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Advantages of Volunteering at a Co-op Preschool

Updated on August 26, 2012
The 'green gate' at our preschool symbolizing many, many treasured preschool memories for our family.
The 'green gate' at our preschool symbolizing many, many treasured preschool memories for our family. | Source

We Provide our Kids with the Same Opportunities

All good things come in threes.

With the start of preschool just around the corner, I find myself re-immersed in the world of co-oping. In 2006, we counted ourselves among the lucky few who, for the first time, had the privilege of sending their three-year-olds to what we felt was the ultimate preschool experience. Two more children later, and with the path well paved by our oldest son, we are back for (sadly) our last time.

When all is said and done, we will have spent 6 years of our family life in connection with a preschool that, we feel, equates to magic. It is funny to me now to think that I actually had hesitations about sending our first child there. Live and learn. Today, we can't imagine going any other place, even when our lives are busy and juggling schedules will be the name of the game. We are very proud to be returning alumni.

What is a Co-op Preschool?

Co-op preschools rely on the (written) agreement of the parent body to keep the day-to-day curriculum running smoothly, as well as carry out the long-term vision of the school. Alongside a teaching staff which includes classroom teachers, aides and a school director, parents volunteer their time and experiences for the benefit of operating the school, both inside and outside the classroom.

We sometimes take for granted that much of our school life, as we know today, relies on the help of parent volunteers. This ingredient is especially important for the life a co-op preschool. Here, we are not only required to make an ongoing commitment to a weekly classroom job, but also contribute to the overall success of the school. Responsibilities are as varied as making playdoh, coordinating lunch bunch enrollment, overseeing maintenance issues, and producing monthly newsletters, to name a few. And as is the case at our preschool, add to this list the additional job in connection with our annual fundraiser.

I return this year with a personal commitment to deliver on the following: bi-weekly time in the classroom from 9am to 12pm, booth and props responsibilities for our school fundraiser, and the choice to serve on the school board as vice president. Why in the world, you wonder, would I be interested in giving so much of myself to what is 'just a preschool'?

Why Co-oping Appeals to Families

A co-op preschool is more than just a school.

As a stay-at-home parent, life took a big turn once we decided to have kids. Gone were the days of getting ready for work outside the home, and in its place appeared what often seems like an endless and mundane list of to-dos. Just keeping on top of the piles of laundry every week feels like an exercise in determination, patience and strength.

Over time, I ended up craving a little more. I looked for connections with others in the same situation, for opportunities to make a difference, for a sense of fulfilment outside the home. A chance to leave a little mark that gives credit to you as a person, not just a parent. Ideally something that can simultaneously affect all that matters most to you: your own life, that of your family and your community.

For me, that something came in the form of volunteering at the preschool. I am a true believer that the rewards here are multifold, and usually far bigger in size than the time and effort you put into your 'cause'. Here is a list of ten advantages for choosing in favor of a co-op, assuming of course it fits with your family's lifestyle.

  1. Making a meaningful contribution to your community: we realize how fortunate we are to live in our community and become a part of our preschool, so it makes only logical sense to want to give something back. We reach a healthier balance in our lives by contributing our time, resources and skills to the preschool.
  2. Having a positive impact in the life of your child: we are passionate about our kids and I enjoy the opportunity to spend time with them in the classroom. Children feel a real sense of pride in the work you do in and around the school, and I feel it is a wonderful way to role model that what matters most to us, namely, helping others.
  3. Learning or developing a new skill: no doubt there is always room for personal growth, and a preschool is no exception. Never underestimate the challenge of reading a book to a group of 15 preschoolers.
  4. Becoming a part of the experience: it is a fact of life that people build bonds through common experiences. I have always felt that by selecting a co-op preschool, we self-selected into a group of like minded families. Our friendships bloomed, laughter shared and support offered in times of need.
  5. Discovering new interests and hobbies: taking a break from the routine provides a window for thinking more creatively and acting on your vision. My work as a writer today may in fact be a seed from the days when I was responsible for the preschool newsletter.
  6. Building on your list of experiences: whether it is one-on-on work with a child, creating a parent handbook or welcoming people to our annual fundraiser, these responsibilities are all resume builders. Some day when I return to a full-time job, I will be able to make all these experiences count.
  7. Gaining a sense of achievement: co-oping adds fun and fulfillment to your life, and gives me a real sense of accomplishment. I receive recognition for my time and effort above and beyond what any employer would give, never mind myself. Can you believe our school director made each one of us who served on the board a pecan pie for Thanksgiving a few years ago?
  8. Sending a message to your friends and family: your work at the preschool will give meaning to who you are and what you are about. I have lost count of how often we have met others because they connected us to our work at the preschool.
  9. Protecting your mental and physical health: doing meaningful volunteer work can be an energizing and relaxing break from your daily routine around the home. I have always appreciated the escape and enjoyed my time with other co-oping parents. If Mom is happy, the kids are happy, too.
  10. Enjoying the personal benefits: not the sole reason to co-op, but a much appreciated perk for your time and commitment: priority registration for subsequent school years, and even a discount on my recent laptop purchase.

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