Early Childhood Education Paired with Early Parenthood Education
James L. Casale, Ph.D.
Many view Early Childhood Education as a sure path to future school success and life success. The research is clear that a quality pre-school experience will enhance a child’s chances of being successful in school and in life. There is no argument that the first five years of a child’s life are pivotal, but who and what should exert the most influence on these formative years?
Your Family Culture
The most positive influences in a child’s life should be parents and the culture of learning established in the home. Parents can and must do more to ensure that a culture of learning begins at home and that culture must be nurtured and sustained. Pre-schools are not a substitute for what can easily be done at home. Pre-schools are supplementary to a home environment that values education, manners, sharing, caring, problem solving, structure and much more.
Not all pre-schools are created equal, and according to research, suffer from inherent weaknesses that clearly affect outcomes. Preschool programs vary greatly. It is reported that there is a general lack of accountability, wide ranges of teacher competency, training and certification, a lack of program evaluation and the inability to define quality programs. In spite of these shortcomings, many pre-school programs adequately care for children from infancy until the time that children are ready for kindergarten. But is adequate good enough? And do parents know or understand what is expected from a quality pre-school program?
Early Childhood Expectations
According to the kindergarten teachers I have worked with, the three pre-school characteristics that adequately prepare children for kindergarten are: getting along with others, following directions, and being able to attend to a task. If a child arrives in kindergarten with some semblance of these three important qualities, they will be ready to learn. Of course, much more than that is learned in quality programs, but these three are essentials that can easily be taught, modeled, and reinforced at home.
Too many parents focus on the wrong skills. They’re thrilled if their child knows numbers and colors. They are even more thrilled if their child is learning to read and write before they enter kindergarten. But these skills should take a back seat to learning and acquiring the characteristics that position children to be successful: respect, self-restraint, responsibility, perseverance, getting along, solving problems, knowing the difference between right and wrong and loving to learn.
Billions have been spent on public education, but students continue to struggle, fail, and drop out of our schools. Parents and other care givers can make a huge difference that does not require a teaching certificate or the skills to design learning activities at home. A recent report about Early Childhood Education confirms the findings of the 1966 Coleman Report “home based family involvement emerged as the strongest predictor of child outcomes.” Are you ready to get started? These three basics are essential: attitude, a family mission statement and a plan.
- Attitude-Success begins with attitude. What you believe will guide your actions. If you believe education is important and that your child’s success depends on it, you have taken the first critical step that will begin to define the culture in your home.
- Mission Statement-From the smallest companies to the largest corporations and most schools, mission statements guide their vision and purpose. They bind organizations to dedication, loyalty, and the reasons for their existence. Families are no different except that they are more important than any other organization: Families and effective parenting are the backbone of a successful society and its institutions. Construct a brief statement that defines expectations for all family members and hang it on the wall.
- A Plan-Like architects and engineers, parents need a blueprint they expect to follow. The most important characteristic of an effective family plan can be captured in one word, Model what you expect from your children. If you expect kindness, model it. If you want to encourage reading, fill your house with good books, read to and in front of your children.turn off the TV and engage regularly in family activities.
Nothing in this essay is as complicated as brain surgery. But nothing positive emerges from a household that does not value education and character building. While it’s never too late to start, it can be more difficult if your children are already pre-teens or teenagers. I recommend starting before your children are born. Evaluate your attitudes and most of all your commitment to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
Dr. Casale is a state and national award winning educator and the author of numerous articles and essays on Education. His highly praised guide for parents, Wise Up and Be the Solution: How to Create a Culture of Learning at Home and Make Your Child a Success in School, is available in book stores, on Amazon.com and from his website, www.parentsfirst.biz. He is available as a speaker. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.