Little Fox Run 2014

Laura Lavin, Editor of the Oak Bay News,
contacted our ECE Amy for advice on
how to handle 'first day of school' jitters:

Back to school: Parents’ positive attitude goes a long way to happy school days

First day of school jitters are a normal right of passage, but for kids experiencing their first day of school ever, parents can do a lot to set the tone for years of happy school days ahead.

“Send the message that you’re confident,” said Oak Bay Parent Owned Preschool teacher Amy Grbavec. “If you exude an air of confidence about preschool or school, your child will feel that and they will have the same confidence about school.”

As an early childhood educator for 23 years, Grbavec has some experience with ensuring a smooth transition to school.

“As parents, we’re excited about this new stage in our child’s life. But it’s very abstract to children,” she said.

She lists a variety of ways to ease your child into a new learning environment. “Read books about it, ***Maisie Goes to Preschool is a good one, ask the librarian for suggestions.”

She also advises moving bedtime back, so your child is well rested for school.

“About two weeks prior, start tapering your bedtime routine. Most people are in summer mode so you need to transition to an earlier time, just five or 10 minutes a day. A rested mind is a rational mind,” she said.

Having a well thought out bedtime routine is also helpful for young children. “It’s important for their security, they have a bath, maybe you read them a book and they know what comes next.”

Planning the morning routine is just as important. “Try to make it as stress-free as possible. Having things ready the night before is a big help.”

Parents can help by promoting self care as well, that means letting kids choose new shoes and snack kits for school. “They feel empowered and a sense of freedom when they can untie or unvelcro their own shoes. … Make extra time for those kind of things that they may need to do at school. If your school has indoor shoes and outdoor shoes, let them choose a new pair of shoes – how exciting is that?”

Those few small things will help them feel empowered and special during their time away from their parents.

Be prepared for pick up time as well. “Have a snack and a drink ready. They may have had snack time at school, but that doesn’t mean they ate anything. And don’t plan too many new things. Wait a month until you put them in swimming lessons or soccer, or keep it to Saturdays.”

Be patient and keep a positive attitude toward school yourself and your kids should follow suit.

What B.C.’s Parent-Participation Schools Can Teach Us About Our Kids

FEB 3, 2014 AT 5:23 PM

While many parents look forward to dropping off their kids at school, a growing number of B.C. moms and dads prefer to park -- and partake -- in the classroom. Move over Maria Montessori, parent-participation preschools and elementary schools are the place to be on the West Coast.
How does the model work? Parents help (or just hangout) in the classroom and volunteer their time for everything from fundraising to playground maintenance. At preschools, parents often have “duty days” when they act as teacher’s assistants in the classroom. Regular meetings gather the “learning community” to discuss school business and sometimes hear from parent educators.
When I first heard about parent-participation preschool at a baby playgroup (families were already getting on the waitlist), I wrote it off as the latest landing pad for helicopter parents. First we’re tagging along to school, next it’s job interviews. But a closer look into the model revealed that playing a participatory role in your child’s early learning has benefits for life. With nothing to lose (besides some mommy time), I signed up my daughter and myself. Turns out a family that goes to school together, learns together. Here, some valuable lessons parent-participation school has taught me about parenting.
It takes a village
From picnics to pub nights sans enfant, parent-participation schools bring together families outside the classroom to foster a sense of community. We share tricks of the trade and laugh and cry through the highs and lows of parenting. The climate is more collaborative than competitive. Our children also benefit from the community vibe as they build their network of trusted adults.
Children learn in different ways and at different paces
We may all know this in theory, but when you’re immersed in a classroom it’s as clear as purple paint on a white wall. Being in a parent-participation school allows you the opportunity to observe your child in a group setting and glean insight into their learning style. You can also stop being a slave to the development chart knowing that while Sophie can write her name, Sebastian can belt out every word of Let It Go.
Relax and make it fun
Is it time to put away the toys? Sing the Clean Up song. Getting bundled up for the playground? Tell a story about Jack Frost. Want your kid to eat more than one apple slice? Play a counting game. I’m in awe of how our preschool teacher stays calm in the colourful chaos of the classroom and makes everything entertaining. And the kids play along. I tried it at home. It works.
Have high expectations
I didn’t know my daughter could get her own boots off and on, choose crackers and carrots at snack time and sort out her own squabbles until I saw her do it at school. If we expect more from our kids (and let them fumble), they will rise to the occasion and become more independent, confident people in the process. No hovering necessary.
Involvement supports success  
Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve taken away is that my involvement in my daughter’s education is helping her succeed. I’m aware of what’s going on in the classroom and I can continue the learning at home. After playing with dinosaurs at school, we dug for bones in the backyard. She sees that learning is fun and associates school with positive feelings and experiences. I value education and so too does she. 

Raina Delisle is a West Coast lifestyle writer. With three girls in her family -- baby Elodie, preschooler Ocea and teenage step-daughter Maya -- she has plenty to say about parenting. Follow her on Twitter @rainashine.


Oak Bay co-op preschool encourages parent participation




 Image Credit: Sharon Tiffin/News Staff

— Image Credit: Sharon Tiffin/News Staff
Ocea Goers, left, and Jackson Poletz, both 2, have a tea party at the Oak Bay Parent-Owned Preschool. This Saturday (Nov. 16) the school hosts its eighth annual fall silent auction fundraiser to help the non-profit co-operative cover operating costs.


Parents in the classroom is not just the norm but expected at Oak Bay’s parent-owned preschool.

The co-op preschool is holding its annual fundraiser this Saturday (Nov. 16), with proceeds going towards maintaining this unique and affordable educational model.

Parents are expected to volunteer for various jobs and assist with classroom activities, under the guidance of a paid early childhood educator.

Kirsten Pite, preschool president and a mother of two, said the fundraiser is critical.

“We rely on it a lot,” she said. “It’s one way for us to keep tuition cost low. Everybody should be able to get an awesome education for their children, regardless of their income.”

Parental involvement in a child’s early education and the ability to get to know other kids and parents appealed to Roy Brooke, whose son Nathan, 3, is enrolled.

“Next to homeschooling, there is no other hands-on way to be part of his (educational) life,” he said. “With this model, we own the school, in effect, through our work and effort.”

Brooke is co-ordinating the fundraiser, while his wife participates in three “duty days” a month, in which she volunteers as a teacher’s aide.

Having parental involvement in the school’s operations creates a close-knit community, Pite said.

“You are suddenly in a community of like-minded people who are in a similar stage of life with young children. All of a sudden you have a new group of friends and people you can rely on.”

The preschool, one of 14 similarly run schools on the Island, has operated in St. Mary’s Church for more than 40 years and offers options for children aged two to four.

The preschool’s goal is to raise $10,000 at the fundraiser to help cover operating expenses.The festive event will have live music, appetizers and a cash bar. Some of the items up for bidding include luxury hotel stays, framed artwork and gift certificates for restaurants, various events, services and travel.

The silent auction happens from 7 to 10 p.m. in the upper hall at St. Mary’s Church, 1701 Elgin Rd. Tickets are $10 and available in advance only at

The preschool also runs a Christmas tree sale fundraiser in December. For more information

Preschool: Not just for kids

By Julita Traylen, Published Sep 10, 2013

My eldest and I are about to embark on a new adventure together – we are entering the world of preschool. I say we because we’ve chosen a co-op preschool in our neighbourhood. I loved the idea of co-op right away; to be immersed in my daughter’s education really appealed to me. A co-op is owned and managed by the parents; everyone pitches in to make the preschool a great experience. I chose the Oak Bay Parent Owned Preschool for several reasons; its location close to my home, its history within the community, the sense of community within the school itself, driven by the parents and the ECE, and its allergy policy.

The Oak Bay Parent Owned Preschool has been located in the heart of Oak Bay for over 40 years. There’s a rich history and connection within the neighbourhood and this is important to me as I hope one day to take my grandkids to the same preschool. Heart not only describes its location but also its philosophy and atmosphere. Our ECE Amy, the parents and children welcome new families with open arms and minds. Your child isn’t just going to preschool, s/he’s part of a community built over the last 40 years. And as the parent you aren’t just dropping your kid off, you and other parents are guides forming a foundation for your child’s and her classmates’ first educational experiences. At OBPOP children learn through play, indoors and out, through various activities offered in a social, emotional, intellectual and physical program. There are children enrolled in the program now whose parents attended when they were little.

One boy is attending his second year at OBPOP, just like his mom Jessie did when she was little. “When choosing which preschool my son was going to attend, I was thrilled that the preschool was still so highly thought of and such a part of the Oak Bay community. After my son’ s first year in the preschool my husband and I couldn’t be happier with his and our first school experience. We not only found a community of families who worked together for the common goal of making the preschool a wonderful place to be, but also a teacher who cares so deeply about our children and their happiness. We are so proud to be part of this preschool for a second generation.”

The community aspect really clinched it for me. I was on the fence about sending my daughter to preschool for two reasons; a feeling of disconnect from her and fear of her food allergies. Belonging to a co-op means joining a community. We started out by participating in the pre-preschool program which runs three times a year for two year olds. Every Thursday morning my daughter and I would join Amy and a group of other parents and two year olds for an hour of play in the classroom. We played with play dough, paints and other crafts. Over the weeks we made our way through all the different play stations, dress-up wardrobe and learned new songs during circle time. My daughter looked forward to pre-preschool every week, so I knew we were ready to sign up for preschool when she turned 3. Over the summer we attended weekly playdates at various playgrounds around town which allowed us to meet some of the other parents and kids we’ll be getting to know over the next two years.

The OBPOP is a nut, egg and dairy free classroom. My daughter has severe allergies to all three so knowing that these items won’t be in the classroom means I know I can safely leave my daughter at school.

While the children learn through play, the parents have work to do.  Once or twice a month I’ll have a “duty day” in the classroom, as well as other jobs, like planning excursions and helping with fundraising. The OBPOP has a couple of annual events that have been running for many years – a silent auction at the beginning of November and Christmas trees sales in December. There are some neighbours who have been ordering their Christmas trees from the OBPOP for 40 years. Fundraising initiatives like these ensure the next year is as successful as the last.

Last week a letter arrived in the mail for my daughter from Teacher Amy, telling us all about her summer and how much she’s looking forward to starting school. Amy included some stickers for us to count down the days to the first day of preschool on the calendar. My daughter asks me to read and re-read the letter, and points to the days on the calendar. Only a week to go!

There is still space for the Pre-preschool program starting in October. To find out more check out the OBPOP website.

To find other co-op preschools in Victoria, visit Vancouver Island Cooperative Preschool Association.