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I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my daily digest via email or RSS feed. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tips to Starting a Preschool Homeschool Co-op: Creating a Schedule and Assigning Jobs

Tips to Starting a Preschool Homeschool Co-op: Creating a Schedule and Assigning Jobs

Pheewww!  We've come to our final day in a five-day-long series about Starting a Preschool Homeschool Co-op.  If you've been keeping up with me, you have partnered with a few other families, secured a place and time for your group, and have begun planning some fascinating and age-appropriate classes.  

You are just about ready to welcome eager little preschoolers to their very first day of co-operative learning.  But first, you have to determine a workable order of events (schedule) for your co-op meeting and assign responsibilities to each of the participating mothers.


Tips to Starting a Preschool Homeschool Co-op: Creating a Schedule and Assigning Jobs
Field trip to the sheriff's office

Establishing a workable Schedule

The easiest way to establish ANY schedule is to make a list of all the tasks you wish to accomplish and then order them in a way that works best for your group and location.  If you have preschoolers, I probably don't need to remind you that their attention span is quite limited.  When planning a preschool co-op meeting, it is always best to rotate activities and scenery often.  If you are sitting at a table for one activity, move to the floor...or even outside...for he next one.  

Here is a list of suggested activities that could be incorporated into your class time.  Depending upon how long your meeting is, some of these may/may not apply.

  • welcome/circle time
  • show-n-tell (Depending upon the size of your group, you could have everyone participate every meeting OR assign one child to share per meeting.)
  • group recitation (pledge of allegiance, co-op theme verse, short song or poem, etc.)
  • short teaching time
  • snack
  • large motor activity/game
  • craft
  • hands-on project
  • opening/closing prayer
  • free play

Recognize that even after determining a specific order of events and typing that order up to pass around to each participating family, you will have to conduct each co-operative meeting with flexibility.  Rarely does a co-op day go as planned...especially when teaching preschoolers!

Tips to Starting a Preschool Homeschool Co-op: Creating a Schedule and Assigning Jobs
Field trip to a local Christian radio station


Assigning Responsibilities to Participating Mothers

Assuming that you do not intend for your co-op to be a "drop and go" sort where parents drop their preschoolers off for the morning and pick them up at the end of the day, you will have to delegate many responsibilities to each participating family/mother.  

The first step in assigning tasks is to determine what tasks need to assigned.  While each co-op will have unique needs, many responsibilities and leadership roles are universal to ALL co-ops.  Here are a few to consider in light of the natural gifts represented by the members of your group.  Depending upon your co-op's size, these suggested responsibilities may be equally divided among all members, delegated to a small committee for the duration of the year, or rotated by teams of moms each quarter or semester.  (For the sake of this "Starting out" series, I am going to assume that your group is not large enough yet to necessitate "governing bodies" such as a Co-ordinator, secretary, or treasurer.  But if your group IS large enough for those roles, determine which of these individual tasks can be assigned to those governing bodies.)

  • host (if you will be meeting in homes)
  • teach the lesson/unit
  • assist the teacher
  • provide care for any babies/toddlers
  • purchase/prepare snacks
  • create a written calendar/schedule of the year
  • communicate with/contact prospective families
  • announce up-coming meetings, field trips, or cancellations
  • collect any dues/fees for the meetings or field trips
  • set-up/tear-down
  • communicate with the location contact (if you will be using a public meeting area such as a church)
  • purchase/prepare project supplies
  • create/distribute any necessary newsletters, flyers, meeting agendas
  • take attendance (if applicable)
  • communicate with field trip contacts

We, four mothers in the co-op that my family has been blessed to be apart of for the past seven years have formed a natural ebb and flow to our delegated responsibilities.  As our group has purposely remained small, all jobs are shared equally.  Although for the first six years we each took turns hosting the meetings in our homes, to accommodate for the growing bodies of our kiddos, we have recently begun meeting at a public meeting room.  We have four main co-op meeting "jobs" and rotate these monthly.  Our meetings typically look like this.

Hosting mother

  • sets up the co-op learning area
  • teaches the lesson including any games, crafts, or field trips that are applicable
  • purchases/prepares the snack
  • handles any disciplinary matter that should arise in the class time
  • brings extra school supplies for anyone who may have forgotten theirs

Class Helper

  • helps the teacher with crowd control during the lesson, game, craft, etc.
  • serves the snack
  • cleans up after each activity so that the hosting mother can move on to the next activity on the agenda
  • brings a bucket of "free play" activities such as board games or legos for the children to play with during set-up/tear down at the beginning and end of each meeting 
  • helps with janitorial/tear-down responsibilities

Baby/Toddler Care Giver

  • provides care to the babies/toddlers in an adjacent room (When we met in homes, the co-op classes were held in the communal areas of the house and the babies/toddlers were cared for in a child's bedroom.)
  • brings a bucket of "free play" activities for the babies/toddlers
  • reads a book(s) to the little ones and sometimes provides a song/activity that corresponds to the book
  • helps with janitorial/tear-down responsibilities

Baby/Toddler Helper

  • helps to provide care for the little ones
  • delivers any necessary correspondence between the baby/toddler room and the co-op room
  • provides/prepares coffee for the other mothers at the start of the meeting (a simple, but necessary pleasure!)
  • helps with janitorial/tear-down responsibilities

Obviously, there are many other clerical/planning responsibilities that arise throughout the co-op year.  Since there are only four of us, mothers, we maintain flexibility and usually just divi up the jobs equally.  



Tips to Starting a Preschool Homeschool Co-op: Creating a Schedule and Assigning Jobs
The Little Red Hen skit


A few last minute thoughts...

Before beginning the year, prepare and distribute a contact sheet detailing names, phone numbers, addresses, children's names and ages, and food allergies of all co-op members.

Determine an "in the event of" plan for communicating about illness, cancellations, or any change of plans.  In addition, it might also be helpful to agree up a "sick policy" before cold/flu season hits.  

Consider forming a closed Facebook, Yahoo, or Google+ group to maintain communication between members.

Keep a running list of possible class topics for next semester/year.

Lastly, be sure to schedule periodic evaluations of the co-op.  After a few initial meetings, survey each mother to confirm her feelings about the overall success of the schedule and operations of the group.  

Thank you for joining me in this week-long look at starting a preschool homeschool co-op.

Collaborating with other mothers in order to provide an enriching, social learning experience may be one of the best homeschooling decisions you'll ever make.  Although you may have choosen to HOMEschool, you don't ever have to go it alone.  By surrounding yourself with a group of like-minded homeschooling families, you are offering your children a chance to experience COMMUNITY.  

Remember, you can never create a "perfect" co-op, but by following a few simple steps, you can ensure a successful one!  

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