Why I Opted for Co-op, by Jennifer Tan

When my family and I first moved to the States two years ago, my husband and I knew that integration was going to our #1 priority. We could speak the language but we were far from familiar with America, the lay of the land, its people and its customs. However, one of our biggest concerns was, if we were going to live here long-term, was the education of our two girls.

After looking at several schools in Redmond, which was where we used to live the first eight months we were here, we finally settled on a co-op (my older daughter went to Redmond Cooperative Preschool), for many reasons.

For one, it was, and still is, very economical. As migrants, we did not know how much my husband would take home each month and as such, were unsure if we should spend too much on preschool. The co-op’s fees were a perfect fit, and more than reasonable (less than $100) a month for a two-day class, for both child and parent ed.

Secondly, when we went for the tour, we really liked the setup of the co-op compared to the other schools. RCP looked very much like our preschools back home, and we could instantly see our child settling in and flourishing in the roomy yet cozy setting.

Thirdly, I wanted to get to know not just the parents of my child’s friends, but also Other Grownups in general. I was all alone in a strange country – as I know many parents of young children are out here (even in their own country!) – and so, the co-op provided an opportunity for me to really get acquainted with other parents, some of which have remained good friends although our children have now split up to attend kindergarten in different schools.

Last but not least, I wanted to learn. A big part of joining a co-op like RCP or DCP because of their affiliation with a technical college is parent ed. I wanted not just to learn how to be a better parent, to handle situations with my children better, but also to learn about my own child when she’s not at home and how she was among her peers, about American parenting customs and how I can combine my own beliefs and practices with these new things I’m learning.

This is what we’d envisioned for Duvall Cooperative Preschool when fellow parents Sara, Ana and I got together last year with LWTC‘s Marion’s encouragement to set up the school; first and foremost, a place of learning and growth for both our children and for us as parents here in our little town, and secondly, a place where teachers and parents can come together, share and build a network of support and encouragement to help us along this journey we call parenthood. I wanted to get to know the other moms,

My older child is now in kindergarten at a public school and doing very well. I volunteer at the school once a month but I miss being an active part of her education (yes, we do homework together but it’s not the same!) but I am so happy that she’s transitioned so well, first from Malaysia to here, and then from a co-op where I was around most of the time, to just once a month now. She is thriving in what was once just a big building full of hallways, rooms and a million strange faces to her. Now she knows the school like the back of her hand, every face and every name – and they her. Aren’t children remarkable in their ability to adapt?

I believe that a big part of my older daughter’s confidence and self-assuredness in kindergarten came from my 1.5 school years of co-op with her, because of the brilliant teachers there, the security of having me around during those critical separation anxiety years but also because of all that we’d learnt together, the knowledge and skills we’d brought home from the co-op. This is what I look forward to as I take my second daughter through our co-op experience together.

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