(Note: I’ve received many questions over the past couple months asking about the nuts and bolts of how Woodland Park’s preschool program functions. This is the first in an irregular series that will detail how our school works. Today’s post is intended as a kind of overview.)
On Monday morning, half of Woodland Park’s 3 and 4-year-olds will start school. On Wednesday the other half will have their first day. On Thursday, we’ll all be together for the first time. Our 2-year-olds will have their own “slow start” week with half coming on Tuesday, half on Friday, then the whole crew fills the room for the first time on the following Tuesday.
It might sound a little complicated, but “slow start” is how we traditionally start our year, giving both the kids and their parents an opportunity to ease back into their school year by doing what we can to mitigate some of the “shock and awe” that often accompanies a preschooler’s first day of school.
Our Woodland Park Cooperative Preschool is technically two separate schools that share a facility and, in our present configuration, a teacher – yours truly. This means that each school is owned and operated by its respective parent community, has its own board, its own bi-laws, and its own set of policies and procedures.
In practice, however, we operate very much like a 3-year preschool, with about 50 percent of the children who enroll as 2-year-olds “graduating” three years later.
Tuesday and Friday mornings belong to the 2 hour Pre-3 class. Typically, a quarter to a third of these families are alumni, with the rest more often than not coming to us from one of the local one-day-a-week toddler cooperatives.
Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays the classroom is taken over by the 2.5 hour 3-5’s class. Normally, all of these families come to us from the Pre-3 class, although this year we were lucky enough to be able to offer spots to 2 new families, both of whom have prior experience in one of the other 40+ cooperative preschools in the North Seattle Community College network.
Tuesday afternoons are an additional session reserved for our oldest children, those who will move on to either kindergarten or a “transitional” preschool program like that offered by my friend Teacher Aaron’s North Seattle 5’s Cooperative School located right across the street from Woodland Park.
I like the natural progression of our cooperative model, with 1-year-olds attending one day a week, 2-year-olds two days, and so on until as 5-year-olds they're ready for the rigors of attending school for the full five day week. Just as our first week represents a gradual progression into school year, the overall cooperative system ramps up with the children as they grow older and wiser.
Obviously, it’s not a program for families who need their schools to double as daycare facilities. As a teacher, I appreciate this. I don’t need to worry about eating or napping schedules, and it’s even surprisingly rare to have to deal with a diaper change. I can just go full speed ahead then send them home dirty, tired, and hungry, which is how I think a child should feel after a hard day of learning.