personally wouldn’t have started school Ellie sooner, even if that had been an option as I don’t think she would have been ready to listen and do structured tasks at a younger age, she’s very free-spirited as most babies and toddlers are.
Benefits of a cooperative preschool
The main benefit of a cooperative preschool that stood out to me was the high child to adult ratio. you are required to accompany your child to class one day a week, 2’s class is twice a week and 3’s class is three days a week and pre-k is four days a week.
Another great benefit especially in this financial climate and especially for the area we are in is the low monthly tuition. If you were to compare the same time spent in the 2’s room which is two mornings a week at $95-$125 in our are. Compared to two mornings at a preschool in our area which would cost you at least double this, but most preschools require half or full days 5 days a week to keep your spot.
Luckily for us Ellie has been doing great on the potty and won’t be starting at her cooperative preschool for another 6 months so I’m not worried about potty training her as she’s doing this herself. However, with a cooperative preschool, your child isn’t required to be potty trained.
A cooperative preschool is also a great stepping stone for easing your child into the transition of a learning environment and towards greater independence.
Responsibilities as a member of a cooperative preschool
As a member of a cooperative preschool, you are required to be a lot more engaged than with a traditional preschool. Upon looking into cooperative preschools this can be intimidating, however, once you look into it this further or talk to other cooperative preschooling parents you’ll learn it isn’t as much work as it seems on paper.
You are required to accompany your child one day a week to help in class, this normally consists of helping at an activity center. Activity centers can be things such as painting, blocks, playdoh, reading corners, etc. You will also have a monthly meeting to attend, these are usually two hours. These usually consist of things like discussing parent duties, fundraisers, etc.
You are also required to participate in two school cleanings per year, these will be at weekends and only take a few hours. Many hands make light work! You will also usually be required to assist with the class set up and take down typically three to four times a year.
The most “daunting” responsibility is that you will have school-wide responsibility, this sounds so much more daunting then it is. Depending on your interests, schedule, and talents you could have a job with the cooperative preschool that takes next to no time or if you want to be more involved you can be. You could choose a big job such as arranging the fundraiser’s, a job that takes a little time but is weekly such as making playdoh. There are also jobs that may only be time-consuming certain times of the year like arranging seasonal parties; valentine, Halloween, and so on.
Why we choose a cooperative preschool
We choose a cooperative preschool for Ellie firstly to save money. I am a SAHM and plan to be until Ellie is in full-time school, as long as this is an option for our family. So we don’t need to spend money on child care due to work and honestly, child care in our area can cost more then a minimum wage job would pay.
The second thing that made us choose a cooperative preschool for Ellie is that she is so clever, I know most parents are biased when it comes to there children. Ellie, however, was an early crawler, walker. and talker. This is just her personality, she is a go-getter and shocks us daily with a new skill. She loves to learn and play and seems to enjoy challenges and tasks. For this reason, we think she’d really enjoy the challenge of preschool but in an environment where we could be more involved.
Another big factor in our choice of a cooperative preschool is Ellie’s allergies and my personal anxiety and the learning curve of having an allergy child in an uncontrolled environment. I know one day she will be off to school full time – enter allergy mum anxiety here – we hope that by that time she will understand her allergies more and be able to advocate for herself. As of now and with starting preschool a few months after 2 we know that she doesn’t understand her allergies and knows the difference between safe and unsafe foods.
We feel this will be a great transition and learning experience, we will be providing her snack though she will be sitting with others who most likely will be eating things Ellie can’t have. I think it’ll be good for her to start to learn about only eating food that is hers and safe for her in an environment with more adults, including myself to keep an eye on this transition. This I’m hoping will help me greatly with the anxiety I know I would have if she was to go from being safe at home, to being thrown into full-time school and not having an opportunity to learn about this in a slightly more controlled environment.