How Family Engagement Increases Early Childhood Education Readiness
Researchers have referenced time and again that a child’s performance in the education environment is based on both parent and teacher expectations; it’s no different for children in their early stages of learning. Childcare programs and families benefit from shared resources and information which increase parents’ expectations of their children and add tools to the toolbelts of teachers to meet students’ academic and social needs.
Specialized engagement initiatives invite families to share their unique knowledge and skills and encourage active participation in the life of the school. Through active engagement, teachers are able to seek information about children’s lives, families, and communities and integrate that information into their curriculum and teaching practices.
As a former urban school teacher and administrator, I have observed the invisible barriers that parents perceive as reason to not engage in their children’s education, leaving the notion of education expertise to schools. Many parents shy away from engagement in their child’s education opting for involvement instead, from a fear of lack of expertise and “know-how,” to be what might be considered as effective. One of the definitions of involve is "to enfold or envelope," whereas one of the meanings of engage is "to come together and interlock."
With two PBS KIDS Ready To Learn Family & Community Learning (FCL) workshops under Georgia Public Broadcasting’s (GPB) belt, the laughter, excitement, and engagement of families while learning have been both rewarding and enriching. PBS KIDS FCL is a series of workshops that engage families in hands-on learning that utilize PBS KIDS media. The workshops are designed for families with children ages three-eight years old, and the series uses guided play to introduce both children and grownups to exciting digital and tangible tools.
So far, 42 parents and more than 100 children have attended GPB's FCL workshops. With the goal to increase parent engagement and student learning, we are excited to see how these workshops help build parents' confidence and enhance children's social and emotional growth.
“Providing the opportunity for parents to come together and engage with their children while learning and having fun often leaves me speechless, searching for adequate words to express the overwhelming joy that I feel,” says Ashley Payton, GPB Early Learning Specialist. “We are empowering parents to be confident in their engagement with their children. The curriculum demystifies STEM and gives parents skills to participate in STEAM-based activities and continue the learning.”
Parents and children alike appear to be eager to learn more about accessing PBS KIDS digital media resources to support the development of science inquiry and engineering design practices.
With the workshops well under way, one thing for certain that we have learned as facilitators is that parents and children are learning beyond the curriculum. Parents are noticing that their children have much more knowledge than they are aware, with a vocabulary arsenal far beyond what they have observed in their home environment.
“I was walking into the room and my daughter Ana’liya suddenly says, “Look Mommy, my shadow!’ I had no idea she even knew the word shadow, let alone could use it in the proper context!” says FCL parent participant Regina Brown. “This was definitely a result of learning about shadows in the FCL workshop. I am grateful for the experience.”
These experiences will resonate with the families that have participated for years to come, not only because of the new learning tools, fun experiences, and the exciting curriculum resources but because of the opportunity for families to truly engage with one another in an educational setting.