Every Friday since September Wyatt and I have walked or driven ourselves down the hill to the corner of 85th and 24th where we attended our co-op preschool. From 9:30 - 11:30 on Friday mornings, we played and sang, learned how to use scissors, practiced going up the ladder and down the slide, and cut shapes out of play dough. Wyatt was just over a year and a half old when we started.
Over these past many months Wyatt grew physically and socially and gained many new skills -- from taking turns to taking his coat off. He learned how to independently wash his hands, use tongs to serve himself snacks, pour water into a Dixie cup and even to drink it without spilling . . . how to sit still (kind of) and eat and how to clean up after himself. He learned how to share, how to sing "Zoom Down the Freeway" and "The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round," and cooked up a lot of meals in the pretend kitchen. I also learned a lot -- much about him, but also quite a lot about about parenting.
Part of the first-year co-op experience included a weekly 30-minute parent education discussion (and a monthly evening seminar) with a professional parent educator from the local community college. We addressed all kinds of issues and topics -- from helping toddlers deal with disappointment and overwhelming feelings to troubleshooting sleep issues and potty training. On any given week, half of the parents would participate in a parent education discussion while all the kids and the rest of the parents had play and art. Then the next week the parents would swap roles. By spring, I was so pleased to see that Wyatt had developed the confidence to voluntarily separate from me when I attended the parent education discussions. It was a big step for him.
Becoming part of the community of people in our co-op was also terrific and one of the most valuable parts of the co-op experience for me. Gaining new little friends for Wyatt and meeting families with whom we have shared experiences and similar values was really nice.
Our last day of school was June 14. As a special treat, Wyatt's grandparents from Corvallis were visiting and came to school to see what we've been doing all year. They hadn't been able to attend any of the extended-family events like pumpkin night or pajama night (we did take Byron though). Wyatt thoroughly enjoyed having them visit. Evenso, he had a hard day at school, knowing, I think, that it was our last one.
I know by the end of the year Wyatt felt like our co-op was his school and that he belonged there. He really liked Teacher Janice and especially the hand stamps she gave each week -- sometimes all the way up his arm.
Next fall we plan to continue our co-op experience in the Pre-3s classroom. It's two mornings a week -- one with me and one by himself. For now, however, we're just getting used to the idea that we have Friday mornings to play in the sun.