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FROM READERS: What a co-op preschool is and why it's worth it

Tuesday, May 28, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:47 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Emma Beary and her husband have lived in Columbia for seven years. Their children are 2, 5 and 7.

One of the first major decisions that a parent must negotiate for their child as they leave toddlerhood and advance towards the looming educational milestone that is Kindergarten is what to do in the middle?

You may start to investigate preschool options — full-day, half-day, teacher student ratios, curriculum, etc. — the factors that weigh into this consuming decision can make this task seem insurmountable, and for my family, initially, it was. But by taking the time to really focus on what it was we wanted our children to get out of this experience — those few years of their lives between baby and big kid — we were able to come to the realization that a parent co-operative was really what we were looking for.

The idea of a parent co-operative preschool was not one my husband and I had originally considered, mainly for the fact that we were unaware of the possibility. The main premise of a co-op is that all families work together for the overall wellness and education of the students; and overall, it really does feel like a family as the years go by.

In my personal experience at Carousel Playschool, a parent co-op in Columbia which my two children have attended, a certified teacher guides the learning experiences throughout the school day and two parents are in the classroom as well to provide support and learning opportunities. Emphasis is given to learning and exploration through play, which allows for academic as well as social skill development, both necessary for a successful continued education once outside of a preschool setting.

A co-op works best when everyone is on the same page as far as expectations and goals for the children and classroom overall, and one of the ways this is achieved at Carousel is through a belief in a conscious discipline model of classroom management. This style of guidance emphasizes what you want the child to be doing and how to effectively praise or respond to situations in the most valuable way possible.

By having parents in the classroom to reinforce these techniques established by the teacher, the students are able to benefit from the continuity of instruction and have the freedom to learn because of the consistent guidelines that have been established.

A co-op preschool education allowed me the opportunity to see my children grow and develop — socially, emotionally, and academically — first-hand in a supportive and caring environment that fostered their natural curiosity.

Co-ops are a time commitment; there are parent help days and committee involvement responsibilities. But for me, having this chance to be part of my children’s first formal education journey was a privilege, and one that has prepared them well for life beyond preschool. For me, for my family, it was worth it.

Carousel Playschool is currently enrolling for the 2013-2014 school year. More information can be found on their website, carouselplayschool.org, or by calling 573-445-5777.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.


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