A parent participation preschool (PPP), sometimes called a parent involved preschool (PIP), requires parents to take active roles in their children’s education. Each parent is assigned a job, like maintaining the yard, getting books from the library, or acting as the school’s registar. There are some other responsibilities, like attending regular meetings too. This keeps tuition costs low, since everyone pitches in.

Addie will be going back to school next week (the schedule staggers with regular schools) for her second year of preschool. We recently met with the parents of an inbound 3-year-old. Their friends said they were crazy for enrolling in a parent participation preschool and that it’d be a lot of extra work. WE reassured them that it was less work than they might think, and what work is involved is totally worth it.

Connect With Other Parents

Before Addie started preschool last year, I was worried for a number of reasons. How would she handle going to the bathroom without us? Would she be able to sit still at circle time and share with the other kids? What about her nap schedule?

On some level, I suspect that a self-selection bias is very much at play here. The parents who enroll their children in a parent participation preschool typically come with a more involved mindset already. They want to be more involved, even if they don’t necessarily want to take the initiative. Pickups and dropoffs go beyond the usual pleasantries and we learn that we’re not alone in our child-raising challenges.

I found we developed a much greater sense of community, sharing pictures from our duty days (more on that in a moment) through our WhatsApp group. We’re family now and we’re more than happy to look out for one another.

Be a Kid Again

One of the major components to a parent participation preschool is that parents are required to come in on “duty days” every few weeks. In effect, you come into the classroom and assist the teacher(s) during class time. Depending on the school, you may also be asked to bring in snacks for all the kids and clean up after class is done.

How often you need to come in for “duty day” will depend on the class schedule and the number of kids. With 16 kids on a twice-weekly class schedule, I think we ended up with a total of four or five duty duties over the course of the school year. Realistically, this is not that much of a commitment. And honestly, we would have loved to do it more often.

In most other preschools, you don’t get much (if any) opportunity to watch your kid interact with his or her classmates. It’s fascinating not only to see them come into their own, but also to see how the other kids get along. While you are there to assist the teachers, you’re almost like one of kids too.

You participate in circle time, you get to “play” with the other children, and you get to experience what it’s like during a typical school day. As cliche as it may sound, they grow up so fast and duty days give you an opportunity to witness that “growing up” in a classroom environment. I’d never see “Dr. Addie” (above) taking care of Pete the Cat in the ER if it were not for our duty days.

We have to keep in mind that “parent participation” elementary school isn’t exactly a thing, so this is your only shot until you decide to take college classes with the not-so-little-anymore one.

Learn to Be Better

The underlying philosophy of a parent participation preschool lends itself to better parenting. As much as the objective was for Addie to grow as a person (and to prepare her for a “real” school environment), I learned a lot too. In particular, I learned that sometimes we just have to trust our children and give them the chance to explore.

During one of my first visits to the classroom, I was shocked that they let such young children use real scissors mostly unsupervised. Teachers and adults are present, of course, but they can’t watch all the children all the time. But it is only by giving them the freedom to learn and explore on their own that these little ones can develop the skills they need.

During one of the mandatory general meetings, a special guest provided a truncated workshop on mindful parenting. The kids are learning, but so are the parents.

Nurture a Sense of Purpose

I get it. Believe me, I do. As moms and dads, we’re remarkably busy pretty much all the time. How on Earth are we going to squeeze in the added responsibility of a parent participation preschool? You’ll find a way, because just like raising a kid, it’s one of the most meaningful experiences you can have.

And then you get to see the excitement in your child’s eyes when they realize it’s your duty day and you get to stay for class.