Starting a Playschool Co-op: Only About 90 Percent Fun and Games.

Last week we had our first playdate with the entire Greenwood Playschool (aka Tomb Tots) class of ’12 AND our wonderful teacher, Cyndi. It was terribly, terribly exciting.  There was circle time. There was a hello song. There was a tactile activity that sparked creative thinking. By the end of the activities, all the little blondes (we used to have a brunette for some cultural diversity but he was ousted, I mean he moved) spontaneously sat themselves down in a row to enjoy their snack — see photographic evidence below. (Yes, Harper stripped off her clothing at some point after the water table. Ready for school, I’d say!)

Is this a cute group or what?  (From left, Harper,  Hayden, Jasper, Emily, and Glory. Not in the lineup, Isaiah; don’t worry, also a curly-headed blonde.) What can I say, the Tomb Tots admissions policies are extremely superficial. Must be 2 years old and very cute and blonde. Ringlets a plus. Anyway, it really is exciting that after almost a year of talking and planning this thing is coming together. I’ve been meaning to write more about the process of putting this thing together here. Here’s pretty much how it’s gone down so far.

1. Last fall I looked up the tuition at some local preschools and fainted. When I came to I started casting around for interest in starting a co-op among neighborhood moms. Interest was expressed. I breathed a sigh of relief.

2. Soon we had a group of 7 families (of which 4 remain, plus 2 new curly-headed blondes). We met as an informal playgroup a few times to see how the kids got along. They impressed us by fighting over every scrap of toy-like material around. We had a few meetings of just the moms (and a dad here and there) to discuss what we wanted our kids to get out of their preschool/playschool experience. I came home all excited: “Adam, everyone loved art and books and creative moment as a little kid and wants the school to be about play and creativity!” Adam: “You’re kidding. Your friends who are all artists feel this way? Wow.” Me:”…”

3. We met with an amazing education/homeschooling consultant, Peggy Reimann, who inspired us/explained why we were assholes for quizzing our kids all the time instead of encouraging conversation and discovery. Also there were snacks.

4. We talked to other parents who had started/been involved with co-ops and got their tips and warnings. We stole all their ideas.

5. I drafted a handbook, mostly stolen from other co-ops. This laid out the commitment expected from each family (a parent/caregiver works as the teacher’s assistant one out of every six weeks, etc), our schedule, and importantly, lists of acceptable snacks. All soda must be diet, for example. Kidding!

6. We created a teacher ad. Our teacher search languished terrifyingly as every member of the “teacher-searching-committee” simultaneously became way too pregnant to think. A new not-quite-as-pregnant co-op member swooped in and saved the day. Soon we were interviewing candidates (newborns in slings, naturally) (ours, not the candidates) and found ourselves impressed and overwhelmed by how excellent each was and wallowed in indecision for a while. We invited a few to give sample lessons, which were all awesome and further fueled our indecision. It was TOUGH! But one lady had co-op experience, which we don’t. So that seemed good. Also she knows Spanish. Also, puppets.

3.5 I forget to mention the space issue. I know other co-ops rotate among the members’ homes. This was scary to me. I think to fit 6 kids in our apartment at least 3 would have to be rappelling out the windows at any given moment. Which might be kinda fun, but a liability nightmare, right? Luckily we have one member who has a beautiful and perfect home across the street from Greenwood Cemetery (hence Tomb Tots), and 2 more with suitable homes as backups. Phew!!

7. Now we  have some mundane details to sort out. Money, our teaching assistant schedule, gathering supplies, preparing for potential zombie attacks, what to do if a student’s hair starts to darken, etc. A lesson-planning meeting with Cyndi is slated for August, and class begins in September, just like the real schools. I mean, other schools.

8. I’m sure I left out a lot of steps.

9. I just looked back at my earlier posts about this process and OMG, our kids have already grown up so much, I can’t believe it. They really do seem ready for something like this now, or anyway I know Harper does. I just know she will be psyched to have this little routine, this thing that is hers, this time with her classmate-crush Jasper whom she regularly names as her favorite friend despite the fact that they rarely actually see each other. Anyway, wish us luck.

2 responses to “Starting a Playschool Co-op: Only About 90 Percent Fun and Games.

  1. So great! You know, we can always have picnics in Greenwood. People used to go there to hang out before there was Central Park – no joke! Really excited.

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