Our school operates much like a family; we all have jobs to do and we work to make things better for all of us. That’s the essence of a cooperative preschool: cooperation.
While the school employs two professional teachers who develop the curriculum and oversee classroom instruction, we parents actually run the co-op. We have a Board of Directors, attend monthly Parent Education meetings, hold member jobs (like helping wash the art smocks or caring for the school pet), participate in our annual fundraising event, and rotate spending time in the classroom.
The #1 thing parents tell us in our semi-annual surveys about the program is that they benefit most from the opportunity to meet other parents with kids the same age, and to develop those parent-to-parent friendships.
Our preschool is a rich resource for parenting tips and information. We look to our teacher and parent educator, as well as each other for ideas and information when we are struggling with parenting issues. Through social media, email, and things posted in the classroom we get ongoing parenting news to help support the community.
Each month, we participate in a Parent Education session, which is led by an instructor trained in the latest parenting issues. We cover topics like stress management , sibling rivalry, developmental differences between boys and girls, positive discipline and more. And the best part is that when we’re in the classroom, we actually get to put our new knowledge to use and apply what we’ve learned. (As a side benefit, this program earns each parent two credits per quarter at Olympic College, as Parent Education is an actual course that’s entwined in our preschool experience.)
Our program for parents rivals that for our kids. Both are fun, educational and help us build strong relationships with our kids and with each other.
ICP strives to be inclusive of all parents and the varied family structures and time challenges we all have. Being in our children’s classroom is an important part of our program, and the time we spend in the classroom varies by class. Penguin and Sea Otter parents spend one day a week in the classroom, while Dolphin and Orca parents spend two or three times a month in class as co-op parents. We also offer the two older classes a Preschool Option where a parent is in the classroom once a month instead. Even in that limited time, it’s amazing to see how fast our kids grow and develop and how a dozen kids (and a dozen parents) come together to form a strong bond that lasts beyond the preschool years.