This is day three of a five post series about how to organize and run a preschool co-op. This five post series began on June 17, 2013 and will run through June 21, 2013. Please join in by subscribing to receive posts via E-mail, RSS, on Facebook, and on Pinterest.
If you missed a post, you can find it below.How to Organize a Preschool Co-op: Overview Day 1: Finding and Selecting Participants Day 2: Setting Goals and Expectations
Day 3: Selecting Learning Materials
You know what the goals and expectations are, so now it is time to select learning materials that meet those expectations.
State Standards Based or “Mom” Standards Based Learning
The first decision that has to be made is to figure out what guidelines you may follow in teaching your child at home. You have two options: 1). to follow state standards for early childhood education, or 2.) to use your mom instinct to create your own standards you feel are best appropriate for you child and your group of co-op preschoolers.
Most states have some sort of early childhood learning standards. These standards are not like elementary school standards which name very specific academic skills for a child to acquire. Instead, early childhood learning standards are based more on the social, emotional, physical aspects of education, in addition to academic skills. For example, a goal in language arts may be to use complete sentences to ask questions, or to hold a book properly. A goal in science may be to develop curiosity about the world and ask questions about it. A goal in social studies may include to develop an awareness of the child self, exploring what makes him or her unique and an individual. These guidelines are very general compared to upper grades. For some states, early learning standards are offered through the state’s Health and Welfare Department, not the state’s Education Department.
Another way to look at learning goals is to write what I call “Mom” Based Standards. This means that as a parent you decide on what is important for your child to be learning in preschool. Remember yesterday’s post about goals and expectations. Whether your preschool co-op group has opted for skills based or play based learning, or a careful balance of both, you will use that approach to learning as a way to help you make a decision on what early childhood learning goals you will follow or set for your child.
Deciding on Learning Materials
Deciding on a set of learning materials or curriculum may be the most difficult decision your co-op will make. This meeting may be lengthy and you may have to meet several times to continue business, depending on what kind of learning materials your co-op decides on.
There are basically five kinds of learning materials options:
- commercial “kit” curriculum
- downloadable curriculum
- writing your own
- selecting various activities within specific disciplines
Commercial “Kit” Currculum
My first year doing a preschool co-op we decided on using a commercial kit curriculum. While the it was incredibly convenient having someone else prepare the curriculum, my group found that we each were spending a lot of energy supplementing the curriculum. It was written very simply, with most activities lasting only five to ten minutes, with a very strong arts and crafts and dramatic play piece. It was too play based for my taste. I feel it lacked the academic skills I wanted William to learn. It did introduce letters, numbers, shapes, and colors, but spent very little time on them and sometimes never even reviewed them. I also found it difficult to follow the sequence of the curriculum, because it simply didn’t make any sense to me. For these reasons, the next year my group opted to forgo the pre-made kit curriculum.
An increasingly popular option is to use a curriculum, typically created by a mom like myself, that can be purchased for a small sum and downloaded, (or sometimes they are offered for free!) I have found these curricula to be more skills based, with loads of printables to cut out and laminate for manipulatives. They tend to focus on a letter of the week with themes and activities that support the learning of that letter. The math piece tends to cover basic counting, some addition and subtraction, basic measurement and maybe some graphing. They are a good option if you are not interested in creating something yourself, but maybe you don’t have the money to invest in a commercial curriculum.
Writing Your Own
This last year, my group decided on writing our own curriculum. Having two certified teachers in our co-op, we had very specific ideas of what our learning goals should be, (well, at least I did!) I used a researched based kindergarten curriculum (that I have access to through the college where I teach) to guide my writing of our reading curriculum. It was very appropriate for our needs, in that the participating moms agreed they wanted reading and math to be preparatory for kindergarten academics. Because of this, I wrote in a phonemic awareness piece in addition to learning letters and names and associating them with sounds in literature and speech. This fall, I have revised to curriculum to reflect William’s growing knowledge in phonics. It now includes more poetry and rhymes, an oral language piece, sight words, word building activities and even decodable books to practice said skills.
This fall, for math, I have used a kindergarten curriculum as a guideline to write my own math curriculum as well.
Another inexpensive option for selecting learning materials is to help your group of students through a workbook. While this is the most cost effective for most parents, it is my least favorite option. This is for two reasons. 1.) Research does not support the use of worksheets in early childhood learning, and 2.) worksheets can only begin to be a valuable learning tool if the child can already write, or at least have very good control over a pencil. Most preschool aged children are still learning proper pencil holding and have little interest in tracing numbers and letters.
Selecting Various Activities Within Specific Disciplines
So, maybe none of the above is the right option for your preschool co-op. You can also simply select various activities within specific disciplines and execute those with your students. This is a great option for a group that is hesitant to take on the full responsibility of teaching preschool from their homes, and is also an excellent option for groups with younger children. Simply plan one activity each day under specific disciplines you have chosen as a group. It can be theme based, or a random assortment of activities. For example, your day could look like the following:Reading – read ___ book and do ___ supporting craft Math – counting puzzles Science – mixing colors with water Sensory – shaving cream play Play – bean bag toss game
My preschool co-op group last year did something similar to the above in math. While I had written a scope and sequence of learning skills for the year, the other mothers were overwhelmed by that, so we opted to create several (as in about twenty) hands on math activities that we kept in baggies with a set of instructions in each. If the teaching mother didn’t have a theme related math activity she wanted to prepare and teach, she could grab a math baggie and execute that for the day.
What To Do Now
Decide on what kind of learning materials you would personally like to use. Converse with your group and get a general consensus, then start doing some research. If you’d like to use a commercial curriculum, Google something like “preschool curriculum kits.” If you’d like to check out downloadable curriculum, Google that. By the way, most commercial and downloadable curricula offer either a free sample or a sample kit at a discounted price.
As I stated before, depending on if you plan on using a curriculum or writing your own, this portion of organizing a preschool co-op will most likely take the longest. My group met four time last summer, just to discuss curriculum, so plan accordingly.
Sneak Peek: Day 4: Determining Duration and Frequency
So far so good. You’re well on your way to having a well organized, functional preschool co-op. Now to decide on when to have preschool and how often. For example: When should you start in the year? Should you follow a public school calendar? What time of day works best? How often should preschool be held? Etcetera.
For other posts in this seriesHow To Organize a Preschool Co-op: Overview Day 1: Finding and Selecting Participants Day 2: Setting Goals and Expectations Day 3: Selecting Learning Materials Day 4: Determining Duration and Frequency Day 5: Assigning Roles and Responsibilities