Tuesday, June 07, 2011

on a cooperative parent preschool

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss

Ashleigh on her 1st day of preschool
I never thought I would see the day that I was done.  I think it might deserve a T-shirt. "I survived 5 years of co-op preschool and all I got was a shirt."

Honestly, I "got" so much more that I could never just fit it all in one blog post. It begins with just this. I thought I was sending my children off to get an education and in the process I got one too.

Ryan on his 1st day of preschool
In The Beginning

I had no idea what it meant to raise a child aside from the feed them, diaper them, stop them from pulling all the neatly folded clothes at Costco onto the floor, don't let them watch too much TV, get them to sleep without too much fussing and above all love them.

I wanted to send my children to a co-op preschool because I was in a co-op as a child.  I remember with delight when my mother worked in the classroom.  The memories aren't particularly clear but the feelings of happiness are.

Thankfully, when it came time to "enroll" Ashleigh in preschool in the fall of 2006, I found a co-op not too far from our house.  Bright Beginnings was a sweet play based school with a great outdoor play area, a huge sand pit, tons of blocks and lots of art projects.  We only attended that co-op for about 3 months until we moved to the Bay Area.  As I searched for a new school, I found 5 in our general area.  Much to my surprise and luck, our neighbors had their children in a co-op that I was interested in.  I was invited to their annual pancake breakfast that included a tour and the rest is history.

Play Is Work

CVPP, another play based preschool, became our growing and learning and playing and snotty nose center for the next 4 and a half years.  I can remember my first co-op shift there.  "Wow!  So many boys and they are so rough and tumble!" I thought.  Thankfully, the teacher gave me golden threads of advice throughout our stay that wove together a wonderful quilt of understanding and comfort when times got a little less than friendly.

This preschool had a nursery, too.  So when I was co-oping with Ashleigh in the classroom another parent would only be one room away with Ryan watching the other little ones.  Once Ryan was old enough I enrolled both children which meant I was going to the preschool every day (at least for drop off).  That year Dave was able to work in the classroom a lot, too.

I served on the Board of the preschool for 2 years, too.  It was an enjoyable challenge trying to run a business with your friends and I'm proud to have helped.

Learning About Myself

I guess that's what it comes down to.  For me, working at the co-op preschool benefited not only the children but me as well.  I have learned so much about early childhood education that I feel like I should have at least an associate's degree in it by now.  Somewhere along the sandy, glittery, banging pots together way, I learned quite a bit about myself, too, in terms of patience, perseverance and understanding.

It was hard work some days especially when a child takes a swing at you or another throws up at your feet or pees in the sandbox or screams for an hour after their mom drops them off or squeezes an entire bottle of glue on the craft table and you wonder why, for the love of all things sacred and pure, did I sign up for this again?

Last day I co-oped when both children were in preschool
I signed up because I wanted to be a part of our children's preschool life.  I wanted to be active and involved and understand what goes on in their heads other than "Give it to me! It's mine!" or "NO!"

I think I have a bit of an understanding of what goes on now and I think those basic tenets that the little preschool gave me are often the basic tenets of life.

Ashleigh at her cubby

Ryan at group time
In The End

I will miss preschool and the daily visits with friends.  The small talk in the parking lot and the field trips to the pumpkin patch, the library, the farm.  The gems of parental knowledge shared at general meetings and potty training tricks and tips.  The gobs of paint going down the drain as I wash out the paint cups for what feels like the hundredth time.  The clumps of sand on the bathroom floor and, yes, even the silver squeaky bikes.

Ashleigh at her preschool 'graduation'

Ryan at his preschool 'graduation'
One Door Closes, Another Opens  

This week Ashleigh is closing in on her last day of 1st grade.  It's exciting watching her grow and read!  Good grief she can really read now!  And Ryan, my baby boy, asking all the time, "How many more days until Kindergarten now, Mama?"

It is now late spring 2011 and we're ready for the next stage in our little family's life.  I don't feel as though I'm leaving preschool behind.  I feel like it's right here in my heart everyday and I will carry the knowledge and importance of preschool with us for years to come although there will be perhaps a little less sticky, gluey hands, smashed goldfish crackers, and play dough stuck in our hair now.


Katie said...

Thanks, AM... I needed to hear this. :)

Lesley said...

Greetings! My name is Lesley. I manage the Parent Cooperative Preschools International facebook page. May I repost this entry on that page?

p.s. I am also director of Takoma Park Cooperative Nursery School. This is wonderful entry.

Ann Marie said...

Hi Lesley! Thanks for reading my post. Yes, you may repost this on your facebook page as long as I'm credited as the author. If you have any questions, please let me know.

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