Among the many new norms we adopted during the 2020 pandemic, one important one was children learning and playing at home during closures. During this time, parents needed resources to keep their little humans engaged productively, and child care centers with a commitment to family care were vital in extending this type of support. Though restrictions are loosening, and centers are opening again, bridging the gap of education and care between school and home has proven to be valuable, attainable, and necessary in order for our tiny humans to grow into well-balanced adults.
As effective as it is to involve the parents in continuing the child’s learning at home, working in tandem with families needs to be handled with a level of empathy and care. This 2021-22 HiMama Parent Satisfaction report indicates that modern parents are working between 40 and 50 hours per week, with 59% of them indicating that they are experiencing burnout. So that last thing they need to feel like they need to do more. As educators dedicated to family care, we understand how important consistency is to a child’s well-being, and part of our role is to help families see its value. Here are some ways to motivate parents to continue their child’s learning at home.
- Start with alignment – It’s so simple that sometimes it’s a step that is overlooked. Both the educators and families want the best for the child so it’s easy to assume that everyone is performing with best practices in mind. However, before learning can take place seamlessly between school and home, there has to be an alignment in both parties’ approach. This can be as simple as having a meeting where everyone discusses intentions, philosophies, expected outcomes, the child’s temperament, among so many other factors. It can be very easy for either side to make well-meaning assumptions, so aligning everyone to approach learning from a reasonably similar perspective makes the process more effective for everyone.
- Be transparent when sharing strategies – As mentioned above it can be easy for parents to assume that the educators have a wider knowledge base because of their professional experience. Though there is a science to child development, each child still needs to be treated individually, so there must be a fluidity when creating ideal conditions for learning. Ensuring that child-specific strategies are available to everyone will be an asset. For example, a preschooler might still show a preference for single-step instructions, or there may be a song that helps a child self-regulate when it’s time to tidy up. These in-school strategies need to be shared with families if learning is to continue at home. This creates a consistent level of expectation for the child, and will assist their development whether at school or at home.
- Communicate to families via technology – As a reflection of the times, digital communication is increasingly becoming the preferred way in which people interact. The HiMama parent satisfaction report identifies that most modern parents have little to no experience with doing things the “old fashioned” way, and that the pandemic has unveiled how necessary it is to conduct previous tasks through electronic means. It is in the childcare sector’s best interest to follow suit. We all have personal experiences with digital communication, and while there is usually a learning curve in adopting these practices, it does make our daily duties easier to manage. For educators, it’s an easy method to showcase strategies in real time, and to show parents how various learning tools (ie: pictographs) can be used. This will make it much easier for families to adopt the same practices at home. Moreover, communicating digitally shows a respect and recognition for the increased demands of modern parenthood. The reality is that most people are juggling many responsibilities so a quick text message or picture from their child care center can be the most effective way to communicate. This will motivate families to continue the child’s learning at home.
- Invite constant feedback – Early childhood professionals are perceived to be the experts, and this perception may create a block with the families we are serving. So it is up to us to eliminate those hurdles by inviting open and honest feedback about how the learning process is operating at home. How are the strategies working? Are there any unforeseen challenges that need to be overcome? Feedback will empower families to take ownership of their child’s learning, and will make them more apt to take a more active role. It is also to the child’s benefit to have this culture of feedback between their caregivers. Constant feedback means a constant evaluation of learning methods, behavioral guidance, and other strategies so that they can be fine-tuned to create the most developmentally appropriate outcomes for the child. Remember that feedback goes both ways, and giving and receiving it should not be taken personally. This is part of having a reflective practice where everyone learns from one another and grows.
- Revisit and restructure learning outcomes – There are a number of reasons why it’s critical to constantly examine a child’s continuous learning at home. Firstly, children’s brains are primed for knowledge. With the proper guidance, they can develop skills fairly quickly, and may outgrow certain strategies. Second, there are a number of unexpected factors in a child’s home life that can require redirection or change. If there has been a change at home (ie: new sibling, one parent away for work), this will have an effect on the methods used to guide a child. Revisiting and responding should be done with the intention of helping families feel successful because the more success is achieved, the more likely it is that home learning will continue.
To a young child, learning is taking place all the time, so education and care are intrinsically linked. This is why there needs to be a focus on helping families take the learning process from the classroom to the home with ease. With a focused intentionality, and communicating in a way that is seamlessly woven into the fabric of family life, this level of quality care is achievable.
ama supports the success of the educators, the administration, and the enrolled families and their children by providing easy-to-use systems and resources! Want even more insights into what matters most to parents? See what our survey of 500 parents found in our Childcare Parent Satisfaction Report!