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The Home-School Connection
A young child’s entry into an early childhood program, whether it is for a few hours or for the entire day, signifies their first significant transition to a more formal setting then their home environment.
As educators, we talk a great deal about parent involvement and the importance of the home-school connection. In theory the terms bring to mind engaged parents and active collaboration between the home and school; both working together to support the needs of the child. In reality, however, parent involvement and the home-school connection are often reduced to a one way conversation, where teachers and administrators do all the talking and parents and caregivers are expected to do all the listening.
This isn’t to say that as professionals we shouldn’t share our strategies and knowledge with parents, but we also need to take into consideration the knowledge and experience that parents bring to the early childhood community.
- Think about the language you use with parents. Is it inclusive and questioning with the intent to really work towards understanding the home environment, or do you find yourself lecturing parents as to what they should/shouldn’t do at home?
- What kind of biases do you bring to the table? When you hear that a family is from a certain neighborhood or that they are of a certain cultural background do you jump to pre-conceived ideas?
- If your time and schedule allow set up a conference either in person, or over the telephone where you can speak with parents. Find out what their routines are like at home, what are the child’s likes and dislikes, etc. The more information you receive about the children and families in your program the better understanding you will have.
- Parent workshops can be a great way to connect with parents and work towards building community in your program. Keep your presentation short and include a great deal of time for questions and discussion. You might be surprised what you learn. Don’t assume that you have all the answers.
- Realize that the children in your program will come from different backgrounds and thus have different experiences; it is important to remember that different does not mean deficient. Acknowledge where each child is coming from and include the experiences they have had in your program.
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Krystyann Krywko specializes in education research, and focuses on literacy, and on hearing loss and the impact it has on children and families. She holds an Ed. D in International Education Development from Teachers College, Columbia University; where she was a Spencer Fellow for the 2005 cohort. She has more than 10 years of early childhood teaching experience.