Classic Reston: Hunters Woods Co-Op Preschool

Lois Male and two young students at Hunters Woods Cooperative Preschool

This is an installment in an occasional series about longtime Reston businesses.

When the first Reston residents settled into their homes in the mid-to-late 1960s, they found they were without many things in the brand-new community. Among the missing: a good preschool. So in the cooperative spirit of both pioneers and Restonians, Lois Male, then a young mother of three, joined together with several other moms to start Hunters Woods Cooperative Preschool.

That was in 1970. By 1972, Male was a teacher at the preschool. More than two generations of Reston children have gone through HWPS, but Male remains. The school — which meets in a simple room above the Glade Pool entrance — is one of Reston’s oldest businesses, and Male is now in her 42nd year there.

In an era of busy families and high-tech learning opportunities, HWPS has an old-school philosophy: that children learn through play and that preschool is an opportunity to be a good citizen, good friend and good listener.

The cooperative element ensures that parents are part of the program too. Parents (other caregivers and nannies can pitch in as well) help out in the classroom on a regular rotation. That enables HWPS to keep tuition low (it starts at $100 a month for the two-day class) and gets the adults involved in what goes on at school.

“I think for the parents to be involved in early childhood development, that is something that continues through grade school and high school,” says Male.

So what has changed in the decades since she first sat down to read a story to Reston’s 3-year-olds?

“Kids are smarter,” says Male. “They are exposed to more. But they are still just neat little creatures. Parents have changed too. We’ve all gotten very busy.”

So that is why a low-tech preschool — full of wooden puzzles and blocks, sand tables and finger puppets — is a good place to get away from it all.

“It is still fun to kind of hold back on some things,” Male says as an assistant teacher sets up blocks that will be a space ship today and bright paints pots on an easel. “We can take apart an iron. We go outside and look for bugs. When the kids come in, they have choices. Then we have “have-to” time in our meeting on the blue rug. They learn to be attentive in a group, to be a friend and respect each other. This will help them when they get to the ‘big school.’ ”

“We get to the ABCs and 123s whenever they are ready,” she adds. “You can’t turn it on if it is not there.”

Hunters Woods Cooperative Preschool has 2-, 3- and 4-day classes for children ages 3 to 5 at the Glade Community Room. There are morning and afternoon classes. The school is holding an open house for prospective parents on Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. There will also be a playdate for interested students on Feb. 10 and March 10. Visit the school’s website for more information and to register.

Disclosure: HWPS is a RestonNow.com advertiser.

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