Little Steps Early Childhood Care Center’s Practices

Family and Community Engagement Analysis

Little Steps Early Childhood Care Center is an educational institution that helps children to obtain those skills and knowledge that that need at particular periods. In addition to that, teachers ensure that kids get positive attitudes towards studying so that they become likely to turn into intelligent students over time. However, recently families started to claim that their children spend a lot of time playing, which seems to them a great drawback. This issue proves that the care center’s policies and practices may be poorly aligned with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Principles of Effective Practice and need improvement.

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“Principle 1: Programs invite families to participate in decision making and goal setting for their child” (NAEYC, 2017, para. 3).

It is significant for the center to give parents or other adults who take care of children an opportunity to affect those educational goals kids have at home and school. In this way, families understand what and why their children do and do not question the curriculum. Unfortunately, the center does not pay enough attention to this principle currently. Teachers explain to parents why they teach in a particular way and why they choose some activities but do not involve them in decision-making (McKinnon, 2013).

“Principle 2: Teachers and programs engage families in two-way communication” (NAEYC, 2017, para. 3).

Teachers who work at the center establish two-way communication with families. They have conversations considering children’s educational experience and are always willing to tell what they were doing in class and what plans they have for the nearest future. Parents can initiate these conversations as well, and educators are ready to answer all their questions, but no activities are established to encourage them (ECA Learning Hub, 2013).

“Principle 3: Programs and teachers engage families in ways that are truly reciprocal” (NAEYC, 2017, para. 3).

When communicating with parents, educators try to obtain different insights about their learners. They ask about their hobbies, interests, and plans for the future, seek information about families and communities. As a result, teachers receive an opportunity to integrate this knowledge into curriculum and instructions so that education becomes aligned with their experiences and needs.

“Principle 4: Programs provide learning activities for the home and in the community” (NAEYC, 2017, para. 3).

The representatives of the center need to ensure that children can participate in learning activities even when being at home. They are to assist parents and to make sure that they have access to the information about events that can be useful in this framework. Thus, the center provides families with a list of community events that promote early learning, mentioning them in newsletters. In addition to that, they point out the things needed for healthy development. They also encourage parents to take part in charity activities, such as the donation of food to those who need it.

“Principle 5: Programs invite families to participate in program-level decisions and wider advocacy efforts” (NAEYC, 2017, para. 3).

Parents need to be able to affect the program itself. Just as educators, they should have a chance to be involved in the decision-making process. Programs are passed on children’s needs and preferences that is why their families can be rather useful. They know a lot of information about kid’s life out of the classroom so they can ensure that these peculiarities are properly addressed. In the center, families are invited to take part in annual parent-teacher conferences, field trips, and parties (Little Steps Markham, 2017). Thus, it can be claimed that families can become members of different committees. Still, it is not clear whether they have an opportunity to plan these social and educational activities.

“Principle 6: Programs implement a comprehensive program-level system” (NAEYC, 2017, para. 3).

The establishment of a comprehensive program-level system cannot be maintained without a strong vision for family engagement. Both professionals who work at the center and parents should be aware of the fact that they need to cooperate to allow children to reach success and develop appropriately. The leaders of the center should encourage teachers and families to work together and share information. All programs are to ensure that the center realizes that the educational environment should be diverse and all children should be treated equally.

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However, even though the leaders encourage parents to contact them and participate in various activities (including those organized by the center and community), the supports for total family engagement are not received. It can be proved by the fact that educators do not involve parents in decision-making that affects the curriculum. They emphasize that parents do not understand what should be included in the current educational process, as they are focused on personal experiences, which are already outdated.

Thus, it can be concluded that even though Little Steps Early Childhood Care Center’s policies and practices align with some of the NAEYC Principles of Effective Practice, improvement is required. For now, a lot of gaps can be found in this perspective, but the situation can be improved with the implementation of several initiatives discussed further.

Recommendations for Improving Family and Community Engagement

Little Steps Early Childhood Care Center prepares children to further education and helps them to obtain skills and knowledge that will be required in the future even in the framework of everyday life. Educators emphasize the necessity to study writing, reading, and arithmetic but they also spend about 40 minutes per day playing with kids. A lot of families have expressed concerns about these activities because they consider that children are playing a lot more than learning. However, professionals emphasize that games are extremely important in the framework of kid’s development. They are claimed to be not only entertaining activities. Playing at Little Steps Early Childhood Care Center, children learn to take turns, respect materials, interact with peers and teachers, etc.

Trying to empower families to understand the value of a play, the early childhood professionals maintain parent education talks during which they explain to parents what is a play and what it can do for the kids, underlying the fact that it allows them to learn many things, so that parents can help their children (McKinnon, 2013). However, it would also be very useful for this institution to resort to “The Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework” (ECLKC, 2017). In this way, they will have an opportunity to check what gaps they currently have and to undertake one of the activities offered as an example that will resolve these issues. For example, the center can focus on the fact that it is significant to allow families to collaborate in the establishment of educational goals during parent-teacher talks. In this way, professionals will explain to parents what activities are likely to benefit children and why so that parents can make well-grounded decisions. As a result, the existing misunderstanding regarding the implementation of playing as a class activity will be resolved.

Professionals can also improve family and community engagement if they resort to “NAEYC Principles of Effective Practice” (NAEYC, 2017). A thorough examination of each principle and discussion of the ways they can be implemented in practice is likely to give the center a plan for the future improvements that are needed to improve family and community engagement. In the description of these six principles, professionals can find several options that can be utilized and have already proved their effectiveness. For instance, it will be advantageous for the center to maintain questionnaires about children and their families. As a result, it would be much easier to gather the information needed for program development. Of course, it is possible just to talk with parents, but this process will become very time-consuming in this way.

Based on the questionnaire, educators and families can point out the key points that should be integrated into the program. Parents should also assist in the preparation of developmental screening because they are the main caregivers. It is a little step that allows them to feel more comfortable in a new role that requires participation in the center’s activities. Such an approach also enhances the quality of communication between teachers and families. It ensures that both sides are engaged in planning so that they do not have many issues because of misunderstanding. What is more, it can be advantageous if the center holds parent-teacher conferences more than once a year. This period is too long, and a lot can change so that programs may require alterations. Having meetings at least twice a year will be not difficult to maintain but is sure to make family participation more effective.

Teachers at the center engage parents in two-way communication, but no particular practices are devoted to it except for annual parent-teacher conferences and some outdoor events, such as parties and field trips that are also held rarely. It may be advantageous to have home visits and phone conversations in addition to those they have while dropping-off and picking-up children because some parents can be not addressed at all in this way (“Effective communication between parents and teachers”, 2011). Online communication can be easily maintained today that is why it can also turn out to be very beneficial and convenient. If English is a family’s second language, the center should prepare program translated materials to ensure that all information can be easily understood.

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Families and communities can also be engaged with the help of culturally responsive strategies, some hints of which can be found in the sources discussed earlier. For example, it is possible to maintain various festivals and celebrations regularly. They should incorporate families’ cultural heritage. In this way, it is significant to gather additional information about children’s background so that the origins of each can be addressed. To participate in different events, kids will require their families’ assistance because they will need to dress up appropriately and maintain some preparations. Communities can be involved when dealing with the events that belong to the dominating culture. In this way, meetings with Santa can be performed, etc.

For some families whose children attend the center, English is a second language. In the majority of cases, they know the language good enough to interact with other people but providing a resource library or parent education classes, this institution will support their English development even more, which tends to have a positive influence on parents’ vision of it. The provision of bilingual books and meetings with two-language conversations can streamline cultural exchange. Making some references to people’s backgrounds, professionals will have an opportunity to build a tight-knit community. As a result, families, and educators will get to know one another better so that it will be easier for them to agree on the curriculum and other peculiarities of the educational process.

The center should avoid any biases and discriminations. Learners need to have positive attitudes towards their own identity and those of people around them. Such perception can be developed when being in an environment that has no presuppositions regarding other cultures. In this way, those things that surround children in the center should be non-sexist and non-stereotyping. They should represent different cultures instead of focusing on something peculiar. The implementation of the anti-biased curriculum is likely to be very beneficial in this way.

All in all, it is significant to ensure diversity in the center. The personnel should understand the attitudes and behaviors of children’s families so that they do not face misunderstandings. They should respect other cultures and their representatives. This goal can be reached if professionals have access to training and resources that are focused on different cultures. Some knowledge can and should also be obtained from kids and their families.

References

ECA Learning Hub. (2013). Sharing the child’s day with the parent. Web.

ECLKC. (2017). The head start parent, family, and community engagement framework. Web.

Effective communication between parents and teachers. (2011). Web.

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Little Steps Markham. (2017). Parent engagement. Web.

McKinnon, Audrey. (2013). Early childhood (parent) education II. Web.

NAEYC. (2017). Principles of effective practice. Web.

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