TO LISTEN to children
Children have a way of defying even the broadest generalizations. They are steadfastly their own unique selves—complete with idiosyncrasies and anxieties, interests and intolerances, passions and whims. Rather than empty vessels waiting to be filled, children come to the Co-op with inestimable depths to share. But recognizing and drawing out their one-of-a-kind gifts requires of us a certain watchfulness—a laying aside of assumptions and a willingness to listen, observe, and learn. In a culture that values busyness over reflection, sometimes our biggest challenge is not one of action, but one of restraint. When we allow children to finish a thought, sketch out an idea, follow a musing, or weigh their options, we demonstrate our sincere interest and legitimize their priorities and perspective. That radical respect is a hallmark of the Co-op approach, and it makes for an environment of mutual trust and acceptance.
TO JOURNEY with them on paths they choose
Who better to set a course for the discoveries of childhood than children themselves? They are uniquely qualified, after all—equipped with boundless curiosity, imagination, initiative, and industry. Our exceptionally skilled teachers, having thoughtfully designed their indoor and outdoor spaces, invite children to lead the way in deciding what and how to explore. Of course, that doesn’t mean leaving them to their own devices. It means fueling their natural eagerness by offering support for problem solving, providing an abundance of carefully curated materials, allowing ample time for inquiry, and forgoing a rigid curriculum in favor of open-ended pursuits. The result is near-infinite experiential variety, and it’s the reason that no two days at the Co-op are ever alike.
TO CREATE COMMUNITY that supports children and their families
It’s certainly true that our cooperative model requires some genuine effort; that’s evident in our helping parent roles, support jobs, and workday commitments. But as the months pass, there’s a kind of alchemy that occurs—our sweat equity is transformed into a deeply felt sense of ownership and commitment. By dint of our deliberate intention, we become a community in both word and deed. More often than not, enduring friendships are forged—not just among the children, but also among moms, dads, caretakers, and siblings. We share crises and triumphs, pitfalls and potlucks, and our families draw strength from these abiding connections. In a world that feels increasingly fractured and fragmented, this model of community is one of the most meaningful gifts we can give our children.