Teachers create engaging lesson plans and environments that support children’s growth within all learning domains. Their work is guided by research and best practices. Parents support children’s learning as, though often in a different way than at school. Parents are children’s first teachers. This relationship is important to value and embrace as children enter the classroom. Parents’ unique contributions to their children’s lives stem from their culture and lived experiences. At ESI, we look to build the relationship between schools and families to form partnerships that create warm, comprehensive, and connected environments for young children to learn and grow within.
Traditionally, family engagement is seen as an opportunity for schools to share information with families that reflects what they are doing in school and ways in which families can support their child’s learning further at home. We call this a “school to home” approach. Keeping families aware of their children’s experiences at school, especially given the amount of time most children are in school is important. Families want to know what their child is learning, how they are progressing, and how to support what is happening in school. It also supports families in understanding the growth and development of children from an educational standpoint.
Within ESI, we also look to support a “home to school” approach to family engagement. Home to school approaches “offer a promising way to foster a culturally relevant curriculum and more inclusive learning environment by drawing on the strengths and knowledge-rich contexts in which children are growing and learning outside of early childhood settings” (McWayne, et. al., 2020, page 22). This is done through various ways of obtaining information from families to learn more about their culture, lived experiences and environments. This might include a question of the day where parents and children identify their favorite holiday or families sending in a photo of a traditional family meal. It also can be as simple as listening to children while they play and chatting with a parent during drop off or pick up.
The information we learn within these “home to school” experiences provide great insight into what children are familiar with, have experienced, and what is culturally meaningful to them. When we take this information and embed it into our classrooms it allows us to create more relevant and meaningful learning experiences for young children in addition to strengthening connections with families through our respectful recognition and valuation of their home lives and cultures.
McWayne. C. M., Mistry, J., Hyun, S., Diez, V., Parker, C., Zan, B., Greenfield, D., & Brenneman, K. (2020). Incorporating knowledge from children’s homes and communities: A home-to-school approach for teaching STEM in preschool. Young Children, 75 (5), 20-26.