Parent Co-op and Parent Participation Preschools
A parent co-op is a school where parents work in the classroom on a regular basis, usually one morning a week, and also help to run and administer the school.
A parent participation preschool is a program that is usually for younger children (under 3) that children and parents/caregivers attend together.
Archived Q&A and Reviews
I am curious how effective others feel discipline and behaviorial issues are handled at co-op preschools. Do you find that parents are able to effectively handle behavioral problems? Are your actual teachers simply too outnumbered by students (and parents) to adequately deal with issues when they arise? I am concerned that there are problems at our school, particularly around 1 or 2 students (not my kid), that are not being fully addressed. Is this issue inherently a problem with co-ops? Or, is it something unique to our experience? Also, any suggestions on how to proceed with the situation would be great! Uncertain Parent
In general with a co-op, there is a pretty steep learning curve at the beginning of the year while the newer parents figure out how it all works and get used to bossing around other people's children. The teachers generally zero in on which kids (and parents) need more support and then make those adjustments. In my experience, the wonderful community makes the challenges all worth while.
If you are still concerned you should talk to the teachers and ask them directly about your concerns. Find out what their plan is. If they don't have one, ask them to make one and watch to see it in action. I hope it works out for you. Happy Co-op Parent
I am looking for a coop preschool for my child. He will be four in the fall. I also need and want to bring his brother with me (he will be 20 months or so in the fall). The place can have an on-site nursery or a teacher informally allows little one to participlte. We are looking for a place which is well structured, hopefully has many nature, music, dance and/or foreign language emphasized programs. Also, meeting parents who are progressive, intelligent, multi culture, and enviromental is a huge plus. If the location is in Contra Costa County and has a great outdoor area, that's a double, triple plus. We are currently in a coop program, but it is too free-flow style where parents provide whatever activities they want to do with kids, which are primary craft making (straight from Michaels, not creative art) and not that healthy food making (colored pancakes, cup cakes made with store bought pre-mix kind, etc). I am looking for something different. If you have a recommendation for a great preschool, please let me know. -Anon
I don't have a specific recommendation, but I do know that licensed co-op preschools will not allow you keep mobile babies with you. Some allow babes-in-arms to be carried in a carrier during the parent's participation day but not once the baby is crawling or walking. I believe they would run into licensing problems if older babies and toddlers are present for more than drop-off, etc. The facility would need to be OK'ed for that age group and the adult/child ratio would need to take those children into account. One option to consider would be to find another parent in your situation and swap caring for the younger kids on your work days. Or maybe what you need is more of a formal play group where the parents stay every day? Anon
Hi there, I would LOVE to get some advice on finding and joining a preschool for my 2 1/2 year old boy (he'll be 3 in November). I'm really looking for something part-time, 2-3 days a week, that happily accommodates parent/grand-parent involvement. I don't feel like we're quite ready to fully drop off our child -- I understand kids adjust to this, but, the idea of some involvement (i.e. co-ops) is very appealing to us at this moment. We live in Berkeley, so that locale is preferable, but, of course, open to Albany or Oakland. Thanks for reading and sending any advice. Much appreciated! Stacey
Check out Inch by Inch. It has a parent-child program that's wonderful. I'm sure you can find the address and phone number here at Berkeley Parents Network. good luck!
I want to highly recommend Children's Community Center (CCC). Website is http://www.cccpreschool.org/. It is an amazing community of families who are fully committed to their children and their growth. Our son will be starting in the Backyard in September.
The physical space is incredible: gardens, sand, trees, trails to explore, and tons of things to play with, put together, and figure out. The teachers are first rate: insightful, respectful of the children and their personalities and needs, wildly creative, and masterful in their teaching abilities. The community is just awesome: it just pulls together when it needs to to help each other out. My son loves being there and being a part of it all.
You did mention that you want 2-3 days a week and I think I had the same idea/concern when I was where you are. I have found that the 5 days/week gives the kids the regularity and routine to build relationships, find stability and make more connections (both developmental and interpersonal). I haven't found it to be too much or overwhelming.
I hope that this is helpful and that you find a preschool that is a fit for you and your child... Happy CCCer
I'm not sure if the 2-3 days/week is an option, but Children's Community Center on Walnut in Northish Berkeley is a great parent (and grandparent) co-op, and I think that kids just need to be 3 by 1 Dec. Good luck. teachergran
Hi Stacey, I currently have both of my girls at Skytown Preschool Co-Op in Kensington. We love it! My 3 year old is in the preschool class and my 19 month old started in the Toddler class this summer. Skytown is located up on top of a hill where it is quiet with no traffic and surrounded by a lot of trees and nature. Both classes go on walks and picnics and are given a chance to explore everything around them. The staff is wonderful and the ratios are the lowest around (3:1-Toddler, 4:1 - Preschool). Participating in the classroom is really fun. It is nice to get to know all of the kids in school as well as their parents. One of my biggest surprises about becoming involved in a co-op is how much I really enjoy the other families. We do have participating grandparents as well. Check out the website, then call to go on a tour, www.skytown.org. Good luck in your search for a great preschool! Happy Skytown Mom!
Does anyone know of a ''co-op'' preschool that will accept kids who are 2-years, 9-months (rather than 3) on September 1? It seems they all require him to be 3. I'd really like to join a co-op preschool, but don't necessarily want to wait until Sept. 2011, and then put him in kindergarten the year after. I realize I could keep him out of public school one more year, but this is complicated financially, although I am also trying to do what will meet his needs.
(I moved to my neighborhood for the grammar school so am looking forward to sending him there. He's precocious verbally and socially so I had not been planning to take the option of holding him back a year, as many parents with kids on the age border choose to do.)
We are looking at non-co-op options, but if anyone knows of a parent-participation school that would accept younger first-years? Thanks! Julie
Have you looked into Skytown Preschool? It's a co-op in Kensington but kids attend from Berkeley, Oakland, El Cerrito, Albany, etc. It's a great school and we loved it there! Mom of Skytown Alumni
Hi Julie, come take a look at Skytown in the Kensington hills (bordering Berkeley and el cerrito). My 2.8 year old daughter started here 2 mos ago for the same reason-- all other co-cops can't take her and I had to have a co-op, so Skytown it was. Turns out we really like the place. Besides her sweet teacher, I really like the other parents, which is important. My daughter has become much more comfortable talking to adults and even lets a couple of the parents comfort her when necessary. Unheard of a month ago. The other thing I Ike is that I DO have a sense of ownership here, something I doubt I would have to this extent at a traditional school. There are so many other pluses--namely safety--and a few minuses (that are inherent to all co-ops) so please feel free to contact me if you have further questions. Or call the school 510-526-8481. I'm pretty sure they're conducting tours every week right now. Brook
Julie, Skytown Coop Preschool (skytown.org) has a toddler and preschool program. They might have your child enter the toddler program until he was 3 and then switch, but there would be no delay in starting, at least if they have space. Best, Skytown Graduate Mom
I have my daughter at Skytown Preschool Co-Op. This is her second year and she has loved every minute of it. We started her in the Toddler program when she was 18 months old. She will be 3 in January and will soon be moving to the Younger Preschool room. Skytown has three classes, each with a head teacher and parent participants. It is a play based school where the kids enjoy many activities including art, music, cooking and circle time. The biggest surprise for me was how much I really like the other families at Skytown. I have made some very good friends and thoroughly enjoy being part of the membership! Check out the website at www.skytown.org. Happy to be a Skytown Mom! Stephanie
Hello. My Son is in his first year of Preschool at Skytown and it's a Co-op and YES they can start when they are 2.9! So far we are really really happy with this school. They have two rooms for the preschool area. (Skytown also has the only toddler co-op in the east bay)One room for the 2.9-4 year old and one year with the 4 and 5 year olds. So it's a two year Preschool program. They are separated by age in the morning and then they open the wall and the children co mingle in the afternoon. The core program is 9-1 and you choose 3, 4, or 5days a week. And they have Extended program based on demand from 1-3. Parent participation is based on the number of days you choose. Go to the website. There is a calculator that helps you figure out what your base tuition will be and it's really reasonable. And the co-op setting is so wonderful because besides getting to see the teachers in action with your child, you get to build relationships with all these other really great kids! Teacher Roland and Teacher Martha are wonderful! They offer tours ever month. Come check it out! You can e-mail me if you have any questions. . shelly
I am looking for a preschool in Sept for my son. He will be 4 at the end of Dec. So he will be 3 and 4 this year and 4 and 5 next year. We are looking for two years of preschool. (He won't make the cutoff next year because his B-day is the 22nd of Dec.) Ideally I would like something for 2 or three days the 1st year and I am comfortable with the idea of 9:30 to 1:30 OR 9:30 to 3:30 or thereabouts. I would love to hear from anyone who anyone who has good things to say about Co ops that are working well for them in North Berkeley, Albany or East Oakland. I either want him close to where his DCP can pick him up one day a week or close to were I work. A lot of the opening I have been exploring seem to be for 2-3 year olds. And that is problematic as he will be 3 turning 4 when he goes. Please Share!!I look forward to hearing from you! Shelly
Shelly, I hope your experience is better than ours has been. Our son's birthday is the day before your son's and we were in the exact position. Not to be discouraging, but to give you a heads up, we NEVER found a preschool for our son, and we were looking for co-ops first. It seems like all the younger kids move up and fill the spots, and then siblings fill spots, too. We tried MCPC (where we were on the list of about 8 which never got to us), Sequoia, Lafayette Nursery School (where we were FIRST on a list which never moved), and Children's Community Center in Bkly for the co-ops and we didn't get into any of them. You might look at Kensington Nursery School or Skytown, both Co-ops. (They were too far for us without a car- I was willing to use PT)We looked at a few other non co-op schools, but there was never any room. It is hard with a boy this age. Our son is now about to go to Kindergarten with not much group experience, and if it weren't for the advice, reassurance and ideas of the BPN community as well as the amazing staff at Bananas, I'd be a nutcase by now. Best of luck, I really hope you find what you need. I had to piece together a bunch of different group experiences to help our son with the skills he needed, and I'm still doing it until September. -One of the many underserved in the Bay Area
We loved, loved, loved Peter Pan Co-op in the Maxwell Park neighborhood of Oakland. Our daughter is now nine (how time flies) and we are still very tight with all of the PP families from our time there. Gail Murphy, the director, is a powerhouse and a kid magnet. And then if you need afternoon program, Lenore is also awesome. PPNS is the way to go if they have an opening...... http://www.peterpancoop.com/ or 510.533.1197 Once a Panner, always a Panner
My child attends Skytown Preschool Co Op which is located in Kensington. It is a fantastic school that is separated into three age groups, Toddler (18 months - 3 years), Younger Preschool (3-4) and Older Preschool (4-5). Each class has a high ratio, 1:3 for toddlers and 1:4 for preschoolers. A child moves to the next class based on assessment and recommendation from the Director. Each class has a head teacher and parents that participate in the classroom. The base program is from 9am-1pm with extended programs available. Skytown is a play based school that is a wonderful learning environment for all of the children that attend. I have also really enjoyed being a part of this cooperative! There is a tuition calculator on the website www.skytown.org where you can see exactly what your expenses will be. You are welcome to attend the Open House on March 28th to visit the classrooms and meet the teachers and families. A Happy Skytown Mom
I am very interesting in the local co-op preschools for my son next year. I feel they would be a great fit for me with the parent involvement and community, but I am not sure if it would be the best fit for my son (which is really what is important). My son will be barely 3 at the start of the school year and is extremely shy in new situations. He is very outgoing at home and with family, but outside the house or his comfort zone its a totally different story.
My concern is will he find comfort in a co-op environment with the large number and variation of parents as teachers for the day? If there are any co-op or non co-op families that have considered this same dilema I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks! kmc
My daughter has been going to mcpc co-op in Montclair. I'd say a co-op is great for a shy kid. Our co-op is run by amazing teachers and wonderfuly caring, patient parents. I can't think of a better environment to make a sky child be at ease. leslie
We used to be in a co-op, a very well-regarded one, but had to withdraw after only a few months because it was not a good fit for my child. The fact that there were only 2 trained teachers for a group of 24 kids in a large space meant that developing social dynamics were not able to be observed/directed. The 4 (rotating cast of) parents in the classroom were all caring, of course, but untrained, & in the classroom only once a week.
The kids who seemed to do well there were the older/larger kids with outgoing personalities, who didn't need special attention. My child was small for his age, & less verbal than the other 3-year-olds, & was incessantly picked on on the playground. His budding sense of confidence was being pummeled daily, & was heartbreaking to watch. We then had to scramble for new childcare. not an optimal situation.
I'd be most concerned about large co-ops - he had previously done fine in a small toddler co-op. Been near there
This is such an interesting and complex question. My 3 children went to co-op preschools for a total of 7 years, and two of them were quite shy. My youngest cried every single morning for 6 months when we dropped him off at school. In retrospect, I can't say with much certainty whether a co-op was the best fit for any of them. Sometimes I think they might have been happier in a more structured setting. There are pros and cons, as with every parenting dilemma. Here are some things that come to mind:
1. The main point of Preschool is to start developing social skills that will be needed in elementary school and later life. But a shy child in preschool is unlikely to suddenly become un-shy in kindergarten, regardless of the preschool. So in some ways, for a shy child, you mainly want them to be comfortable and not too unhappy during the preschool years.
2. Co-ops are usually play-based. Is that best for a shy child? I don't know! In some ways, my shy kids were much more comfortable in the highly structured environment of K and 1st grade than in the anything-goes setting of preschool, where they might be left to wander alone if they aren't able to self-initiate play with other kids. So maybe they would have liked a Montessori preschool better. On the other hand, I was shy, and I didn't go to preschool at all. I was basically loose in the neighborhood with all the other kids, just like in a play-based preschool. But I was totally traumatized by the strange structure of kindergarten! So who knows?
3. One attraction for me with the co-ops was that I would be at the school one day a week. I thought this would be more comforting for my shy child. I am not sure if this is really true, though. In 7 years of co-oping I often saw children who behaved completely differently (i.e., worse) on the days their parents were there.
4. Co-ops usually have a higher adult-to-child ratio than other preschools because of the participating parents, something like 1 to 4 or 1 to 5. This means that the kids are hardly ever out of sight of an adult, so it is possible for a shy child to receive more attention at a co-op. In my experience, my shy son really hit it off with a couple of other parents, so he had very rich interactions with a variety of adults, which was great. There was a little girl who cried a lot, who would usually be scooped up by one of the parents on duty and held and comforted for most of the morning. That would be difficult at school where fewer adults were present. OTOH some co-op parents are more into it than others. There's always the co-op parent who only has eyes for her own child at school. Not every adult is able to empathize with other peoples' kids. Many parents do not have experience interacting with shy kids. And of course most participating parents don't have any background or training in early childhood education.
5. Always remember: it's hard to go wrong with a preschool in the Bay Area. We are blessed with so many good ones. You aren't going to mess up your child by picking a school that turns out to be slightly less desirable than another one.
6. The preschool years whiz by. Make your best guess and don't worry TOO much - you've still got 12 more years of school to worry about!
Former co-op mom
As a formerly shy person and mom of two formerly shy girls who went to a coop preschool, I'd encourage you to send your child to a coop. I think the exposure to many different children and adults who participate in the school helped my daughters learn to feel comfortable with a wide range of people. My youngest daughter, the shyer of the two, was pretty stressed out for the first two months of school but she adapted and thrived. By the time they were ready to go to Kindergarten, they were confident. I credit the coop experience for making that transition to a bigger school easier. Now, I would say, neither girl is shy. Good luck and have fun in pre-school! (Another benefit of a coop is you get to go play and learn there too, and your child will love that!) anon
We sent our shy girl to a co-op and loved it. The social ties that form between the kids and between the parents are really wonderful. Even 9 months after graduating to a new school, we still have play dates and carpools with some of the kids/families we know from the co-op. The big picture is that your child( and you) may end up with a very extensive network of friends, which will help counteract shyness for a lifetime! JM
Many of my friends and I have visited CCC, as well as other co-ops, and we really love the schools. However, we were curious how 3-year-olds respond to the 20 or so different adults participating each week. Does it take a child longer to seem at ease, given this turn-over? I assume that after a few months they get to know all the parents and feel comfortable, but is it difficult beforehand? Would a semi-shy child feel completely overwhelmed? Thanks for any insight. Mother of a shy 2-year-old
My two shy daughters attended CCC and had a great experience there. The number of adults at the school did not seem to be an issue. The children are with the same teachers each day, so that provides a lot of consistency. Getting to know many children and adults was a great learning experience and one that made my girls feel more confident by the time they entered elementary school. CCC alum
Hi-Our not really shy daughter started El Cerrito Preschool Co- op (ECPC) at age 3.5. It took her about 2 weeks (going MWF, 8:30-noon) to adjust to ''school.'' During that time I would stay for the day & then less & less each day. For the first few weeks or so, ECPC encourages this practice to give children (& parents) time to ease into the new routine. We have shy kids at the school & they seem to adjust just fine, even tho the school is big, 30 kids. From what I've experienced, shy kids tend to seek out a parent (whether they know them or not) to hang around with each day (& that parent then assists in helping the child integrate with other kids.) At ECPC, there are always 6 parents & 2 teachers. Having different parents each day was never an issue with our child. Meeting them was simply part of adjusting to preschool. What was more important was the interaction with the teachers who are the constant that the kids get comfortable with & who initially reassure them that they are in a safe, fun environment. As the school year progresses, kids naturally bring parents into the mix. We love ECPC & the co-op experience. Our son (age 3 in Nov) will attend this fall along with his big sister. Feel free to contact me if you want further info. Debbie
I really relate to your question. My son has now been at a co- op preschool for two years and, particularly before beginning PS, was very slow to warm up to new situations and was extremely shy with new people. In fact, I had officially enrolled him in a small, home based PS for this reason. The closer it came to Fall though, the more I had the instinct that he was ready for something a little bigger with more options and I loved the idea of being involved in his school in the way a co-op allows. So, with some hesitation about the rotating adult situation, we enrolled him in a co-op PS that we had really liked, Albany Preschool.
Despite my worries, it has been an extremely positive experience for him. He has become much more confident and comfortable with new adults as well as with new kids and situations and I attribute at least some of this growth to getting to know new adults in a safe situation and being able to think of them as a friend's parent. The comfort, though, has definitely extended to his life outside of PS. All that said, it did take him a while to get used to this situation and, despite absolutely loving PS, he stuck quite close to the head teacher for the first year. (Thankfully, she really understood his approach to new situations and was extremely patient and loving towards him.)
He still will often choose to do an activity that is led by a parent he knows well, rather than one that seems quite up his alley, but is led by a parent he doesn't know as well. But, having the chance to get to know new parents at his own pace has been a very important experience for him and now (at age 5) he really likes to tell people about how he ''used to be really shy with people he didn't know.'' Good luck with your own decision. APS parent
My daughter recently graduated from CCC. I would call her typically shy around adults, but she had very little trouble adjusting to co-op life. At CCC, the teachers on staff are always present, providing a wonderful consistency for not only the kids, but the parents working. My daughter loved getting to know her classmates' mom/dad/grandparents and was never overwhelmed by the rotating parent-teachers. Also, at CCC a lot of time is put into training new parent-teachers to have consistent and postive responses to children. Not sure how it works elsewhere, but my daughter thrived in this setting. On an added note, the afternoon staff maintains the same teachers without parent-teachers -- and they are absolutely, hands-down fantastic and amazing. CCC fan
I have been looking for a co-op preschool for my son to begin attending in September. I've just begun my research. So far they all seem to have similar philosophies, work loads, hours, and fees. I have not visited any schools yet. Recently I heard through a friend that another friend is hearing a lot of gossip at her co-op. Most of it concerns one mother. Now I'm starting to wonder whether this is a problem at all co-op preschools because the parents know each other so well. Could other co-op preschools parents share their experiences with gossip? Is this a common problem? Could anyone recommend schools where it is not a problem? anonymous
It depends on what kind of gossip you're talking about. If it's gossip about home lives, that's one thing, but if it's gossip related to parenting skills, yes, sometimes that's more evident in a cooperative environment. That's because parents are more keenly aware of the behavior of individual children when they work with them on a regular basis. In my experience, the impulse to gossip about other parents does not arise unless there is a behavioral issue that is going untreated at the school. If the school is a good one, parents will be educated thoroughly and early on the need to address matters of discipline and behavior only with the school and not with other parents. But when the school is not responding adequately to concerns, gossip will surely erupt -- because parents are frustrated. Cooperatives can be absolutely wonderful places to put your children -- the feeling of community is so strong and so immediate, for everyone, you, the children, the teachers. Everyone's working toward the same end and is tremendously invested in the quality and success of the school. Your kids will have the experience of working with a variety of adults, each with a different personality and set of skills to offer, and their experience will be much richer because of it. On the other hand, any kind of cooperative business is tricky to sustain in a healthy way. And with a preschool there are new people and new ideas about child rearing coming in every year; parents feel strongly about the well-being of their children (especially when they're very young); and if the institution itself does not maintain a consistent policy and philosophy year-after-year, and maintain constant clear lines of communication between the parents and the teacher or decision-makers, then definitely destructive forces like gossip will crop up. Cooperative parent
I don't think there are more gossiping parents in a co-op, but I do think there are more opportunities for people to gossip at a co-op, just because parents are around each other more. I have 3 kids who attended 2 different co-ops, as well as other schools later. When most parents at a school are dropping their kids off and not hanging around, the people who like to gossip have to make more of an effort to find receptive ears. So you tend to hear less gossip. But when 5 or 6 parents are spending all morning together at a co-op, even if they are busy, there are lots more opportunities for gossip to spring up. I have to hand it to the teachers at CCC, the co-op my 3rd son went to. They did a good job of discouraging idle talk at school. In the 4-year-old class, parents were not allowed to discuss kindergarten plans at school (which, if you have a 4-year-old, can totally consume you.) And we were often reminded that we were there to be with the kids, not talk to each other. Parents did socialize of course, which is one of the benefits of a co-op, but the staff did a good job of minimizing gossip.
There are always people who need to gossip regardless of the school. It's not so hard to avoid it, though. Gossipy people know the ones who like it and the ones who don't, and if you don't seem like a gossip lover to them, they probably won't gossip to you!
Peter Pan preschool coop is great in a lot of ways, much cheaper than other coops and I really haven't noticed any gossip. I have only been there for 3 months, so maybe I am out of the loop, but I just haven't heard any. The teacher is very professional; the parents nice; its in a beautiful setting. So you may want to check it out. My son is VERY happy there.
I have my daughter in a co-op preschool 2 mornings per week, but wondered if any of these schools in the East Bay offer a program with some full days or close to that (basically more than the 2- 3 mornings per week that most do). Anon