When Molly Ingle Michie and two co-founders opened our school in 1967, they recognized that the preschool years have a deep and enduring effect on children's lives. The founders' legacy for the school is a basic belief that caring makes a difference in the lives of children. Our parents and teachers bring that caring into our classrooms every day.
WHAT IS A CO-OP?
One of the tenets of the cooperative school philosophy is that parent helpers, under the supervision of professional teachers, bring a special element to the classroom. Molly Michie Preschool offers parents the unique opportunity to observe and participate in their children's preschool activities. Parents operate our school; we hire the teachers, evaluate the program, and determine its policies. Through classroom co-oping, parent-teacher conferences, class meetings, and parent board meetings, parents are involved in every aspect of their child's education.
The MMP experience benefits not only the child but the parent. It provides a truly supportive network of families with young children; at MMP, you don't just see the other parents at drop-off and pick-up. In addition, assisting in the classroom and learning about running a school through performance of our parent jobs teaches us about working in our communities and advocating for all children more effectively.
Read about the Benefits of our Co-Op too!
Our in-classroom duties include providing and serving a healthy snack, helping the teacher by setting up planned activities, engaging with the kids during play, and after-school classroom clean-up.
At least one parent, grandparent or guardian from each family co-ops. All co-oppers pass the same background and health tests as our professional teachers. The frequency with which we co-op is determined by the number of kids in each class, as well as how many days per week our child attends.
Each family holds a job that helps run the school. We aim to fit families with the jobs that best fit their skills, interests and personalities. Jobs include, school administration, licencing, maintenance, fundraising, etc.. Some families keep the same job every year, and some like to switch. You can expect to spend at least four hours per month (on average) on your assigned job.
Training & Board Meetings
As the people responsible for running the school and assisting in the classrooms, our duties include participation in board meetings, orientation training and ongoing training. We like to keep our meetings short and our training sessions engaging. Many trainers who come in are former Molly Michie parents who have continued with childcare-focused work after preschool. Training topics include emergency preparedness, communication differences, positive discipline, and sensory and motor systems.
Molly Michie teachers are members of NAEYC and we strive to achieve all the recommendations of the organization.
Learn more about the cooperative preschool model. Is it right for your family?
Looking for parenting resources in Charlottesville? Ready Kids, formerly Children, Youth and Family Services, offers a wide range of programs.
Ready Kids assists Molly Michie Preschool by supporting our self-study evaluation process and offering best practices and evidence based recommendations.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of snack should I bring?
Snack content and preparation must meet the requirements established by the local health department. These requirements will be distributed during orientation. We suggest including a protein, a grain, and a fruit or vegetable. Food easily causing choking, such as but not limited to hard candy, popcorn, raisins, seeds, nuts, whole hot dogs, hot dogs sliced into rounds, and uncut grapes, should not be served to the Caterpillar Class. “Special treats” and cooking projects need the advance approval of the teacher. Please help us encourage good eating habits by not bringing excessively sweet snacks.
Can I bring another child along when I co-op?
Siblings who are not mobile can come and be worn during a co-op day. Many families at MMP have younger siblings who need childcare on co-op days, and many opt to swap sibling care duties with other MMP parents who are in the same boat (i.e., Mary keeps Sue’s one-year-old on Sue’s co-op days, and Sue keeps Mary’s one-year-old on Mary’s co-op days). Your Class Chair will be happy to assist you in linking with another MMP parent to make sibling care arrangements.
In addition, school-age siblings who are home from school due to illness are considered too ill to co-op with you at MMP. Therefore, other arrangements should be made for their care during your co-op time or you may find another parent from your class who will co-op for you that day.
Can I (or my husband, wife, mother, neighbor, etc.) visit the class on a day other than my co-oping day?
Under Virginia law (§ 63.2-1813. Visitation by parents or guardians in child day programs), a custodial parent or guardian of a child at preschool may visit at any time when the child is at preschool.
If other family members or friends would like to visit to observe or volunteer, either in your child’s class or another class, please make arrangements in advance with the teacher.
How can I help when a child is having trouble separating from his/her parent(s)?
Children often have trouble separating from their parents because they are wondering what is ahead (particularly at the beginning of the school year). Some of their primary concerns are likely will they be safe, what will they do, will they have friends, is the teacher nice, etc. Respect the feelings of the child. It is important to allow time for hellos and good-byes.
Reminders of home may be helpful at this stage (stuffed animal, blanket, etc.). Help them to find an activity in which they are interested or give them the space to do so on their own, depending on the child. Familiar stories from home are often great transitioning tools if separation is difficult.
How can I help when a child does not want to participate in the group activity?
First of all, follow the teacher’s lead. It is often okay for children to choose not to do something―sing a song or dance at circle time, for example. Distracting others who do want to participate, however, is not an acceptable choice for students to make. Offering other, related alternatives often works―a quiet suggestion to tap the beat on their lap, sing the words inside their head, etc. Following-up with children who choose to watch can also be helpful for future activities―making sure that they know their participation would be welcomed, offering to teach them the song or dance if they want, etc.
If participation is required in a particular situation, remember to present it that way―“We have to leave the building during fire drills. I can see that you want to stay, but we must go now.” Don’t offer choices when there aren’t any.
I don’t mind helping out, but what’s with all the cleaning?
At the end of each year, parents often respond to the question on our school evaluation form about their feelings toward co-oping with some variation on “I like all of it . . . except for cleaning.” We get it We try, first of all, to reduce the cleaning burden by sharing it equally. Having co-oping parents help with a number of daily cleaning chores helps us to keep our space clean, costs down, and reminds us each day―in a very tangible way―that we are the ones who keep our school running from the ground up!
Also, it is important to keep in mind that co-oping parents are assistant teachers in our program. Cleaning is often a responsibility of those who teach in preschool programs, and is therefore one of our job responsibilities. Most of the parents who co-op in our program are not trained preschool educators, but all of us are qualified to run a vacuum cleaner!
In addition, because we are a licensed preschool, we have to observe specific procedures required by the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Social Services. These procedures relate to hand washing, food preparation and service and bathroom/diaper sanitation and are intended to prevent the spread of illness and disease among participants in our program as well as those performing the cleaning functions.
If the end-of-day cleaning duties seem burdensome after a full morning of co-oping, many parents have found it helpful to work out a cleaning swap with another parent for their co-oping days (i.e., you and another parent trade end-of-day cleaning responsibilities on each of your co-oping days). If you have a temporary health-related problem that prevents you from completing all of the cleaning duties (such as pregnancy, back injury, etc.), try to work something out either with your spouse or with other parents in your class that will be equitable in exchange for help with cleaning during this period.
What if I don’t understand the teacher’s approach to a particular activity, situation, etc.?
Ask the teacher! Our teachers are highly skilled and experienced in working with young children. They will be happy to share their insights with you or answer any questions you may have.
If you are concerned about something, try to share your perspective with the teacher in a nonjudgmental and respectful way. Our teachers have extensive experience with children, but you also have special insights about your own child. We can all learn from each other, knowing that we are all working in the best interest of each child, as well as the class as a whole.