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Preparing for Home Learning: Ensuring that all Families are Supported

August always bring a sense of urgency, excitement, and joy to the preschool hallway. Program leadership and family support staff are busy helping new families enroll and welcoming them to the program, learning what types of resources and support families need for the year, planning pre-service activities to welcome the teaching staff back to the building, and imaging the personalities of the new students as they create class lists–eager to match faces to the names on the paper. This fall there is still urgency and joy, but there is also questioning as we make plans to start the school year with home learning; how do we plan our relationship-centered, play-based preschool program using a virtual and at home format? Well, we do what early childhood staff do and we adapt and innovate and make plans to ensure that our program values are upheld with a new learning format.

As a Head Start center, our program is an all inclusive one which means that children receive 3 free meals a day, health services, developmental screenings, and all play and learning materials when they enroll. Teachers plan emergent curriculum focused on the interests and needs of their students and parents are invited to participate in all aspects of the program from program governance to adult education. As we planned for home learning we wanted to make sure that we were still providing all of the services that make our program the special place that it is.

One way that we are able to do this is by providing all families with iPads. The iPads will be set up with all of the apps needed for the children to connect to their teachers and class and for parents to take adult education courses, participate in parent policy, and join us for parent and child together activities. We know that not all of our families have access to the technology needed to participate in our home learning program and removing this barrier is key to ensuring equitable access for everyone. We also know that not all families are as comfortable with technology as others so every family that needs it will be able to set an appointment with our family support staff for one on one support in learning how to use the iPad and the apps.

We are also mindful that young children learn through they play, their movements, their conversations with peers and adults. Screen time will be limited to 2 daily morning groups with their teachers and friends and one daily music and movement class each afternoon. These morning meetings are crucial for the relationship building that must happen between teachers and children. These relationships set the stage for the children to feel confident to take risks and try new activities and for the teachers to make observations and assess children’s progress.

Then we had to consider what the children would do the rest of their day if they were only interacting with their teachers for shorter times in the morning and afternoon. Well, that was the easy and fun part! We collected books, musical instruments, sensory toys, movement toys, and art materials and are boxing them up for families to play at home. Every family in the program will receive these boxes with teacher created activities that can be done with the materials.

This may not be a typical fall, but what will remain the same is the love, joy, and excitement that happens when teachers and children come together for play and learning. We invite you to follow along as we document our home learning this fall!

-Ms. Megan

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