Next on your TO DO list is to tuck the kids into bed, give the Hubs a big goodbye smooch, and head to the local coffee house to meet with the other co-op hopefuls in order to brainstorm co-operative class topics.
First on the agenda is to decide if you will be a non-formal or a formal group.
Actors in the end-of-the-year play
Non-formal ClassesNon-formal groups typically focus on the social benefits of co-operative learning. They do not necessarily provide academic classes, but instead organize activities and outings that center upon building relationships or cultivating organic learning. Offerings might include:
- monthly field trips
- annual theatrical performances
- kid's choirs
- park play-dates
Formal ClassesNot to state the obvious, but when I use the term "formal", I do so quite loosely. When attempting any sort of learning experience for preschoolers, always choose flexibility over "formal". For the sake of this particular series, "formal" refers to organized classes with particular themes or topics of study.
That being said, when choosing age-appropriate class topics for a preschool co-op, don't attempt to replicate the same academics you are providing at home. In other words, a co-op is not the place to teach the ABCs and 123s. That should be done at home. Unless your group is meeting every day and can have accurate, thorough review, the preschoolers will not be able to retain SPECIFIC facts and skills like learning the alphabet or addition facts. It's better to focus on a general theme for the month, semester, or year. Use this theme to create hands-on projects, field trips, games and crafts that can be done in a large group. Sometimes it is appropriate to stick with an over-all theme for the entire year. But, it is often helpful to pick a new theme each month or quarter. Here are a few class topics to consider:
Community HelpersThis topic works well in a bi-monthly co-op. Make a list of community helpers (policeman, doctor, mayor, librarian, etc.) that you'd like to introduce to the children over the course of the entire year or semester. Assign each community helper to a month on the co-op calendar. At the first meeting of each month, present a new community helper by reading living literature style books, creating crafts, and roll-playing. Then, for the second meeting of the month, take a field trip to meet a real-life version of that community helper in action! Inquire from the co-op moms if it would be possible to take a tour of each "daddy's" job. Learning about the profession that provides each family's livelihood would make for a great addition to a community helper unit. Not to mention, it would be a great way to include DAD into the co-opeartive experience.
Character Qualities/Fruits of the SpiritUse Scripture memory to help introduce particular character qualities to the preschool group. This would be a great time to briefly introduce historical figures or missionaries that exhibited those particular qualities. Consider offering hands-on service project opportunities every now and again for the preschoolers to practice what they have learned.
Five-in-a-Row Style Literature Units
Five-in-a-row is a curriculum that creates unit studies out of well-known, critically-acclaimed children's books. Before Five-in-a-Row is the preschool version of the curriculum and could easily be adapted for a co-op. Choose a new picture book each meeting and create a preschool book-club complete with hands-on activities to reinforce the concept of the books.
Mini UnitsCreate a unit-study style lesson plan for each of these mini-units and schedule one each month, every other month, or each semester.
- My five senses
- Ecosystems (rain forests, desert, forest, grasslands, mountains, ponds, oceans)
- The Four Seasons
- 52 Preschool Theme Ideas for Homeschoolers
- Ideas for Co-op Classes
- First Class Co-ops
- Ideas for Your Next Co-op Class
- Pre-K Themes
- Partnering With Other Families
- Choosing a Time and a Place to Meet
- Planning Age-Appropriate Classes
- Creating a Schedule and Assigning Jobs