Tualatin Valley Preschool: An Exceptional, Unconventional Education
By, Willow Becker
The energy and excitement of the students is contagious in the foyer of Tualatin Valley Preschool. Bright-eyed 4-year-olds wiggle rain from their hair, put their snack boxes and coats away, and greet each other with hugs. Some parents linger, chatting with each other about the upcoming open house on February 6th. The teacher and her parent helpers corral students towards their learning activities for the day.
In the flurry of traditional morning activities, it’s hard to believe that this is not a traditional preschool.
Tualatin Valley Preschool is a cooperative school with membership in the Parent Child Preschool Organization (PCPO). The PCPO was created in 1956 when a group of preschools recognized the benefits of having parents more involved in the school system. Since that time, schools like TVP have been dedicated to incorporating parents into the preschool curriculum to the benefit of both parent and child.
“I did 8 years with the preschool, and I really loved it,” says Jeanine Juliana, a parent alumni of the TVP program.
Juliana sent 3 children through the cooperative program in the mid-late 1980s. “It was a great way to get to know the other parents. It was really good support for a mom who didn’t always know what to do.”
In the cooperative format, parents become teaching assistants, leaders and active members of change for the school community. Members of the school often serve leadership positions on the board of directors, which allow them direct input on how the school serves families. Parents are involved each month in helping out in the classroom, which gives them an opportunity to meet other parents and discuss concerns.
For students, having a parent in the classroom is an exciting event. “My mom is a teacher today!” a girl squeals as she tugs on Teacher Racheal’s arm.
What she doesn’t realize is that parent teaching is about more than just fun.
A 2006 study in the Journal of Educational Research found that students of team-taught classrooms had higher test scores than those with a single teacher. The Search Institute has also done research showing that students who have access to a variety of responsible adult figures build a more positive worldview and are less likely to engage in risky behavior as adolescents.
While some parents balk at the concept of being so involved in the school experience, they soon realize that it gives them new insights into their child’s behavior and personality. The play-to-learn educational aspect of the school allows them to watch their children interact with others in a natural setting. In addition, the ability of parents to interact with each other alleviates isolation, encourages collaboration and leads to socialization of children outside of school.
At Tualatin Valley Preschool, students are getting the benefits of structured preschool time with the added value of parent interaction and support. Parent helpers laugh and play with their children, model appropriate behavior, and fellowship with other parents. Children engage in fun learning activities and learn to be resourceful, resilient, and communicative.
Although it is an unconventional model, Tualatin Valley Preschoolers and their parents see the benefits of the cooperative school system. Over the last 40 years, TVP has helped parents and children by providing research-based education, social support systems, and leadership opportunities. Looking around at the cooperative atmosphere of the school, it is clear that the goal of Tualatin Valley Preschool is not focused on being traditional, but exceptional.
To learn more about Tualatin Valley Preschool and the cooperative preschool format, a new-family open house is scheduled for February 6th.