Thursday, August 18, 2011

An Introduction to Cooperative Education (with links to Teacher Tom)

Earlier this month, my husband and I took a trip to Kansas City. On our first day, we had a nice, romantic walk along the plaza in search of a local gourmet burger place he wanted to check out. We found it, and other nice-looking businesses, right next to an early childhood Montessori preschool connected to a temple. I wish I had a picture to show, but even a picture wouldn't do it justice. The feeling I got as I walked along the outside the building I knew wonderful things had and did happen inside, it was a sort of excitement mixed with recognition and nostalgia. What an atmosphere it had! We walked down a little ramp and into our hip burger joint, and the feeling wouldn't leave me alone. I was considering the dream I had recently. I looked the school up on my phone while we waited for our order. Could it be? Was this the school I had dreamed about? Was this Marketplace Education in action?

It was not, of course. It was a regular Montessori preschool, just located on the plaza next to some local businesses. The website did have me intrigued at, "families work together to provide children with the best possible educational environment," however. That was part of my dream, after all, the parents as the business owners and education assistants inside the school.

But that's about where the similarities ended between my dream school and the school on the plaza.

Today an education blogger that I follow posted a new post about coop schools. He's been teaching in a cooperative preschool for the entire time that I've been following his blog (for way longer, actually, more than 10 years). It's been staring me in the face from his sidebar all this time. Of course I had read many of his posts in which parents take a center role. But I wasn't ready to learn yet. "When the student is ready to learn, the teacher will appear."

I read Teacher Tom's post about teaching in a cooperative preschool and subsequently, every post he has written with the "cooperative" label. I nearly cried at each word. THIS was closer to the school in my dream.

I have a lot of learning ahead of me. How does a coop school really function? How does one get started? How would an elementary coop differ from its preschool counterpart?

"Sometimes I describe us as a bunch of families who have decided to homeschool their kids together." It sounds perfect, Teacher Tom. I look forward to learning as much as I can, and perhaps even my own venture into cooperative education.