This handbook is an essential part of the success of Grow With Me Learning Cooperative. We are a parent directed school so it is important that we have a document for families to reference regarding learning philosophy, conflict resolution and more. Please familiarize yourself with all that this handbook offers and ask questions of the board if you are ever in doubt.
The Grow With Me Community and Philosophy
Benefits of our Cooperative Learning Program
Parents are the most invested caregivers of their children and children thrive when their parents are engaged and unconditionally supportive. We believe a child’s parent or caregiver’s instrumental involvement in a child’s learning has many benefits. Our cooperative teaching environment offers children a continuous thread of experience bridging school and home, fosters a deeper relationship between parent and child and helps families better integrate their child’s personal needs and interests into their school environment.
Our mission statement:
We, as a community of young children and parents, seek to create a cooperative learning program that facilitates social, spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual growth in a loving, supportive atmosphere. We will nurture a respect for self, others, and nature while providing a safe environment for our children to stretch their imaginations and to explore their interests.
To maintain an open family atmosphere at GWM, parents are welcome anytime even it is not their teaching day. This might be especially helpful when a child is transitioning into the program or having difficulty. No prior notice is necessary. Teaching parents are also welcome to bring their younger child with them on their working days.
Learning Philosophy at Grow with Me
We believe children have innate wisdom, and it is our responsibility to honor and cultivate this power within children. Therefore, imagination and play experience are keys to the young child’s development at GWM. One of the foundations for learning at our school is playful learning and is fostered through:
- Dramatic play
- Creative play (i.e. blocks)
- Hands on activities
- Cooking Projects
- Adventures in Nature
- Curiosity provoking discussion (circle time)
- Self exploration (i.e. learning what it is that they like to do)
Our Curriculum and Teaching Parents further support playful learning by:
- Exposing children to new ideas and information. For example, offering materials they know will engage the children and organizing them effectively in interest areas.
- Asking questions to spark children’s thinking
- Offering children freedom to explore their interests and to make their own choices.
- Providing inspiration but letting go of the outcome.
This program is designed to incorporate philosophies presented by Rudolf Steiner, as are incorporated in Waldorf schools; although, we do not follow this model only. Our program’s inspiration is in following values: Reverence, Repetition, and Rhythm.
Curriculum content includes subjects such as nature/science, art, culture, music, fantasy and literature. We have developed a curriculum consistent with the young child’s dreamy, playful approach to life. We offer opportunities for creative and imaginative play, activities for manual dexterity and eye-hand coordination allowing the intelligence of the child to penetrate the fingers, and practice in developing language art and social skills.
The following are some additional points that help clarify learning at GWM:
- Children learn through visual, auditory, and kinetic means; and therefore, throughout the week, all of these means are offered.
- Children also learn by observing; therefore, Teaching Parents are conscious models of behavior to the children.
- Field trips are also an essential part of learning in our program. Generally, one field trip will be scheduled each month (i.e. apple picking, arboretum, nature center, community events).
- Every child has an inner timetable for growth and therefore his patterns and ways will be respected.
- We recognize the advantages of a mixed age classroom in which, through play, the children help one another to grow and learn.
- Our learning environment is at its height when the Teacher, Teaching Parents and children are partners. This partnership emerges when the roles of teacher and student become interchangeable but not removed. In other words, taking pause to notice what a child has to teach us is equally as important as what we present to them.
Becoming Part of the Grow with Me Community
GWM is made up of families who are enthusiastic about being involved in a cooperative learning program based on our philosophy. If a family is interested in becoming part of the GWM community, they should schedule a visit, review the handbook, and complete an application. When receiving applications, priority is given to siblings of current and alumni GWM families.
We do not discriminate in providing services to children and their families on the basis of race religion, cultural heritage, national origin, political belief, sexual orientation, marital status, or disability.
Although rare, GWM may determine a family is unable to remain in the cooperative if parents are unable to follow the responsibilities and philosophies as outlined in this handbook.
The following are (but not limited to) some of the reasons why a family would be asked to leave:
- Failure to pick up the enrolled child on time (or failing to notify the school when there is a problem)
- Inadequately providing for the child’s needs (clothing, snack)
- Failure to respect the school’s illness policy
- Failure to attend required monthly meetings
- Failure to provide adequate contact information and/or to have someone available to pick-up their child from school should he/she become ill
- Failing to pay fees/tuition in a timely manner without notification.
In addition, if a child interferes with the safety or learning experience of his or her classmates, the family might also be asked to leave. Much effort will be made on behalf of the entire GWM community to find solutions for this kind of situation, the following are (but not limited to) possible reasons for dismissal:
- Ongoing, repeated aggressive behavior
- Ongoing, repeated inability/refusal to follow directions
- Some other difficult behavior pattern that does not seem to improve over time with the help of teaching parents and other children.
If, after consultation with the Teacher and Administrator, a family is unwilling to take responsibility for establishing an effective program for their child, (resulting in noticeable improvement within a time frame deemed reasonable by the GWM Board) it may then be appropriate that GWM request the family find another solution.
Withdrawing from Grow With Me
Should a family find that Grow With Me is not the right fit and wish to withdraw enrollment, the family will give a minimum of 30 days notice. A family may choose to discontinue classes at any time but remain responsible for tuition during the notice as well as covering any scheduled shifts in the classroom.
This entire handbook serves as a guide to GWM community responsibilities; however, this section offers a summary of these responsibilities.
Grow With Me employs a teacher who customizes the class curriculum and facilitates the every day flow of the class. Two Teaching Parents will be scheduled for each class day to assist the teacher.
Teaching Parents Responsibilities
While the Lead Teacher is in charge of planning the activities and setting the schedule for the class, the Teaching Parents will be there to support the teacher and engage with the students in various ways.
Teaching Parents are expected to:
- Be familiar with GWM guidelines as described in this handbook. (Recommended reading: You Are Your Child’s First Teacher, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, and Unconditional Parenting).
- Arrive at school no later than 8:45 a.m. to help set up for the day’s activities.
- Act as a role model for students by engaging positively in the school environment. This could include (but is not limited to) participating in activities, engaging with student individually, working through conflicts with students, and genuinely enjoying yourself and your experience with the students throughout the school day.
- Assist the teacher in the greeting and goodbye transitions at the beginning and end of the school day.
- Clean up classroom and bathrooms on your working day.
- Help set up and break down classroom on your working day.
- Stay until all children have been picked up and end of day tasks are complete.
- Coordinate a substitute if you cannot be present on your teaching day.
- Hold a position (Class Administrator or Membership Coordinator) OR serve on a committee. Committees can include Fundraising, Membership, Class Materials, Facilities, and Special Events. Details regarding the responsibilities of each are described beginning on page 19.
- Attend monthly meetings and some enrichment sessions.
- Help drive on field trips if needed.
- Participate in seasonal cleaning. We will clean all toys, shelves, etc. quarterly at a minimum, and each parent should plan to work at least 1 of these work days per year.
- View Safe Sanctuary Training DVD (basic guidelines for working with children, required for us to use church space.)
A $25 non-refundable deposit is required of new families to hold your child’s place. This must be received within two weeks of notification that there is available space.
Each parent who wishes to volunteer in our classroom must first complete a NC Background Check. Please obtain a form from the Membership Coordinator and pay $18 to Groce United Methodist Church.
A $175 one time materials/insurance fee is due by August 1. If you enroll after January 31, the materials fee is $100. Tuition is $200/month for each child enrolled. Monthly cost for enrollment will cover most supplies for classroom activities. You may be asked at times to bring personal supplies for your child or for special projects. Field trip costs are not included.
All checks or money orders (no cash) are to be made payable to Grow With Me Learning Cooperative.
A grace period is provided allowing payment through the 5th of the month. If tuition is not paid by the 5th, a $5 per day late fee will be charged. If payment (including late fees) is not made by the last day of the month and arrangements have not been made with the Board Treasurer, membership to GWM may be revoked. If there is a problem with paying on time, please contact the treasurer who will do his/her best to accommodate, depending on the circumstances.
Role of the Teaching Parents
All families will be scheduled for work days in the classroom, and depending on the number of families involved in the cooperative, that may be 1-3 times per month. Parents who have more than one child enrolled may have to teach additional days. Our day generally consists of free playtime, circle time, creative and exploratory activities, snack, outside play, and story time. Parents pick up their children by 1:00 p.m.
On working days, Teaching Parents need to arrive by 8:45 to assist the teacher in preparing for the school day.
Classroom Management and Conflict Resolution
Because we are a cooperative of 12 families working together on different days, it is important that Teaching Parents find consistency in their styles of classroom management and conflict resolution. Our methods are based on the ideas of various progressive parenting experts and our collective time tested experience.
Some experts say children grow as individuals best when they are neither rewarded (with the intention to change behavior) nor punished. Therefore at GWM:
- Discipline is synonymous with teaching.
- Praise should come from the heart and not be given in attempt to influence a child’s behavior.
- Rewards are not necessary.
- Imposed consequences will be “natural” consequences, not punishments.
- Under no circumstances will shame, blame or fear be used to influence behavior.
In our classroom, conflicts will inevitably arise. When this happens, Teaching Parents will maintain a calm, non-coercive response to any conflict that may arise within the group. Teaching Parents will use a firm and loving tone to give clear messages about what is and what is not allowed. For example, if a child is aggressive towards another person, the Teaching Parents will clearly restate the rule that was broken as well as clearly communicate to the parent about the incident. Teaching Parents will fill out an incident report each time an incident happens.
If a child continues to act aggressively to others, GWM will work with the family to create an effective program for their child (For example, the parent might come each day to be with their child so they can work together to improve the aggressive behavior.) If there is no noticeable improvement within a time frame deemed reasonable by the other parents at GWM, it may then be appropriate that GWM request the family to leave the cooperative.
Conflict resolution between children can be achieved by following these steps:
- Holding space for each child to fully express his or her feelings and needs (possibly while holding a peace stone, playing “creative opposition” game, drawing a picture).
- Teaching Parents can facilitate an agreement between the children.
- Teaching Parents clearly restates the rule that was broken.
Teaching Parents will also offer productive alternatives for the child. For example, if a child is knocking down another child’s tower of blocks, the Teaching Parents might suggest that he or she create something in another area of the classroom to knock down. If a child is told not to do something, if appropriate, the Teaching Parents will suggest something the child can do instead.
Many teachable moments naturally arise. In these moments Teaching Parents support children to develop their own intellectual curiosity and respect for others as well as strengthen problem solving and communication skills.
Because our program is cooperative, it is important that we effectively communicate with one another about the children in our program. There are three places to share information which make communication easier– Activity Binder, Incident Report Log, and Child Information Binder..
1) The Activity Binder is where the teacher keeps all of the lesson plans. All plans will be kept in the Activity Binder for any Teaching Parents to use when substituting for her. This is also a place any parents can go to see what the children have been doing in the classroom or view what is planned.
2) The second binder for documenting information is called Incident Reports. Teaching Parents or the Teacher will use this log to document “incidents” such as:
- Accidents that cause injury (i.e. badly scraped knee, badly bruised arm or bump on the head.)
- Acts of aggression, whether they cause injury or not (i.e. biting, hitting or kicking.)
- Acts of bullying, name calling
The Teacher will review the Incident Reports with the parents of the children involved and parents are required to initial the form after review.
3) The Child Information Binder is where all copies of the current Child Information Sheet are kept for easy reference. This form includes preferences, contact information, health information, etc. The teacher will also make a weekly note on each child in this binder of the individual’s development, successes, struggles, goals, and plans.
Creating a Safe and Comfortable Learning Environment
Another important part of the Teaching Parent’s role is to create a safe and comfortable learning environment. We believe that each person has a right to feel physically and emotionally safe and that children will more freely explore new concepts, gain more meaningful experiences and learn best overall when they feel safe.
To support a safe and comfortable environment at GWM, there are few rules children are asked to follow. These rules are:
- Treat others how we want to be treated.
- Use your words not your hands (No biting, kicking, hitting, pushing, pinching).
- Be safe – Keep our bodies and the bodies of our friends safe at all times.
Children also have a right to their personal space and to choose to participate or not participate in any activity as long as they are respectful of the other people and do not disturb others’ work or play.
A safe environment is created and maintained at GWM when Teaching Parents:
- Speak to children in ways they wish to be spoken to (i.e. requests vs. demands).
- Support children to freely express their feelings.
- Are mindful of children’s state of being, situations they come from and emotional and physical needs.
- Respect the whole child including his or her reasons, thoughts and feelings.
- Take time to understand and acknowledge the child’s perspective.
- Assume the child has the best of intentions.
- Remain impartial and fair.
The following are safety guidelines for teaching parents to follow in the classroom.
- All cleaning solutions must be kept out of the children’s reach.
- Sensitivity towards food allergies and special diets is practiced actively. Our community is small enough that this is easily accomplished.
- Children should not open the doors to the classroom unless with an adult.
- Children should stay in designated rooms and are not allowed to wander.
Safety On the Playground
Teaching Parents and the Lead Teacher are responsible for supervising children and ensuring their safety on the playground. Teaching Parents are encouraged to stand in different areas of the playground and to interact with the children more than with one another.
- Gates should be secured at all times when children are on the playground
- No climbing on the fence
- No throwing (dirt, rocks, sticks, etc)
- No leaving the fenced area
- No taking off shoes and socks or clothes
- Children should slide down, feet first, on their bottoms or stomachs only (no head first sliding); no toys on the slide; an adult should be standing at the slide when children are using it.
CPR: It is mandatory that each Teaching Parents complete a formal CPR and choking training for infants and children course by October 1 of each year. An effort will be made to schedule such training as a group.
First Aid: A first-aid kit is available in the classroom. Teaching Parents should familiarize themselves with the contents. Attached to the first aid kit is a list of children’s individual needs regarding first aid.
Fire Safety: Fire safety procedures will be reviewed with the children and Teaching Parents
Policies and Other Useful Information
What to Bring to School
- Water bottle for your child, clearly labeled.
- A change of clothes, appropriate for the season, to be kept in their cubby, along with a pair of indoor slippers.
- Weather appropriate clothing including rain gear (boots, jacket), winter wear (coat, gloves, hat, etc).
Field trips are scheduled throughout the year. The number of parents needed on the trips will be determined by the location and activities expected.
Grow With Me begins the week after Labor Day and ends the first week of June . We will observe:
Thanksgiving and the Wednesday before
Winter Break: begins the third week of December through the first week of January
Spring Break: week before Easter
Inclement Weather Policy
In the event of inclement weather, Grow with Me will follow the Asheville City School closures. If Asheville City Schools are closed, Grow With Me is closed. If, however, Asheville City Schools are delayed by one or two hours, Grow With Me will remain open and operating on the regular schedule.
Guest and Visitors
Guests are welcome. Please make arrangements with the teacher for that day. Families interested in becoming future members are considered visitors and should receive some preliminary information from the program’s Membership Coordinator and then may visit by appointment.
Health and Well-being
GWM leaves decisions regarding childhood immunizations up to each child’s parents.
GWM’s illness policy has been developed in an effort to establish a consistent guideline for what constitutes “illness” in our children. Our goal is to decrease the amount of illness spread from one child to others. One child’s illness can affect the group as a whole so it is important to keep your child home if he or she has one of the following:
- Fever (101° or higher)
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- Unusual rash
- Severe cough
- Rapid breathing or labored breathing
- Severe cold (heavy nasal discharge)
- Head lice
- Contagious illness of any sort
- Too ill or fatigued to participate in daily activities
GWM will not accept a child for care if the above symptoms are present or have been present within the last 24 hours. If the child shows any of the above symptoms while in care, we will remove the child from the group and notify the parent or authorized adult to pick up the child. Parents have one hour from time of notification to pick up the child.
The child may return 24 hours after a temperature has returned to normal, 24 hours after the child is no longer vomiting, or 24-48 hours, depending upon the illness. If there is any doubt, please contact the Lead Teacher to confer.
Likewise Teaching Parents should stay home (and arrange for a substitute) if it is their working day and they:
- have had a fever within the past 24 hours
- have vomited or had diarrhea within the past 24 hours
- are feeling ill and may be unable to perform your work duties
- have a contagious condition
- have a rash or other significant symptom
The teacher will administer emergency medications only (ex. For asthma or allergic reactions). All medications must be brought in original containers. Parents will be required to fill out administration of medication release and dosage form for the medication. Hand medications directly to the working teacher with the signed medication form.
If you would like your child to wear sunscreen/mosquito repellant on the playground, please apply it before sending him/her to school. Teaching Parents do not distribute sunscreen/mosquito repellant or any type of non-emergency medication.
A six-week leave is granted to working parents following the birth or adoption of a child. During this time, your child may continue to attend school. At the end of six weeks, the Teaching Parent, a friend, family member or caregiver will need to resume teaching. If someone comes in place of the working parent, this person needs to be interviewed and approved by the Lead Teacher.
A tag-along is a child not enrolled in the class who accompanies a Teaching Parent on his/her workday. Workday schedules will depend on number of tag-alongs and their ages. While there is no tuition charge for a tag-along child, if the child regularly participates in school activities that involve material costs (such as crafts projects), that child’s parents may be asked to pay a materials fee, to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
At this time, there is no restriction on the number of tag-alongs in our program. This policy may be revised. Please be considerate of others if you do have a younger child with you. The tag-along should not be disruptive to the activities of the enrolled children.
Grow with Me Policy on Child Abuse and Neglect
Abuse occurs when a parent or caregiver injures or allows another to injure a child physically or emotionally. Abuse may also occur when a parent or caregiver puts a child at risk of serious injury or allows another to put a child at risk of serious injury. Sexual abuse includes fondling a child’s genitals, intercourse, incest, rape, sodomy, exhibitionism, and commercial exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.
Neglect occurs when a child does not receive proper care, supervision, or discipline, or when a child is abandoned.
North Carolina law requires any person who suspects child abuse or neglect to report the case to the county department of social services (250-5900 during business hours/252-4357 or 211 evenings, weekends, or holidays). In addition, any person can call the Division of Child Development at 919-662-4499 or 1-800-859-0829 and make a report of suspected child abuse or neglect in a child care operation. Reports can be made anonymously. A person cannot be held liable for a report made in good faith. If you suspect child abuse or neglect, you can make a confidential report to the Lead Teacher or make an anonymous report by contacting the numbers listed above.
Meetings and Communication
It is important to us that we have an ongoing, open dialogue with families involved in this cooperative. One tool we use to facilitate that is the Program Feedback Form. Each family is required to submit a completed form one week prior to the Monthly Parent Meeting. The Teacher and Administrator will review the feedback and will summarize comments and suggestions to be reviewed at the Parent Meeting.
What to do if you have a Concern
Process for complaints:
- Try to address the concern on own first
- If this does not solve the problem, then issue a confidential complaint to the Lead Teacher or Administrator via the Program Feedback form.
- Observations and/or complaints will be followed up with either a letter, speaking privately with the person about the issue, or hold a meeting with all persons involved to resolve the issue.
- If the offending behavior continues, then the family may be asked to leave Grow With Me.
There are various bulletins and memos that are communicated to GWM families. Our yahoo group is the primary method of disseminating this information. This is a convenient way for parents to communicate about issues that may be too difficult to discuss before and after the class day.
A calendar is located in the classroom marking who works on which days. It is also posted in the yahoo group online. It is the responsibility of Teaching Parents to note their schedule changes and child’s attendance changes on the calendar at school whenever possible (i.e.: work day exchanges, vacations, scheduled appointments, etc.).
GWM meetings include:
Families new to GWM will attend an orientation meeting where one or more of the board members will familiarize the working parents with the information in the handbook and answer questions.
Monthly Parent Meetings
Monthly meetings include discussions about classroom issues, Treasurer reports, and allow for open discussion and voting on issues affecting Grow With Me. All Teaching Parents are required to attend all monthly meetings. In the event that a Teaching Parent absolutely cannot attend a meeting, the other parent is expected to attend.
The meetings are held at school or at members’ homes on a rotating basis. Except for nursing babies, children do not attend these meetings. If a member finds it absolutely necessary to bring a child to a meeting, please contact the Class Administrator or Lead Teacher prior to the meeting to seek approval. Parents may chose to coordinate cooperative child care for these nights with other GWM families.
Minutes of the meeting will be compiled by the Secretary and posted on the yahoo group within one week of the meeting.
Meetings are held the 2nd Sunday of the month.
Because we are a parent participatory program it is helpful for us to strengthen our skills through enrichment meetings. These meetings are sometimes open discussions about progressive parenting books. Other times speakers are invited to come and facilitate the session. We also draw from our own GWM community for quality speakers. The frequency of enrichment sessions varies; however, there will not be more than one per month.
Families are expected to contribute equally in work projects, i.e. fundraising events, cleaning or maintaining the facility, and repairing equipment. Generally there are four clean-up days throughout the year; each is the responsibility of the Cleaning Group for the given period. Parents work together to clean toys, furniture, cloth items, etc.
Committees and Other Roles
Currently, GWM has four established committees: Fundraising, Class Materials, Facilities, and Special Events/Field Trips. There are also three established roles: Administrator, Secretary, and Treasurer. The following are general responsibilities for each committee and role. These are meant to evolve and be built upon as GWM matures.
- basic accounting skills
- good communication skills
- good organizational skills
- attend board meetings
- attend monthly membership meetings or find a substitute to present treasurer’s report
- involve the membership in decision making
- review, revise, and develop policies, procedures, and systems with other members
- communicate updated financial information to members as needed
- prepare/present the treasurer’s report at membership meetings
- manage fundraising money
- collect tuition (remind those who are late until it is received)
- pay rent, supply bills, music, dance, misc. expenses
- make all bank deposits
- keep checkbook
- keep ledger
- calculate tuition
- collect registration, insurance, and supply fees
- pay insurance in September
- organize and prepare tax records for November 15 corporate
- filing (proposal to employ an accountant to prepare returns)
- prepare Teacher W-2’s and W-3’s by January 31
- prepare annual budget to be voted upon at the August meeting of each year.
- good organization skills
- good communication skills
- basic clerical skills
- attend board and monthly membership meetings
- involve the membership in decision-making
- review, revise, and develop policies, procedures, and systems with other members
- assist in communicating updated information to members as needed
- prepare agenda for monthly membership meetings
- take minutes at monthly membership meetings
- transcribe minutes; posting one copy on the yahoo group within one week
- moderate yahoo group and update handbook as necessary
- organize, update, and keep all necessary forms available
The Fundraising Committee is responsible for idea generation and event planning for any fundraising activity, as well as maintaining the program’s Wish List. There may be a variety of activities to raise money throughout the year. The fundraising committee is also responsible for creating and coordinating the distribution of publicity for the program and upcoming events, i.e. open houses. The Committee may ask other community members to support and participate in events.
This committee is responsible for communicating with the teacher routinely to support her in producing class materials. Support may include shopping for craft supplies or groceries, making hand made toys (puppets, felt board props, knitted animals, dolls, etc.), or building something for the classroom.
The facilities committee will meet at least once a month to conduct a thorough cleaning of the GWM classroom. We recommend members rotate this responsibility. Other responsibilities could include helping the teacher rearrange the classroom for new centers, creating new/different centers or activities in partnership with the teacher, etc.
Special Events/Field Trips
This committee works with the teacher to plan and coordinate field trips, making calls to set up activities, informing the families of plans, and coordinating transportation. This committee also coordinates efforts of all community members for group events, such as pot lucks & festivals.
The Class Administrator is responsible for the following:
- collecting & tallying tuition from class members for delivery to Treasurer
- collecting & tallying monthly expense receipts for delivery to Treasurer
- acting as liaison between the Teacher and Class Members
- collecting monthly Parent Feedback Forms
- facilitating monthly Parent Meetings