Tuesday, September 21, 2010

If I knew then, what I know now!!!

I once had a para-professional comment to me that if she had of been working in preschool years ago, her children would have been much more prepared for kindergarten. Now, I'm sure, as all mothers are, she was much harder on herself than needed to be, but her comment made me think.

I have had 6 years of college, 2 years of experience working with 'rock star' veteran teachers, and several opportunities for professional development on how young children learn. I realized that sometimes I take for granted the things that come naturally to me when teaching children. As an educator, shame on me...

Since this para's comment, I have had ample time to reflect. I have always believed that the parent's role as an educator is invaluable, but now I realize my obligation as an educator to ensure that we as a community are equipping parents with the knowledge and tools they need.

I feel very blessed to work in a community where this has become a joint effort. Our community agencies work in tandem as we combine efforts for the benefit of our youngest learners. Below are a few of the ways that Saint Joseph is ensuring that our parents feel valued and confident that their child is prepared for school.

  • The Saint Joseph School District provides PACT.
Each year Headstart works in collaboration with the SJSD to hold a city wide Early Childhood Screening. Based on that screening, the SJSD services those children that demonstrate the most need in a preschool program. One of the goals of the SJSD preschool program is "to recognize parents as the principal influences on their child’s education and development by providing opportunities that reinforce the parent’s role as an educator." Parents are invited to their child's classroom once a month to participate in Parents and Children Together (PACT) day. Families participate in an activity with their child while teachers focus on teaching parents how that activity supports their child's development and what they can do at home to reinforce those skills.
  • Kinder Klub
United Way's Success by Six program is a collaboration of several community agencies including, but not limited to the Saint Joseph School District, Community Action Partnerships and The Saint Joseph Youth Alliance. This team is in it's fourth year of offering a program to 'pre-kindergarten' age students, known as Kinder Klub. At Kinder Klub, any parent with a child that will be kindergarten eligible the next school year is invited to attend monthly Kinder Klub sessions. At these sessions, parents and children work together during an hour long session to build a foundation of pre-academic skills to work toward for kindergarten. The topics of activities include Concepts of Math, Developmental Stages of Writing, Fine/Gross Motor skills, Self-Help activities, Language and Literacy, and Social Interactions. During each session, the parents are educated as to how to scaffold their children toward each developmental milestone and students are given the supplies used during the session to support their learning at home.

  • Kindergarten Jumpstart
Kindergarten Jumpstart is a program very similar to Kinder Klub, except it is offered once a week for four weeks during the summer. Parents and children attend sessions at one of several local libraries and work together on activities prepared to give them an extra boost before Kindergarten begins. At the end of the four weeks, each child is provided with a backpack full of kindergarten school supplies.
  • Destination Kindergarten Blog
This blog is provided for parents as a resource and a forum to discuss topics of interest with other 'pre-kindergarten' parents.
Posts will be contributed by the SJSD and Community Action Partnerships.

In order for any of these programs to be successful, we need comments,
questions, suggestions and feedback.
We need to know:

  1. What is your biggest concern for your child starting kindergarten?
  2. What times of the day work best for a parent's schedule?
  3. Do you have suggestions for other avenues of kindergarten readiness that we might explore?
  4. Do you live in another community and have success stories that you can share?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Avoiding the Digital Daze

What is a digital age learner? In an age when a computer is as naturally a household resource as our kitchen sink, children are learning and connecting in ways beyond our childhood imaginations. To the older child, the computer has become a staple in social interactions, a standard resource for unanswered questions, and a virtual portal to the otherwise inaccessible world.

So what does this mean for our youngest learners? It means that upon entering school, they will be asked not only to navigate a computer, but to use one to create digital content, determine resource credibility, share ideas and construct knowledge with students around the world. That might sound like a daunting task to a parent that was not brought up in the digital age…so how can you help prepare your child?

The answer is not to teach your child how to use technology, but how to interact with technology. There is a difference between a child that has tuned out the world to spend three hours playing a video game and a child that is utilizing technology to take their ideas and transform them into reality. I fondly refer to the former as the 'digital daze'. It's that 'glazed over' look that your child's eyes gets when completely enthralled in a digital activity that has taken your precious cherub's brain (and subsequently, ears) captive.

Below are a few ideas that can engage your child in digital learning rather than getting trapped in a digital daze.

Digital Daze

Digital Learning

Playing Video Games4

Reconnect with loved ones far away. Take a moment to use your computer to allow your child to communicate with friends and family that they rarely see. There are many ways to accomplish this goal, but for now let me introduce you to Skype. Skype is a program that with the use of your computer’s web cam and microphone, grandma that lives across the country can see your child’s toothless smile and hear all about the dollar that the tooth fairy left without leaving the comfort of your homes.

Listening to an iPod4

Children love to explore with language and tend to be natural performers. Encourage your child to make up their own song and use your iPod’s voice recorder to create a one of a kind musical masterpiece. In guiding your child to become the creator of their own song, you are supporting their independence, creativity, self-esteem, as well as strengthening their oral language skills.

Watching Television4

Make a podcast! How many pieces of art do you have on your refrigerator? I am positive that each one tells a different story. Your child does not yet have the ability to express their thoughts in written words, but don’t let that fool you, they still have a story to tell. Take digital pictures of your child’s artwork and audio record them telling their story. You can use programs such as Windows Movie Maker or Apple’s iMovie to combine your child’s art and narrative to design their own movie!

Online Gaming 4

As a parent, it is our role to determine which online games are developmentally appropriate and foster an atmosphere of learning. Below are a few links as examples to get you started on your quest for finding quality learning games.


This is Daniel Cook


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Peep and the Big Wide World