Before you reply, ask yourself these questions: How do I make sure the school success of the children in my program? Am I challenged when parents ask why they pay so much for their children to have enjoyment all day? Do I get irritated organizing fundraisers, overseeing program development, and managing staff all by myself? Many early childhood professionals face these issues every day. And the solution for many is parent participation. “Teachers have less stress when the parents are involved,” says Jill Niehoff, former family advocate for the Cincinnati YMCA early childhood programs and current project coordinator for Winning Teamssm for Young Children, a distance learning program that “teams up” parents and early childhood professionals. Niehoff believes, “Parents who know and provide input often criticize less and offer more support to organization and teachers. This in turn strengthens staff confidence and stress management-eventually causing less staff turnover.”
You may find lots of reasons for not linking parents in what you do. After all, it's very time consuming-at least at first. Most teacher training instituteprepares teachers to work with children to a certain extent than adults. And parents,who want the very best for their children, as much as you do, may have thoughts which are very dissimilar from your own. However, there is irresistible evidence that parent and family involvement is the key to school victory and lasting learning for children. The best kept clandestine is that parent participation may make your job easier. Informed and involved parents volunteer to do things and even make much-needed contributions. In addition, these satisfied consumers give your center invaluable word-of-mouth announcement. Generally defined, parent participation includes anything and everything parents do with and for kids to help them reach their full potential. According to early childhood care education, parent and family participation enhances children's confidence and long-term success. Parents develop optimistic attitudes toward school and better realize the schooling process, which ultimately builds more successful programs with higher society awareness and support. But today's busy parents need imaginative alternatives to the traditional model of coming to school to assist with special projects or baking cupcakes for party days. Although this kind of aid is still needed and respected, parents also need to feel that other assistance are equally significant and important. Create a list of everything you do, and emphasize those things parent volunteers could do. The following are some ideas you might not have well thought-out:
Bringing Children on Time. Persuade parents to get their children to your program on time, dressed, fed, and ready to learn. You may feel this is the least parents can do, but it's really essential, so be sure to talk to parents. In fact, have you congratulated the parents who do this every time and asked them to share their secrets with other parents? Start a newssheet so parents can share these ideas with each other.
Using a Family's timetable to Teach Children. Share with parents how young kids learn through significant, hands-on experiences, and give those suggestions about how to make the most of the time they use with their kids in routine activities like sorting laundry and making dinner together. (Make copies of the parent tips at right.) This type of parent education could take place during a parent meeting. However, you may need to suggest it in small doses through newsletters, brochures to hand out at just the right developmental moment, or by collaborating with your local civic library to buy parenting videotapes for advance.
Selecting Parent council. Have parent representatives involved in all levels of decision-making including curriculum planning and budgeting. This may mean that board and group meetings have to be listed when parents are available to be present at. But you'll save this extra time spent with parent council in other ways. Understanding proves that parents really don't dislike paying reasonable fees if they know where their money goes.
Asking for Parent Skill Contributions. Parents like to donate their own unique knowledge and skills. Some programs have gotten graphic design and printing, carpentry, accounting, word processing, medical screenings, lawn care, and other services free.
Making School Transitions. Try to work with your local basic schools to build a transition plan that maintains the energy of parent participation you have started as children grow. The parents will be thankful for your commitment to their child's ongoing school achievement. This is by no means an extensive list of parent participation possibilities. Nor should we underrate the main contribution that classroom volunteers and cookie bakers make. But these ideas may help you widen your thinking about parent participation.