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Learning Matters: Parent Ed and co-op programs deserve expansion

October 31, 2013|By Joylene Wagner

My husband and I have been lucky, particularly as parents. As I look toward Thanksgiving, I'm mindful of the good fortune and help we've had along the way, starting with the Realtors who helped us find our house in 1981.

It was Mary Ann Plumley — before her service on City Council — who told us about Glendale Community College's parent education program. We weren't parents yet, so I tucked away the information. But when our parenting adventure began, I remembered her advice and signed up for the Parent Ed toddler class.

Parent Ed, still offered at a few sites around the community, is a once-weekly class for parents, whose preschool children come along and serve as the subject matter. Not only does Parent Ed offer reassuring advice from early childhood specialists; it fosters friendships among new and experienced parents while they observe and discuss the range of childhood behaviors.

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From Parent Ed classmates I gained two very valuable pieces of information. I learned about a local cooperative nursery school and heard good things about our neighborhood school, of which I knew little. I was referred to Betty De Rosa, a parent active on the GCC Parent Education Assn., whose older child attended John Muir Elementary.

The word was, "Betty likes it." Sometimes all it takes is a good word from the right person. So it was, thanks to a few people, that we and our three children became a co-op family and were later welcomed into the John Muir PTA.

Like Parent Ed, co-ops differ from most preschools by focusing on both children and their parents. Still commonly called "nursery schools" rather than the often more academically structured "preschools," co-ops help parents nurture children's social and emotional development. Co-ops require regular parent participation as classroom assistants, under the direction of a teacher.

Children learn by playing — digging in the sand, painting at easels, singing in circle time, building and knocking down blocks. Parents learn by watching the play and practicing positive responses to it: "Keep the sand in the sandbox," rather than "Don't throw sand!" or "Good drivers don't bump other trikes," versus "Stop bumping the trike!"

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