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My Co-op Life

by added on 27 October 2017, Comments Off on My Co-op Life , posted in Blog

By Jasmin Thankachen, 3 Day Coordinator

In September, my sons and I shared in our first day of school, one returning to WFP and the other moving ahead to his public elementary school. Like many of you, I took tons of pictures, posting the best ones on my Facebook page, while “liking” the many adorable photos of children posted by my friends and family, who were sending their own children off to school. Despite my excitement for beginning the new school year, it was with heavy heart that I left my son with his kindergarten teacher. I knew that we were leaving behind our wonderful WFP community filled with familiar faces to begin my son’s education journey through the public-school system.

There are no handbooks or calendars detailing the curriculum at our public school. There are no play dates, meet-ups, or class gatherings to get to know the parents or children. It’s a place where hundreds of children participate in a whirlwind of activity. I struggle to find my place in this big community, craving any sort of connection to the other parents and teachers with whom my son interacts most every day. I gather information from the bits and pieces my child shares with me at pick-up about who he has played with, what his new team is like, and all the other activities that make up his kindergarten experience. I miss having a cohort and the invaluable advice and experience of the Parent Educators. My knowledge of a 6- year old’s developmental habits and milestones have become a mystery. I realize now that my understanding of his growth depends on my own reading and research, another task to undertake amidst the busy school schedule.

WFP and all the other co-ops that I have been a part of have spoiled me in the most wonderful ways. When we decided to join a co-op, it was because I had no idea what was in store for me when I had my first child. I naively thought that having a child would be as easy as picking up a 9-5 job. Little did I know that these little beings are complex humans who learn at an incredibly fast pace and are watching my EVERY move.

Being a transplant from the East Coast, I didn’t have the support system that I so desperately needed until I joined co-op classes. I gained my own village through the co-op, a group that would share their experiences with me, pass no judgement on mine, and were able to give me advice when I needed it the most. My Parent Educators did wonders at opening my mind to the many facets of, not only my own journey, but also my child’s journey to success, failure, and growth. They taught me how to empathize with my child and to see the world from his wide eyes. The instructors made me realize and appreciate my child’s age and stage, and to expect nothing more than what is developmentally appropriate for him. They also told me that it was okay to be frustrated and tired. And that it was totally normal for toddlers to eat chalk and throw epic grocery store tantrums and for 5-year-olds to talk back and push limits.

The village that I was given through these programs has been unbelievably amazing. The educators and my class cohort have been there for me at my lowest points, lifting me and keeping me afloat when I felt like I was failing miserably. They are the friends and the family that I have made for myself and my children in Seattle, often spending time with them through the holidays and planning family vacations together every summer.

After going through these classes with my first son, I hesitated to take anymore with my second, thinking what more could I learn? Little did I know, two children from the same womb can be completely different from each other. With that, I continued with the co-op lifestyle, learning and using more tools that I have picked up along the way, for we all know that one strategy of parenting may work for one child but not the other. Without the co-op, I knew that I would be lost and a lot less patient to observe my children and know that their growth, in part, is shaped by my ability to understand them.

I take all that I have learned from the co-op and inject pieces of my past experience into the public-school landscape. I’m learning every day that my efforts to volunteer in the classroom, to learn about my child’s day, to put forth the effort to communicate with the teacher, to seek out what my son is learning in class, and how he is developing will help me to find my way in this larger community (all things that the co-op handed to me as a part of its program). The co-op school system has set the bar high, enriching our pre-kindergarten life. I’m fortunate to have made life-long friendships and have learned through the teachers, making my child’s pre-school experiences robust and memorable.

And my son, how did he do, you may ask?  Well, he has enjoyed most every day of school, confidently walking into the classroom, meeting and exceeding the teacher’s expectations, sitting at circle time, raising his hand, making new friends, and using his learning and creative brain. A sign that his co-op experience has more than prepared him for elementary school and beyond.

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