A Few Thoughts on Doing a Preschool Co-op

This past year, Ani and I did a preschool co-op with five other families.

Ani LOVED it and going twice a week for two hours was the highlight of her week.

The other five moms were all fantastic and the other five children were well-behaved.

But can I admit something?

I do NOT like doing co-op schools.

This was my third time, and each time I think, “This time! This time it won’t make me want to lose my mind.”


I’ve done it three times now, and each time, I love the weeks my children go to someone else’s house, and I dread the weeks I’m in charge.

Back in 2012, when I was pregnant with Ani, I signed Ella up for a little in-home preschool run by a friend of mine. Her kids were all a bit older and in school, and it was once a week for 2-3 hours (I can’t remember now).

We were living super frugally in preparation for Bart going back to school for his MBA, and it felt a little extravagant to send her, but that was the best money I’ve ever spent.

I lived for those hours where I could do whatever I wanted by myself, and it was so delightful to see another adult connect with Ella and help her learn new skills. And it was zero stress for me.

It was worth every penny we spent on it (which to be fair, was very few pennies, because it was the world’s most affordable preschool) and I never had to dread the weeks I was in charge of a bunch of small children.

I love the idea of a co-op preschool and I think lots of moms are really really good at them. In fact, every mom I’ve ever done a co-op preschool with (which is ten different women over the three co-op schools we’ve been part of) have been amazing. I’m always so impressed with the activities and projects they come up with, and my children come home delighted.

I am not one of those moms.

I find it very stressful to come up with things to fill that whole time, I find managing 5-6 children of the same age fairly exhausting, and I always feel a combination of resentment about sticking to a prescribed curriculum and stress about having to come up with things on my own.

This year, of course, was particularly challenging because I was also trying to balance homeschool for Ella, plus a toddler and a pregnancy/newborn situation. But other years have not involved those things and I didn’t like it any better.

In fact, this year was my favorite of all the co-op preschools I’ve participated in because the kids were a little older and they were all very close in age.

Homeschooling is SO much easier for me because it’s more on the academic side rather than the crafts/projects side, and I’m only dealing with 1-2 children instead of 5-6. I also feel like I have a lot more direction with what sort of content I should be covering at a first or second or whatever grade level versus a preschool level. Plus, with homeschooling, I only have one child on any given level, instead of with a co-op school where I’m trying to figure out how to deal with six kids on a variety of different abilities and interests.

My friend Ralphie (who I did a co-op school with when Ela was young) does a variation on co-op schools where each mom focuses on their area of interest/expertise, so one mom might do math-related things, another might do art, another reading, and another music, and I think that’s an easier way to do it in some ways, but frankly, I’d rather just pay someone else who likes doing a preschool to do it instead.

This fall, Ani is going to be going to an afternoon preschool and we’ll be doing some homeschooling things in the morning while Ella is in school, and I can’t wait to have that time to focus more on her and also let her have the social and academic experiences at school without me having to teach a bunch of children.

I think for my personality and schedule and preferences, it’s a much better fit than a co-op and worth every dollar (although, I’ll admit I do dearly love the free aspect of a preschool co-op).

And I’m hoping I’m smart enough in another year or two to remember all of this when a friend approaches me to do a preschool co-op with Star.

Because I’m pretty sure the fourth time won’t suddenly turn me into someone who loves and adores doing a preschool co-op.

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  • Reply Jennifer Curran June 19, 2017 at 7:25 am

    I love this post! Thank you so much for sharing! Our family is moving to an area where I’m unsure about the assigned school but we missed the lottery to get into one I feel good about. I may end up doing homeschool for my first grader until we can get him into another school but I’ve been nervous about the idea because I don’t love preschool co-op’s either. I don’t know for sure that we’ll do homeschool but this does make me feel a lot better about it. Thank you!!!

  • Reply Elisabeth June 19, 2017 at 8:08 am

    I did a preschool co-op with my second when she was three. It was really, really not for me. I am not great with preschool-age children and it was hard for me to balance the responsibilities with my younger child and my part-time from-home job. She went to our city’s afternoon Pre-K last year and it was just so much better for me! My plan is to just put my youngest straight into the city preschool next year.

  • Reply Michelle June 19, 2017 at 11:22 am

    Thank you for validating all my feelings about preschool. We have an awesome & affordable preschool that my oldest two have gone to and I plan to have all 4 of ours attend. When you add it all up it’s quite a lot of money and I have wondered if it is worth it. But the reality is while I like my kids, and I even like my kid’s friends, I really really hate the idea of having to be their tour guide/activity coordinator, which I think is how a co-op would feel (times a factor of 10).

  • Reply Paige June 19, 2017 at 11:27 am

    I feel so similar on this topic. We’d been invited to do a preschool co-op last year before we moved and I had said yes, but was dreading the entire thing because I knew I wasn’t going to be nearly as ambitious as the other moms, and was so excited when we moved and I wound up not having to do it!

  • Reply Miranda June 19, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    This may be a bit off topic but I am so curious to see what you have done/will do for your girls when they’re 0-4 to prepare them for formal schooling. For instance, what games would you recommend for each age, what pre-literacy skills, etc. My son is about to turn one and I feel like I’m missing some key activities to help him develop appropriately. Might be nice for a post later on! 🙂

  • Reply Kayla Moncu June 19, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    I did it for a couple years with each of my boys and also hated it. I’d way rather just pay someone else to handle it!

  • Reply Thais B Winmill June 19, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    I’ve fought the co-op thing every time. Sadly even if I hate it, it’s not something I can avoid since preschool here is $10,000 a year. This upcoming fall I organized to have all the moms pay a teacher who would teach the curriculum at church twice a week. The cost is $35/class (9a-12pm), so $70/week or $280 a month which is peanuts when the regular preschool would be over $1,000 a month. I even found an amazing teacher with a masters in music education to do it. What happened? It was like pulling teeth to get the moms to commit and we needed at least 5 kids to make it worthwhile for the teacher. Most of the moms decided to not do it and will be doing a free co-op on their own. I find the mormon mom culture incredibly frustrating bc I seem to always be one of the very few who cares about formal education. We have free universal prek in nyc and out of 14 kids, only 3 went to prek with many moms skipping KG this fall too. I’m not sure what choice I’d made if I was a stay at home mom, but school for me is not just important but necessary.

    • Reply Debra June 22, 2017 at 7:47 pm

      You may have other factors that make you think they don’t care about formal education, so I can’t speak to that, but I don’t think that not feeling the need to have all of your kids do preschool equates to not caring about formal education. Depending on the kid, parents might prefer to have them home at that age and handle preschooling at home. Most parents are perfectly capable of teaching their kids basic things that they will need before Kindergarten and not all kids need the social aspect.

  • Reply Diana June 19, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    I think you are the first place I read about co-op preschool and given my anxiety over helping (not even planning!) at Vacation Bible School (for 3 hours…one day)…I don’t think I would do well teaching a co-op, even just one every few weeks!

  • Reply Emily C June 20, 2017 at 4:51 am

    I re member when our moms did a co-op joy school together for younger siblings! I’m with you on this one though.

  • Reply Jessica June 20, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    Yes, I’m exactly the same way. About Sunday School, too – I love weeks when I can just drop the kids off and have some time apart. But when I’m roped into teaching for a week I dread it like crazy and do not enjoy the experience.

  • Reply OregonMum June 20, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    We did a preschool co-op with four kids total this year and I felt that it was perfect. You only ended up teaching one week a month. Half the kids will be kindergarteners next year and the other two with fall birthdays have another year. I loved the fact that this year my son had a really fun social opportunity (none of us moms were hardcore academic pushers) and next year he’s going to a traditional pre-k program to ready him for all day kindergarten the following year. I hope to do it with my next son.

  • Reply Tracy June 20, 2017 at 2:37 pm

    My son went to a co-op preschool, but it was a true pre-school with a Director and teachers. The parents have co-op’ing responsibilities in the child’s classroom based on the age/class and cannot opt out of them. It was comparable in cost to a regular pre-school in my area, but still provided some of the connectedness I desired. It was a wonderful place for my son (and for me, the co-op’ing parent)! Perhaps look for something like that when you’re next thinking about pre-school.

  • Reply Melissa June 22, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    I am glad you wrote this post because, to be honest, every time you have written about the preschool co-op you do, I have been a bit jealous. I have thought that I would love to do something like that now that my oldest is 3, but pretty much all of the mom’s I know with kids my daughter’s age are already putting their kids in paid preschools, so wouldn’t really be interested. This reminds me that it would be alot of work so its probably OK that I can’t do one and I will be content with story time and my make-shift homeschool preschool.

  • Reply Steph June 22, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    I don’t think I would do well trying to host a preschool co-op. I never look around and think, “You know what would make this better? MORE KIDS.” I don’t really like play dates much either, because I don’t love entertaining small kids. But I do love that there are people who DO, and I will most definitely give them my moneys!

  • Reply Linda Abegg June 22, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    We started buying a curriculum that arrives each month with daily lesson plans and a daily bag of needed supplies. It made it super easy because we didn’t have to come up with what to do and it was very consistent from house to house. I did find that 5 preschoolers was my max. Only having 3-4 makes it even more doable.

  • Reply Kim June 22, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    I just finished my first co-op. I’m the same type of personality. It wasn’t my groove. I haven’t given up doing it in a few years with my next kid, but with different moms, rules, etc. if I still hate it then, I’m done. 😜

  • Reply Debra June 22, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    I tried to do a co-op with my oldest, but knowing myself, could see the writing on the wall before I even started. I told the other moms that I would try it for two months and reserved the right to back out at the end of the two months, no questions asked. I dropped out after two months.

  • Reply Leighanne July 1, 2017 at 4:52 am

    I’m not sure how I missed this post! I’m glad I saw it today. I’ve played with the idea of joining a co-op every year for the past two years. I’m pretty sure that I would feel the same way. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Torrie July 8, 2017 at 10:34 am

    I’m glad you shared this. My daughter isn’t quite two and a half yet, but since preschool is on the horizon, I figured I’d best start scouting around and thinking about it. I’ve thought about doing a co-op, but I’m very similar to you in certain aspects of our personalities and such, so I think I might be find it overwhelming as well. Maybe I’ll start scouting around low-cost options, too. Anyway, this is just to say that I appreciated the honest review and that it gave me a lot to think about.

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