When my son was about 18 months old, and his little brother was born, we began exploring the idea of a more organized group for him. We had participated in library story times and a few classes, but we were looking for something a little bit more intentional.
At the time, I was trying to plan at least two 'activities' a day for my preschooler and I was amazed and frustrated by the amount of time and effor to put together an activity that he would enjoy, at best, for a few minutes. It seemed like it would be way more efficient to plan activities for a group of kids instead.
Secondly, I wanted to expose my son to a regular group of kids to help him start developing interpersonal relationships with his peers. My husband and I had long discussions about it and our summary was that we wanted to try to give him the activities and exposure that his peers in daycare/preschool were getting without giving up the advantages we think we get from being home with the kids
The idea of a co-op preschool appealed to me, as it seemed like a great way to achieve both of those goals.
A group of moms in our community got together, and our group was formed.
I've talked to friends who have babysitting/child care co-ops that they love and are very successful, but our group was aiming for something different. Basically it was a parent led, in home parent and me preschool. At one point I wrote a pretty awesome mission statement and tried to convince our group to adopt it, but it was lost in post natal sleep deprivation. My best recreation:
To provide an in home, parent lead environment for preschoolers to learn, develop interpersonal relationships and foster exploration of the world around them.I think the most important element of a successful group is for the members to have a flexible idea about what they hope to achieve and work together to create something that works for everyone. Academics? Social interaction?, Art? A social network? Drop off? There aren't wrong answers, but talking about goals and philosphies, can help make sure you find a group that suits your needs and avoids later frusrtration.
As I've stated before, our co-op was a fantastic experience for our son and our family and well worth the effort. I also think it's a model that fills a need for lots of families I've talked to. Because we couldn't find a lot of resources specifically addressing what we were wanted to acheive, I'm hoping to summarize how we organized and planned our group. I'm also planning to post templates of the forms and systems we used. If there are others considering this type of a group, I'd love to help them get it going!