C.H. asks from Arlington, WA on June 30, 2007
I have heard a little about cooperative preschools, but don't really have many details. Has anyone had any experience with what they're all about?
K.S. answers from Seattle on July 01, 2007
I've had my son (3 years old) in the Marysville Coop Preschool since last year and we absolutely love it! Not all coops are the same, though. Some of them are focused on strict academics, which I think is absolutely ridiculous for little kids. (It's also a waste of time, studies have shown the kids in these academic-emphasized preschool programs are only more advanced until the second or third grade. Then all the other kids catch up.) Anyway, I wanted a school that focused on socializing and allowed the kids to have fun and be creative. I checked out several of the preschools in the area and MCP was absolutely the best.
Here's why I chose it:
1. It's been open for a number of years. (I did a search through the Washington Secretary of State website and found it has been incorporated since 2003. It's been open longer than that, though.) There have been no complaints or investigations through the state.
2. I checked through the Better Business Bureau and didn't find any negative information.
3. I called and asked if my son and I could come down while school was in session and we were allowed to spend the whole two and a half hours playing and observing. They provided references for people whose children had aged-out of preschool. There were also a lot of parents who had their second and even third children in the program. Everyone recommended it highly. I couldn't find anyone with anything negative to say.
4. I loved that the program was entirely child-led. They have an art room, a drama room, a block room, a snack room and a room with play dough and a sand box. They also have a big yard with fun toys. The kids are allowed and encouraged to play where they want. There is a teacher and at least four parents (or grandparents) supervising everything, so the kids are encouraged to share, take turns and have help if they need it.
5. From 9 a.m. until 11 a.m., it's completely free play. The children can work on special projects created by the teacher or can dress up in costumes, paint pictures, etc. At 11 a.m. the kids all help clean up and then sit in circle time where the teacher conducts a few activities until 11:30 - when everyone goes home.
6. Because it's a coop, that means the parents have to be very involved. It's not a daycare! A parent has to stay the entire time at least one day per week. (When we first started, my husband and I stayed more days because it was our son's first time in a preschool and I was worried about him. This was totally encouraged.) We also have to do a couple of cleanings per year and I have a parent job. (There are a bunch to choose from.)
7. My son absolutely loves MCP and is SO disappointed that we're on summer vacation. (Every morning, he asks if we're going to play with the kids today!)
I don't know about all coop preschools, but we've been really happy with this one. My son has just blossomed in the time he's been there. His vocabulary has improved. He has so much confidence. He plays really well with other kids. And he is always asking about going back, so we'll definitely be returning in the Fall! If you want to check out the website it's at: www.marysvillecoop.com (I just checked it out and saw that it has a few pictures of the toddler group (18 months to 3 years). I don't know too much about that program. We're in the 3 - 5 program!
1 mom found this helpful
C.F. answers from Portland on July 01, 2007
My 2 youngest children have been in a co-op preschool for the last 2 years. Basically, with a co-op, you work in the classroom with your child and sit on a committee. We are very involved in the school and help with the maintenance of it. The first year, my son Evan was in a mixed-age class, and I worked maybe 4 times a month. He loved that both his parents were there with him, and it gave me a chance to spend time with him without his other siblings around. I was the Social Committee chairperson. My husband also did the webpage for the school. This past year, both children went but were in different classes. My daughter loved her school and having her own friends. I made friends with a lot of other moms that pretty much lived the same time of life I did, and found myself spending lots of time with the other parents. This year, my children have moved from Tigard Playschool to Hillsboro Parent Preschool, and I have heard nothing but great things about them. I strongly recommend Co-op preschool to all parents that are able to commit the time to them. It is a great way to be involved at this beginning level of school.
M.M. answers from Spokane on July 01, 2007
I once worked with a woman who joined one through a neighborhood church. She and her live in boyfriend had to attend a few meetings/classes and they were in. They fought over who had to take the "turn" working a shift. They both abused alcohol and other drugs.
I would do a thorough background check on any school. How can you if it is a "cooperative"?
A.H. answers from Seattle on July 01, 2007
Mostly parent participation i.e. volunteering to assist teacher in classroom etc. to help keep costs down.
J.M. answers from Seattle on July 01, 2007
I've had the same exact questions as you, C.. I think I prefer the cooperative preschools to other preschools because the cooperative preschools have the moms so involved. I really want to be involved in my kids' education and plus, when they are so little, I just can't see any other preschool as being anything more than a daycare with a different name to help make the parents feel less guilty. (That's just my opinion, though. I'm not trying to offend anyone. I just worked in a daycare and even though this was a "good" facility and far better than the average day care, I am SOOOOO not a fan of them. I will never recommend anything that's like a daycare.)
There are different types of preschools. I really like the whole child-led learning concept in preschools. You say you used to be a teacher? I'd like to hear what you think since you have allot more expertise than me, but I think structure and lessons are great when they get older, but for now I want my little 'uns to play and be creative and have fun and figure things out for themselves (and learn how to share the Leggos without bashing each other over the heads for them!)
R.L. answers from Portland on July 01, 2007
Yes, cooperatives preschools are wonderful. You get to have a role in your child's very first learning experience by assisting the teachers that work for the school from time to time. Each school determines the amount of parent involvement. Typically you help in the classrooma and also have a committee assignment such as making new playdough or keeping up the school photo album. There's a great local description and listing of cooperative preschools:
www.readysetmom.com on the right side, it lists schools and types of schools.
Also, www.oregonpreschools.org is the site for PCPO which is the group that oversees coop preschools in Oregon and SW Washington.