Co-ops Offer Unique Experience for Preschoolers and Parents
Full disclosure: My two children have spent a total of six years combined at Manito Co-op.
Cooperative preschools are different from other preschools in many ways. First, and maybe most important, is that co-ops not only nurture the growth of the children attending them, but also provide a support network for the parents. Since the parents attend class on a regular basis with their children, there is plenty of time to get to know the other parents while working together to make sure the classroom runs smoothly. There are also monthly parent seminars, providing further opportunity to get together and learn more about parenting topics.
Another important difference is that the parents work together to make decisions about how the schools will be run. An executive board, elected by the whole co-op, handles most of the decision-making. Each parent also has a job within the co-op, which can range from fieldtrip coordinator to fish ranger. Spokane's co-ops receive support and supervision from the Community Colleges of Spokane, which means that the parents all receive continuing education credits.
Co-ops usually have a play-based curriculum which makes for lots of hands-on learning and an emphasis on learning social skills. Sometimes you have to look closely to see that the kids are learning while playing. All the painting, cutting, gluing and playing with playdough is developing fine motor skills that are very important for writing later on. A group of kids gathered around the rice table or building with blocks are learning how to share, cooperate and use language appropriately--essential skills for getting along in an elementary classroom.
The South Hill has three cooperative preschools: Manito Co-op, Southside Co-op and South Spokane Co-op, offering programs for children from one to five-years-old. Each one is located in the Manito United Methodist Church on 33rd & Grand. Registration is now open for all three co-ops and contact info for each one is listed below: