Friday, August 12, 2011

Cooperative Preschool – Right for my Family



“Look at that brown doggie.  Can you say ‘doggie?’  Oops- gentle with the doggie’s ears!”
As parents, we are our children’s first, best teachers.  When your first child was born, do you remember being astonished at how busy your baby was with the important work of learning?  Learning to smile, learning to form a fist, learning to pick something up, learning to drop something (who knew that was a separate skill?), learning to use a pincer grip, learning to feed herself….  Those first few years are full of teaching moments, large and small, at home, at the grocery store, on the sidewalk…  Everywhere you went with your child, your role as a loving teacher was prominent.
When it came time to think about nursery school for my older child, I was excited to give him an opportunity to learn in a group at school, but I was not willing to divest myself of being involved in my son’s day-to-day education.  My family found that a cooperative preschool was the perfect fit: it gave my son, Johnny, an opportunity to grow and learn with other children under the guidance of a professional teacher while providing me the opportunity to be integrally involved in Johnny’s educational experience in a school community that nurtures families as well as children.
A child’s preschool experience can have a lasting impact on his or her life-long educational journey.  One of the keys to a successful pre-Kindergarten educational experience is parental involvement.  All preschools presume some level of parental involvement. The more engaged parents are in their child’s education the more successful the educational experience may be, and this effect can last far beyond the early years.[i] 
Cooperative nursery schools (which are also known as “parent participation preschools”), offer parents the opportunity to fully engage in their child’s first formal educational experience.  Parents are fundamentally involved in all aspects of a cooperative nursery school.[ii]  So, for example, at our school, every classroom every day has a parent helper.  Parents get to know all the children in the classroom deeply.  We develop a sense of shared responsibility to each others’ children, and our children learn that they are nurtured by a wide variety of adults.  Parents set school policies regarding everything from snacks to class size, and parent input is valued in every aspect of the school.  Our cooperative nursery school allows parents the opportunity to directly influence how the school impacts their children.  The end result is a nurturing, caring preschool environment, where both children and parents feel valued.
Cooperative nursery schools not only offer children a higher level of family support during a critical transition from early home learning to more formal education in a school setting, but also help fathers to engage with their children at the start of their educational journey, in a way that sets patterns for years to come.  Researchers at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) have documented that fathers whose children are enrolled in cooperative preschools find social support for being positively involved with their children, and build “networks of like-minded men.” [iii] Similarly, in the 2011 Harvard Family Research Project, Holly Kreider reported
…parents who were involved in early childhood programs read to their children more, were more likely to visit their children’s kindergarten classrooms, and were more likely to network with other parents than those not involved in early childhood programs.[iv]
Cooperative nursery schools offer families the opportunity to find like-minded families who together focus on creating a nurturing, educational environment both at home and at school.  Working in our children’s classrooms and helping to manage the school in ways large and small helps us as parents show our children how much we value their education.  The effects of attending a cooperative preschool linger long beyond those brief first years in both friendships formed and familial habits of engaging in children’s education.
Guest bloggers Christine Borger and Kay Berglund Newhouse together are parents, board members, and friends at Rockville Community Nursery School(RCNS) in Rockville, Maryland.  Like other co-ops, RCNS is founded on parental involvement, with the goal of helping children realize their full potential in a nurturing, creative environment.






[i] Miedel, W. T., & Reynolds, A. J. (1999).  Parent involvement in early intervention for disadvantaged children:  Does it matter?  Journal of School Psychology, 37(4), 379-99;  Marcon, R.A. (1999). Positive relationships between parent school involvement and public school inner-city preschoolers' development and academic performance. School Psychology Review, 28, 395-412.
[ii] See http://www.preschools.coop/v/cooperative-preschools/
[iii] Hewes, Dorothy W. “The Changing Role of Fathers in Co-op Nursery Schools.” Paper presented at the Annual Conference and Exhibition of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) (Washington, DC, November 29-December 2, 1995 http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED399039.pdf
[iv] Kreider, Holly “Getting Parents ‘Ready’ for Kindergarten:  The Role of Early Childhood Education” (Amherst, MA:  Harvard Family Research Project. Retrieved July 23, 2011 http://www.terrifictransitions.org/TT/GettingParents.pdf

0 comments:

Grab Our Button

Follow Us

Labels

TMN BlogRoll