Thursday, August 01, 2013

Kids In The House: Cooperative Preschools

Despite having been around for nearly a century, the cooperative model of early childhood education has retained a sort of underground status. The first cooperatives of which I'm aware sprung up around the turn of the last century, reaching their heyday during the 1940s and 50s as a kind of middle class housewives revolution, one that found mothers creating schools they ran from their homes. These school often rotated from home to home, with families taking turns hosting their school. I imagine that part of the motivation was a dissatisfaction with the quality or quantity of early childhood options, but I'm guessing the real driving force was a desire for connection with other families in a world that was becoming increasingly fragmented and decentralized as the middle classes increasingly moved to the suburbs where the flip side of lower prices and greater space was a sense of isolation from a larger society. 

That, to me, remains one of the greatest benefits of the cooperative model: at our heart we are about creating community. Cooperatives are thriving today, with thousands of schools across the US, Canada and elsewhere, but only in pockets. For instance, the Pacific Northwest, Coastal California and the New England states seem to be home to thriving cooperative communities. From what I hear from readers, however, there remains large portions of our country in which cooperatives don't appear to be an option. Awhile back, prompted by readers, I wrote a five part series entitled "Cooperative Nuts & Bolts" (I would encourage you to read the posts from the bottom up) in which I tried to provide tips, ideas, and background that I thought folks might find useful in starting their own cooperatives, which is, after all, where new cooperatives come from: parents getting together and deciding this is what they want to do with and for their children.

If you don't have time to read the five parter, you might want to check out my go-to post when I want to inform people about how cooperatives work, entitled, appropriately, How Our Cooperative Preschool Works. And if you have even less time, below is a short video I made with Kids In The House on the topic of starting a cooperative preschool:

If you liked the video, you can find not only the rest of my videos (search for "Tom Hobson"), but also some 8000 more two minute parenting videos at Kids In The House.

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