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.”
Spoiler: IT ALWAYS MAKES 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.