1. Build Community
Co-ops are a great place to make friends, both for kids and parents. If you find a co-op you really like, you will not only make friends, but build a community around yourself with people who may become long-term friends of your kids, yourself, or your whole family. It may not be the first co-op you go to where you feel really connected, but don’t give up! Try another one! Or, better yet, start your own!
2. Try Something New
Because there are lots of parents involved, there are a lot of teachers with a variety of passions and interests that find their way into co-op. For example, my kids have taken classes ranging from Entrepreneurship to Sewing to Improv Drama. There have been times at co-ops we’ve attended that my kids didn’t have a class choice they really wanted, so they had to take something out of their comfort zone. Do they always enjoy every class? Of course not. But it’s always amazed me how many times they’ve ended up really enjoying some of those classes they thought they weren’t interested in. So, try something new!
3. Multiply Yourself
It’s hard to teach everything, whether you have one child or multiple children and multiple ages. Attending co-op takes the pressure off you for at least some of those classes, even if they’re extra-curricular classes. Often the more creative subjects I want to do with my children, like Art, Pre-School Crafts, Science Labs, take so much planning and mess that we never get to them at home. At co-op, with each teacher concentrating on one subject, your kids can enjoy a great Science Lab or Craft Project while you enjoy some much needed time drinking a coffee and visiting with other parents! And you don’t have to feel guilty because you never got to it at home! Which leads me to my next point….
4. Take a Break
You do SO much! Give yourself some much needed R&R. While some co-ops require you to be involved the whole time, not all of them do. Many co-ops require you only to help for one or two classes, and during the other classes you can do whatever you want as long as you are “on campus”. I know parents who work on their computers, visit with other parents, make phone calls, and even bring laundry to fold! Some co-ops are drop-offs and don’t require you to be “on campus” at all. In that case you can run errands, grab a coffee, clean the house, or even take a much needed nap!
5. Share Your Gifts
Often at a co-op everyone has to pitch in. If you already have some interests, talents, or abilities you are confident with, this might be a great venue to share these gifts with others. Were you an accountant in your former life? Become the treasurer or teach an economics class. Do you love to read? Teach a book & craft class, where you read the book aloud and do crafts with it. Do you love science? Teach a chemistry lab class for kids. Do you love parties? Be the event planner. What if you think you don’t have any talents to offer? Start small. I have seen parents start out as aids in a class and become so comfortable with the kids and subject matter, that they start teaching themselves. Or others who may not feel like the “leader type”, but become so involved with the co-op community, that they rise to the top mostly because of their strong commitment level. But even if you don’t ever teach or take on a leadership position, there are always tons of jobs that need to be done in a co-op: cleaning up, setting up, scheduling parents to bring different toys each week for the nursery, collecting money for field trips, watching a baby while the mother teaches, etc. All of these jobs are needed to make a co-op run smoothly. And if you’re just in a place in life where you can’t commit as much time as you would like, don’t sweat it! Pitch in as much as you can. A willing, dependable person is worth a lot!