Family Cooperative Preschool is a high quality early childhood program providing a safe and nurturing environment while promoting the physical, social, emotional and intellectual development of young children. Children learn through play, interactions with peers and adults, and through the active exploration of nature and materials. The preschool offers a creative, flexible program designed to meet children’s individual developmental needs. Our program is geared towards building self-esteem, confidence, curiosity, responsibility and respect for one another. Extensive use of the outdoors and nature is an integral part of the curriculum. Children spend a significant amount of time outdoors on most days throughout the school year.
At Family Co-op, we
Nurture the child’s physical development, well-being, and creative expression.
Cultivate the abilities to solve problems, think independently, make choices and develop a positive attitude toward learning.
Promote outdoor play and exploration through the use of the adjoining playground and the neighboring fields and woods.
Support inter-generational relationships, not only with the families who participate but also through the school’s ongoing involvement with the neighboring residences for senior citizens.
Encourage children to recognize similarities in one another and appreciate differences.
Enhance oral language skills through interactions with others.
Build the foundation for learning to read and write through daily exploration of the school’s environment.
Introduce math concepts every day as children engage in a variety of activities.
Foster active science exploration with resources that are available indoors and outdoors.
Family Cooperative Kindergarten, a precursor to the current preschool, was founded in 1952 by a group of North Andover parents interested in starting a public kindergarten. At that time, the Town was not prepared for a kindergarten program, so the parents formed a private cooperative school. These parents were guided by Mrs. Mary Charles, an early childhood educator, who became the school’s benefactress over the years. Family Cooperative Preschool was established in 1969 when the Town instituted the kindergarten curriculum in its public education system. The preschool moved from the Old Center to its current location in 1981.
We are a co-operative preschool, offering parents an opportunity to better understand the preschool curriculum through participation in the program. Parents assist in the classroom by "co-oping" approximately once per month. Co-oping provides a hands-on involvement in what is typically their child’s first formal program outside the home. Teachers and parents work together to guide children through activities, play and problem solving. Co-oping also helps parents get to know each other, fostering connections that remain long after their children's preschool experience has ended.
Frequently Asked Questions about Co-oping
Family Cooperative Preschool is a non-profit cooperative preschool, offering parents an opportunity for better understanding of their preschool child through participation in the program. Parents help out at school, called ‘co-oping’, which enables hands-on involvement in what is typically their preschooler’s first formal program outside the home. The co-oping piece of Family Cooperative Preschool’s program strengthens the partnership between parents and teachers and builds relationships among families. Research has shown that parent involvement is positively related to a child’s success in school. Our program combines the two most important ingredients for a successful first school experience: the expertise of our professional teachers and the best expert on your child ... YOU!
What is co-oping?
Co-oping is when one parent attends school with their child and helps out during that school day. Most of the time you are at school co-oping, you are participating in activities with your child and other children. At ‘group time’ during the last half hour of the school day, parent co-opers clean-up the day’s snack and activities.
One parent co-ops with their child. Some families alternate which parent co-ops throughout the year so that both parents have the opportunity to be at school with their child. We ask that no younger siblings, except for infants, be brought to school on co-op days.
How often will I co-op?
We ask each family to co-op one time per month. Parents are always welcome to co-op more often if they would like to do so.
Is co-oping teaching?
Every day there are three teachers working at school. Parents are never alone or unassisted by the teachers or expected to ‘teach’. Our experienced, professional, and loving teachers develop curriculum, set up the day’s activities, guide the children, and handle all behavior management issues. The teachers also guide the co-opers if help is needed with a certain activity or area.
Is co-oping cleaning?
The last half hour of the school day is ‘group time’ when the teachers and children gather on the rug in the large room for stories, songs, and group activities. Generally during this time, the parent co-opers do some straightening and light cleaning to get the school ready for the next session. These tasks can be completed quickly with very minimal effort which allows parents to join their child toward the end of group time.
How strict are the requirements of co-oping?
The overarching goal of Family Cooperative Preschool is to provide a creative, flexible program designed to meet children’s individual developmental needs. This flexibility and creativity also extends to each child’s family. Parents are asked to speak to one of the teachers if at any time co-oping responsibilities present a challenge so that they can work together to find a solution. For example, families who are expecting a baby during the school year have been able to cluster their co-oping before the baby is born.
How does co-oping at Family Cooperative Preschool differ from other cooperative preschools?
Family Cooperative Preschool offers great flexibility for families. The teachers are extremely accommodating and sensitive to each family’s situation and needs. At some co-ops, both parents have to be on committees, whereas at Family Cooperative Preschool, it is up to each individual family to determine how they would like to contribute to the school and be part of the community. At some co-ops, co-oping parents are assigned to one spot and stay there for the whole time they are at school, regardless of where their child goes. This is not the case at Family Cooperative Preschool. Rather, the teachers adjust and circulate to provide coverage. As one current parent describes, “The teachers are so experienced and in tune with the children and their needs, they easily move around and make any necessary adjustments but all with such grace and style that it all seems perfectly natural.”
How do Family Cooperative Preschool parents feel about co-oping?
“I am a better parent to my children because of what I have learned from the teachers and for that, I am extremely grateful.”
“My child truly enjoys getting to know the other parents and the days that I co-op are considered very special days for him. He often expresses a wish that I could co-op every day. I feel that the parent participation is what makes the Family Cooperative special. The children get to see that their parents are invested in their education and oftentimes it gives both the child and the parent an opportunity for some special one on one time which can sometimes be hard to find when there are multiple children in a family.”
“I feel like co-oping is a great opportunity to see your child in a school setting, to see your child in a group of children the same ages. It is a great chance to see the friends they have made. It is a great way to connect with the school and learn new tricks and ideas for making time at home feel just as successful.”
"I think it is the most fulfilling experience to have time with your child in a school setting. It is fun and exciting to be a part of what your child is doing and creating during the day. With such a hands-on experience, you can see the routine at school and that helps us at home too ... such as with expectations, language used at the pre-school age, and how to re-enforce behavior and advance their education."
“As a mom of four girls who now considers herself ‘established’ as a mom, most of my ‘mom friends’ I met through the co-op. I love all of them dearly and feel so grateful to have them and their kids in my life. They truly are among my best friends! We vacation together, get the kids together, support each other in good and bad times - and it all started at the co-op.”
“Overall, I think the atmosphere at the school, to the teachers credit, is so calm and tranquil and conducive to learning, that I look forward to any opportunities to co-op. … Once you have co-oped one time, you quickly realize it’s a cherished time, rather than a chore on your list of to-do's.”
“It sounds like an overwhelming commitment at first, but then you get there, and it becomes a social outlet, a learning experience, a chance to be involved in your growing child's 'big kid world' and all of a sudden it doesn't seem that overwhelming. It seems like an indulgence!”
Family Cooperative Preschool Parent Commitments
Co-oping is an invaluable part of our program. It means that there is always someone nearby to hear the quiet voice of a child asking a question, to assist in a project begun in a child’s imagination, to push a swing, or to be a customer at the ice cream shop on the train in our yard. Co-oping is such a great opportunity for parents to see their children explore the wider world and to learn strategies from the teachers that can be used at home.
During your co-op days, you will attend school with your child. Most of your time will be spent helping out and playing with your own child and other children as well. Each day there are two parent co-opers and three teachers. You will be guided by the teachers when help is needed with a certain activity or area. At Group Time, which is the last 30 minutes of the day, parent co-opers clean up the activity tables/areas. If it seems appropriate, the teachers may suggest starting to clean up 10 minutes prior to Group Time so that you can join us in the Big Room to read books before leaving for the day. The teachers may also ask parents to join Group Time if that would be more helpful.
Parents are required to co-op a minimum of 10 times during the school year (approximately once a month). Sign-up for co-op slots are managed online and should be completed by each family before the start of the school year. If scheduling conflicts arise during the year, parents are allowed to swap their co- op slots with other families (communicated directly between families). If you or your child is ill on one of your scheduled co-op days, it would be helpful if you could try to swap with another family, but if this is not possible, we understand that you will need to stay home. Information on the online sign-up process will be provided to families over the summer. For those interested, a co-oping tutorial will happen after the Orientation Meeting held at the beginning of each school year. Additional information on co-oping is provided in the Parent Handbook posted on our website.
Committees assist the teachers in the operation of many aspects of the school and are an important part of the parents’ role at Family Co-op. At least one parent from each family serves on a minimum of one parent committee or on the Parent Executive Board. All families are welcome to participate in additional committees and activities if they have the time and interest. Families are asked to indicate committee and/ or board preferences when school health forms and paperwork are submitted in the spring. The committees are as follows: Fundraising, Hospitality, Indoor Maintenance, Outdoor Maintenance, Photography, Publicity, Supply, Website, Enrollment, Co-op Scheduling. The Parent Executive Board includes a President, Vice President, Secretary and an Assistant Treasurer. Detailed roles for committees and board positions are in the Parent Handbook posted on our website.
Fundraising has served an important purpose at Family Cooperative Preschool since its 1952 founding. Mrs. Mary Charles, a prominent North Andover citizen and the primary benefactress of the school at that time, believed that fundraising would be critical in enabling the school to operate with low tuition rates, offer financial aid and retain an extraordinary team of teachers. In addition, Mrs. Charles’ vision was for fundraising to build a sense of community. Working together as a team toward a common goal has enhanced many families’ experiences at Family co-op and helped to create enduring friendships.
Each family is asked to support Family Co-op and its legacy. A complete list of Fundraising Events will be shared as we approach each new school year. Our biggest fundraiser is our Annual Auction. We expect at least one parent from each family to attend this event. We encourage families to participate in the smaller events that occur throughout the year.
4.) Clean-Up Parties
Three times a year (Fall/Winter/Spring), we have a Clean-Up Party on a Saturday from 9:00 - noon. The purpose of these parties is to tend to the items necessary for the basic upkeep of the school. Sign-up will be managed online and information on the sign-up process will be provided to families over the summer. Sign-up should be completed by each family before the start of the school year. One parent from each family is required to attend (without children) at least one of the three Clean-Up Parties held during the year. Work activities during these sessions may include: general cleaning, painting, cleaning out cubbies, sanding and/or staining outdoor wood structures, raking, etc. These parties are wonderful opportunities for parents to get to know on another and the school itself. Some breakfast items are served!
5.) Parent Meetings
We have 5 Parent Meetings throughout the year. They are usually Thursday evenings starting at 7:30. The Orientation Meeting is set in September before school starts. At the Fall Meeting the teachers will share the curriculum and our child-centered philosophy and practices. More information regarding our Winter and Spring Meetings will come during the school year. The Annual Meeting/Potluck Dinner is in May and starts at 6:30. Parents contribute meals, side dishes, salads, desserts and drinks for this social event. The more formal part of the evening begins at 7:30 where the school business is shared and the Parent Executive Board for the following year is voted on.