If you’ve ever read the children’s story Stone Soup you understand the principle that no matter how little we may have individually, if we all add what we have together, it will be enough to go around.That same principle can be aptly applied to parents who join together to pool ideas, information and resources for the greater benefit of their children. A parent collective can increase access to numerous resources while also building a strong and vibrant community of families who are learning and growing together!
Often parents desire more for their young children than they are financially able to afford. This is especially true when it comes to educational materials and experiences that they believe will have short and long-term benefits for school readiness and school success. This is where the idea of a parent collective comes into play. What you may not be able to provide separately may be very possible if you join hands with other families with similar interests and needs. The possibilities are endless but we will outline a few of these ideas below for your consideration:
- Pass It On! Is your home filled with toys, books or other materials you bought at some point that no longer meet the needs of your children? Instead of adding to the local landfill how about creating a Parent Exchange where you can trade items you no longer need for things you can use for little to no cost? The first step is to do a survey of the “stuff you have accumulated from children’s books to board games, computer software to puzzles, electronics and any other learning tools you’ve bought in the name of educating your early learners. Second, review the condition of the materials and determine what needs to be kept and what items are beyond repair and only suited for the trash bin. Third, determine what items are no longer age appropriate for your child (either because they have outgrown them or were not age appropriate when purchased. We all make mistakes:)). Finally, box up the items your children no longer needs to pass on to the exchange and return items that are still usable to your bookshelves, closets or whatever storage units you have in place. The purge and donation process will provide you and your children an opportunity to reorganize and refresh your learning spaces and experience the pleasure of donating items that others in the Parent Collective may continue to use and enjoy.
- The Trading Post: Create a vehicle that is accessible to all the parents in the collective. I would recommend an online presence where parents can post items they wish to trade along with any descriptions and cost if any is assigned. Remember the goal is that most if not all items should be free of charge. Specific dates can be set and advertised by the month or quarter at a predesignated location (library, community center, church hall) where families can come together and set up tables with their items which they wish to trade. The advantage of the onsite trading is of course the opportunity to fellowship, exchange information and materials and network to strengthen and enhance the overall function and capacity of the Parent Collective. Treats can be provided by each family and sampled as attendees move from table to table in search of items they can trade for to benefit their children’s in-home learning experience. This activity can take on a festive atmosphere with fun activities provided for children and families such as face painting, balloon sculptures and photo booths (if during winter) and bouncy houses, fun races and other outdoor games and activities if weather permits to make for a great day of fellowship and fun!
- Check It Out! The next idea for this blog focuses on a method for making items that may be beyond the budgets of most families available through a “group buy” and circulation system similar to the checkout system of your local public libraries. One example of a fun and effective learning tool that may challenge some budgets is the building material called Magnatiles. This fun and engaging material can be used for creating a wide variety of structures that are limited only by your child’s imagination. Magnatiles can run cost wise anywhere from $30.00 to over $100.00 a set depending on the brand and quantity you buy. Two or more families pulling together to purchase more pricey materials can ensure access to pricey yet highly beneficial learning experiences for your children. Some parents may even have access to special discounts where they work or certain organizational memberships where purchases can be made at lower costs. The key is the level of trust between the members and the creation of a viable storage, checkout and circulation system to make material access fair and equitable. The responsibility for this process should be shared among group members with rotations that avoid a few people being burdened with maintaining the accounting, purchasing storage and distribution/checkout system. The creation of a fair and equitable operation and dissemination process will ensure the sustainability, quality and growth of this aspect of the Parent Collective.
- Parent Collective Acquisition Fund: The need to purchase materials that are not otherwise available to family members of the Parent Collective can be addressed by the creation of a fund that all participants pay into on a regular basis. The rate of pay in should be agreed upon by all members and specific regulations put in place to ensure payments in amounts that are affordable and fair. Protocols must also be created and enforced that ensure the ethical operation and use of the fund to the benefit of all members. A small committee of parent members should be selected to handle the oversight and operation of the fund on a rotational basis to ensure equity and fairness. The growth opportunity for the fund is limitless and can develop into an instrument that can support many types of beneficial activities from material and equipment purchases to field trips and other educational opportunities which benefit and enhance learning for the children of participating families.
These are just a few of the ideas that are possible through pooling the resources of members of the Parent Collective. As you create and build your group you can add your own unique strategies and approaches to provide rich and impactful experiences that will produce profound and long lasting benefits for children and adult members of the parent collective. I encourage you to seriously consider this approach. If you decide that this idea works for you get busy recruiting and organizing the parents in your group to survey what goods and other resources they may have that can contribute to further the work of the parent collective. Like the people in Stone Soup, you really don’t know what is possible until we all put what we have in the pot. Before you know it, we’ll have a feast that will reap rich benefits for your children and you for years to come!
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