June 9, 2003

A co-op is born... About a year ago I read the book Playful Learning by Engelhardt and Sullivan and began to think about alternatives to preschool for my kids. I found myself very unimpressed by the large majority of programs offered in our area and challenged myself to think what it was I wanted my children to experience. This book helped me organize my thoughts and realize that I wanted the kids to experience learning with other children their age and have opportunities to do some things that are more fun with other kids. But I still wanted to maintain control over what they were learning and offer different ways of learning it. So I approached several mothers with children my daughters age who I felt shared similar parenting and teaching values as our family did. Two mothers really liked the idea and we began meeting once a week, alternating houses and teachers and took turns teaching the kids. The kids could play games, learn songs, do craft projects, have snacks together and just have playtime. The mothers were able to socialize and trust one another to teach each others kids, the kids developed close relationships with each other and the other mothers. It has been a great overall experience for all of us.

I then began to try to start a preschool cooperative for my younger son but realized he was a bit too young to organize activities for him and the kids his age. Instead he participates in limited ways in my older daughters co - op and everyone has benefitted from the differences in age and they have all bonded together. In many ways he is older because he spends time with the older kids, but he is still learning at his own pace and have fun doing it. A co - op can be a good way to meet children's needs but you need to find the right families to do it with and have similar goals and approaches. We were very blessed to find that right from the start. I made my choices based on the mothers and how I had seen them interact with their children and some discussions we had previously had. We are moving into our second year with the co - op and are planning on continuing it even as some of the other children will be enrolled in private school as well. And siblings have been born that could form into another co - op in the future.


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