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Meet a Home Visitor

I’ve been sharing stories from our (usually) in person early childhood program and how we are adapting to providing services for home learning virtually. Well, did you know that we also have a family outreach program that provides in-home services all the time? Today’s post is written by one of our home visitors, Ms. Grace, keep reading to find out more about this program!

Hello and happy fall! My name is Grace Kim and I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself to you and share what I do. I have been working as a Home Visitor for Asian Human Services since January. Our Home Visiting program is for families and their children ages 0-5. My program is funded by Head Start; therefore, I work specifically with children ages 3-5. I meet with families one-on-one once a week and provide educational and supportive services. My goal as a Home Visitor is to partner with parents in the big task of raising children. I ensure that the activities we do together are age appropriate and supportive of the child’s growth and development to best prepare them for preschool, kindergarten, and beyond. I spend some time together with the child with activities to encourage child mastery. Afterwards, I encourage parent involvement and observe how the child and parent interact together. Every activity is intended to be replicated in the home so that they can continue them throughout the week. At the end of my visit, I dialogue with the parent about their child. I listen to their challenges and achievements and listen to hear what changes they have seen in their child. It is a beautiful thing to see parents growing confident in themselves and hearing them cheerfully share their milestones. On a monthly basis, the Home Visiting program provides supplies such as diapers, books, various learning materials or household needs. We also provide intimate socialization opportunities to promote additional learning and for families to build their network in the community. Additionally, I provide connections to various resources in the community. I listen to their needs, not only regarding their child’s development, but regarding housing, adult education, employment, medical care, social services, etc. Our engagement with families will maintain virtual until home visits are safe to do, but despite that, the support provided to our families will remain unchanging. I am here as a resource beyond the needs of educational and parental support. I am so glad you are a part of our community here at Passages and I hope to one day connect with you one way or another. If you believe Home Visiting may benefit a family who is struggling with the daily demands of at-home learning, please share about this program and reach out to us!

If our home learning and family outreach program is something you would like to learn more about, please reach out. -Ms. Megan


How do you support a preschool child during Zoom class?

Today starts the 2nd week of our home learning program and, after 3 groups a day for 5 days across 5 classrooms, we have noticed some common worries among the families. I get it; home learning is challenging and can be overwhelming when you look into the camera and realize that if you can see all of the other parents and children. Because of the communal nature of home learning, it can be tempting to start comparing your child to the other children in the classroom or to worry that the teachers are placing judgements on you. So let’s take a minute to breathe and acknowledge these feelings. Parenting during a pandemic is really hard and you are doing the best you can! Our preschool program is designed to support the entire family, not just the children, so here are some tips while we are learning at home and on Zoom.

Tip number 1: Young children are not meant to sit still. They are built to move and the movement is important to their learning process. When children join us for zoom playtimes and discussion, we expect to see them swaying side to side, wiggling, standing up, sitting on the floor. Sometimes they may even walk away from the iPad and that’s okay! If the volume is on they will still be able to hear and they will come back when they are ready.

Tip number 2: Let your child explore the materials on their own. When we introduce a project or an activity we do not expect everyone to complete the tasks the same way or to end up with the same product. Is your child’s class exploring art materials, but all your child wants to do is squeeze the glue bottle? That’s okay! They are learning about cause and effect and are strengthening those fine motor skills. Is your child cutting the paper into a bunch of small pieces instead of following a line? That’s okay! They are still practicing using the scissors.

Tip number 3: Don’t compare your child’s progress to another child in the class. Every child develops on their timeline. The teachers are trained to recognize and support each child’s individual development and will assist you in helping your child move to the next milestone. The classrooms are also mixed age so there will be children who are older and younger than your child and that means they will be at different developmental levels. If you are worried that your child isn’t able to complete a task, tell the teachers and they will be able to tell you more information about your child’s individual level and how it relates to the early learning standards.

Tip number 4: Become familiar with the family activity lessons we send home each month and the early learning standards to go along with each activity. Knowing what skills and developmentally appropriate and expected in preschool will help you develop realistic benchmarks for your child’s progress.

Tip number 5: Have fun! We are at a unique time in preschool education where parents and teachers are able to work even more closely together and parents are able to have daily glimpses into their child’s classroom. Enjoy this time and laugh at the silliness that happens when 20 tiny humans all learn to unmute themselves on Zoom at the same time.

Hang in there, parents! The preschool is part of your parenting village and we are here to support you. -Ms. Megan

Despite all the Changes, it is Still Fall in Preschool.

The first week in September is generally my favorite week of the year. It’s full of frantic energy, excitement, and the promise of new beginnings. While the elementary school starts their first week of classes, this week is the preschool’s week to connect with families and give the children time to meet their teachers before they begin school. In a typical year the teachers leave the school building and visit the children and their families at their homes where they start the relationship building process in a space that is comfortable for the families. This is an important part of our program and it gives the children gentle start to the program year and sends a clear message to the families that we are partners in the learning process.

Because of the pandemic, we are unable to visit the families’ homes this fall. As we thought about how we would start the program this year, we knew we wanted to find a way to keep these individual family meetings in a way that felt safe to the staff and families. We decided to schedule visits that would take place inside the school. Every staff member and family would mask up, make sure they weren’t sick, and we would make sure that the amount of people in the building was limited to allow for physical distancing. On Tuesday morning I waiting with anticipation not knowing how this would all work. Well, I shouldn’t have worried. Our amazing staff and wonderful families didn’t disappoint! Everyone participated in the new health precautions with grace and humor and the families and teachers set the foundation for the relationships needed for learning.

There was laughter in the school again. There were excited children saying hi to their teachers again. There were families catching up with each other again. There was life in the building again! Yes, everyone stood farther apart than we usually would and we didn’t get the many hugs we usually get, but the conversations and connections continued.

Families, we are grateful for you and your trust in us as partners in your children’s learning. Thank you for trusting us and sticking with us as we create our rhythms and patterns for this unusual year. -Ms. Megan

Is preschool still preschool when we learn at home?

The teachers have been back in the building for a few days now and we are spending a lot of time carefully preparing materials and planning for interactions that will support preschool learning at home. How can we ensure equity when thinking about what activities we want to do with the children and families in their own homes instead of in our classrooms? How can we ensure that all families have the technology needed to join the activities? How do we engage families and highlight the benefits of preschool and the strengths of the children and families when we are not meeting in person?

When thinking about materials and providing equitable experiences we decided that we wanted to choose materials that would allow children and families to have similar experiences as if they were in the classrooms. Art is an important language of childhood so this means we are including paper, crayons, paint, scissors, markers, and more so that the children can create regardless of what they might have at home. We also believe in the power of stories so of course we are sending home fun and engaging picture books. We are offering daily music classes which means that musical instruments and dance scarves need to go in the materials kit too.

We are fortunate to work for an agency that believes in providing the resources to all families to break down barriers to accessing our programs. As a result, every family who enrolls in our preschool is getting a brand new family iPad to use for the duration they are in the program. We know that not all families have the same technology confidence and skills so the family support staff will be available to help families learn how to use the iPad, how to use our class meeting apps, and how to use the apps to communicate with the teachers and school.

This global pandemic has taught us all about the need to engage families in new and differentiated ways and has reinforced to us all the critical role families play in the preschool learning partnership. It has made us think creatively about sharing with families the importance of preschool experiences even when the children cannot be in the physical classroom spaces. We all know that a preschool experience sets children up for elementary success by providing early experiences with language, literacy, math, and socialization. How do we replicate that in a virtual, home learning model? The same we do as if we were in person, just with a different way of providing the services! Whether learning in the classroom or learning at home and with an iPad, the benefits of preschool are still evident.

  • The children will participate in a consistent daily routine with a balance of free play, stories, and structured times with their teachers through virtual meetings. This daily routine helps prepare them for being in full day school at a later time.
  • The children will learn important early literacy and language skills through conversations and activities with teachers trained in child development and early learning.
  • The children will be introduced to new music, art, and creative movement which all support self-esteem and empathy.
  • The children will build relationships with their teachers and peers which will help transition them into a wider social circle in addition to the home circle.
  • The children will have fun as they try new things and meet new friends.

The start of the school year is just around the corner and we are eager to start learning with you! -Ms. Megan

Can we build relationships while learning at home?

Tomorrow the teachers return to school after their summer break and we will start our pre-service week where we will be meeting to talk about curriculum, play, safety, and to share information about our plans and hopes for the year. We will meet to pack art materials, books, and toys into kits to support everyone’s play at home and I will obsessively count the family iPads to make sure they are ready to go. There will be meetings and trainings, but most of all there will be conversations centered around those first meetings and interactions with our new and returning students.

The relationships built between the teachers and children, between the children and each other, and between the families and the school are really the cornerstone of our program and the true foundation to the children’s learning. In a typical fall, the teachers will be headed to the children’s homes to meet their families and to be shown their favorite toys. The children would come in for play dates and the parents would join together for orientation and a parent-centered art project. And then, after all the preparations, we would open the preschool doors and the children and families would pour into the hallways and classrooms. The foundation would have been set and the year would start!

This year is different. While we won’t be visiting the families’ homes, we will still be meeting every child and family before school starts. Every family will come to the school for safe, individual, meetings with their teachers so the children can tell them about that favorite stuffed animal at home and the parents can share their hopes and dreams for their children. We won’t have a big orientation where the families are asked to be brave and paint a picture for their children to see at school. Instead we will meet one on one with families to answer their questions, calm fears, and share ways to stay connected with us using their family iPad. On the first day of school I won’t be standing outside greeting all the families and the teachers won’t be in the hallways ready to welcome everyone inside. Instead we will turn on our cameras, open up Zoom, and start the year online as we try not to laugh when the children push their faces up into the camera or when they learn how to unmute themselves and everyone is talking at once.

It’s not a typical year. But it is a new fall and with that brings the hope of new relationships and the joy of knowing we are building the foundation for the year’s successes. We won’t build relationships in the same way we usually do, but at the same time, we will build relationships exactly like we usually do–with love, patience, and anticipation for the new school year.

We can’t wait to meet you! -Ms. Megan

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