The Pros and Cons of Co-Op Preschools

I am not much closer to choosing a preschool for my son, but I did take some time to write down a list of pros and cons for each.

Co-op Preschool Pros:

  • No Forced Separations
  • Shorter Days (2.5 hours)
  • Parent Participation
  • Parents Love the Co-op Approach
  • Price
  • Socialization between Myself and Other Moms

Co-op Preschool Cons:

  • Didn’t Get a Happy Feeling There
  • Dingy/Dark Facility
  • Larger Class Size
  • Less Field Trips/Activities
  • Mandatory Meetings
  • Assume an Administrative Role
  • Clean the School
  • Felt Like a Large Play Date

Traditional Preschool Pros:

  • Better Overall Vibe
  • Weekly Music & Storytelling Classes by professional instructors
  • More Activities (Field Trips, etc.)
  • Parents Love The School, Activities, Teachers
  • Smaller Class Size
  • Indoor and Outdoor Play Equipment
  • Brighter, More Vibrant Facility

Traditional Preschool Cons:

  • Forced Separations
  • Longer Days (4 hours)
  • Price
  • Less Parental Participation

Before I make any decisions I also need to find out the age distribution among the children. The co-op offers a 2/3s class while the traditional preschool only offers a two year old class. I know for certain that more than half of the children in the traditional preschool will turn three before December. I would like to see how the co-op compares. There is a big difference between two year olds and almost three year olds. My son will be almost three when school starts in September.

Co-ops are inherently cheaper, so it’s no surprise that I will save $1200 a year by sending my son to one. Parents assume administrative roles and help teach the class, which means co-ops spend less money on teaching assistants and administrators. The price difference swells to $1500 when my son turns three, but shrinks down to only $650 when he turns four. The number of hours also evens out by that age; fifteen hours a week in the co-op versus sixteen in the traditional preschool.

The spreadsheet below shows my line by line comparisons of three schools in our area. Two co-ops highlighted in yellow and blue and one traditional highlighted in orange. The last line in green at the bottom is a highly regarded traditional school in our area that requires children attend five days a week. I would not consider this now, but might consider it by the time he turns four. As you can see the price difference between that school and the other options is nearly double.

Tuition checks are due at the beginning of next month, so I am clearly running out of time to make a decision. I plan to visit the co-op this week so I can witness a class in action and meet my son’s potential teacher. I hope that visit will make my decision easier; one way or another.

4 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Co-Op Preschools”

  1. I sure don’t miss the costs of babysitting and preschool, but then the costs just change when they are older šŸ™‚

    I hope you are able to find one that meets your price needs and your parental peace of mind needs.

  2. I don’t have kids but I’ve read your site for a long time (and I’m very glad to see you back after your recent obstacles) šŸ™‚ When I read both this post and the last one about pre-school, it seems to me that you’ve already decided that the traditional pre-school is the best route. You seem so much more emotionally in-tune with the traditional school from the way you describe it.

    There are a few unknowns with the traditional school (how the longer days will feel, how the lack of parental participation will feel, how you and your lovebug will handle the force separations), but there are unknowns in every situation…and these seem much more like “unknowns” than “cons”. Price is always a point to be argued, but you will probably get what you pay for and, conversely, you probably wouldn’t be happy justifying a less-than-great year of activities for your son by the cost savings.

    The cons for the co-op, on the other hand, sound like actual cons. Less-than-great vibe, darker facilty, fewer field trips…and the big unknown about parent participation and how you will feel about your role at the school (and, potentially, about the other moms).

    I would wager that there will be opportunities for you to get somewhat involved with parties and special events at the traditional school, and that you will meet other moms there through events and even just drop-offs.

    Anyway, that’s my sort-of-unsolicited opinion and I’m sure you will make the best choice for your family!

  3. Looking at your lists, I have to agree with Elizabth above that it sounds like you like the traditional preschool more than the co-op. My girls are in daycare 3 days a week, so I never really had to do pre-school research but I did do daycare research.

    When my husband and I visited daycares, there were 2 that we just hated when we walked in the door — just “bad vibes” about the whole place. I couldn’t imagine sending my children to a place that I myself didn’t want to spend a lot a time at — and since your “dingy, bad vibe” place is the co-op, you will be there a lot.

    I may be off base, but in my own experience, I sometimes feel pressure to make the most “earth-mama” like choice even if I really don’t like it (things like making my own baby food, using a Moby Wrap, etc…). Could you be feeling the same way about the co-op? Thinking that the co-op is supposed to be more wholesome/engaging/enriching and choosing it out of obligation to that “best mom in the world” ideal instead of doing what would actually work best for you, your husband, and your son.

    Just my opinion that I didn’t explain very well at all!

  4. Our daughter is going to preschool three days a week. The three day option allows us to save some money while still give mom a break since we also have a son who turns 2 tomorrow. We’ll likely wait until September to put my son into preschool since my daughter starts kindergarten then. I don’t know how family’s can afford to put two kids into preschool at once!

    We toured at least four preschools in the area and what we found is a more expensive place doesn’t always mean it is a better place. And know that there may not be that perfect place near you. Our advice, go with your maternal instinct. At the end of the day, you are the only one who knows what you want and what you feel is best for your kid.

    As long as you can afford it, price should really be secondary.


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