MANAGEMENT OF FAMILY INVOLVEMENT IN
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
The University of Dodoma
School of Educational Studies
Department of Educational Management and Policy Studies
Management of family involvement in the early childhood education is important because early childhood years are the period during which children acquire the basic skills that serve as the foundation for later learning, and social and cognitive development. Moreover, these years are the time when families’ beliefs about their children’s abilities are shaped and when children’s own academic self-concepts begin to form. Therefore, management of family involvement in the early childhood education matters for young children’s cognitive and social development, and learning.
The ultimate goal of management at any level of education is the attainment of children’s learning and holistic children development. Therefore, early childhood education should be structured and managed in such a way that family members are involved to facilitate children’s holistic development and learning. That is, the early childhood context should be supportive and effective for family involvement in the early childhood education to enable children acquire appropriate social and cognitive skills. It should be noted that management of early childhood education is a critical issue as it involves golden age of intellectual curiosity and development of the children. Family is the major component for children growth and development in all aspects it interacts with children throughout their life.
The research studies link effective family involvement in early childhood education with good children’s outcomes. Children’s outcomes are likely to include social competence, cognitive development, communication skills, literacy development, vocabulary growth, expressive language, comprehension skills and positive engagement with peers, adults, and learning
Therefore, this work supports the ideas that decision to invest in family support and education services is an effective way to promote early childhood learning. Family needs strong support and education programs that improve their involvement in children's early learning experiences at home and that connect families to important community services. In addition, these efforts also require that schools are ready to meet each child's needs and continue to maximize opportunities to engage families in their children's education and well-being in preschools and beyond.
Importance of Early Childhood Education
Literature evidence indicates that quality early childhood education in general benefits all children regardless their ability and background. Calman and Tarr-Whelan (2005) assert that quality early education benefits children of all social and economic groups. And the impact of quality in ECCE appears to be important for children from all backgrounds, but particularly for the least advantaged (UNESCO, 2005) and the benefits of good quality early childhood education programmes are likely to be of greater importance for the vulnerable and disadvantaged than for others (UNESCO, 2007). According to Calman and Tarr-Whelan (2005), the children who receive quality early education arrive at school ready to learn and they do better in school and thus, the return on public investment in high quality childhood education is substantial. Yet, the majority of children in developing countries do not have access to quality early childhood programmes (Bartlett, 2010).
Early childhood is the most critical period of an individual’s lifetime and a time for developing the capacity to regulate emotions, forming bonds in relationships and exploring one's environment. It is during this time, a child’s environment can significantly impact her cognitive, social, emotional and physical development (Keefer, 2010). Primary tasks during this time are centered on establishing trust and security in the world (Nichols, 2010). It is the responsibility of parents in families and caregivers to provide young children the necessary support for healthy development during this critical time of early childhood (Nichols, 2010).
Harvard Family Research Project (HRFP) (2006) informs that for young children to be successful from birth through adolescence there must be an array of learning supports around them. These supports among others include families, early childhood programmes, schools, out-of-school time programmes and activities, and health and social services agencies. Actually, family support is of very significant as any early learning starts at family level. It should be noted that parents particularly mothers at family level are the first educators of their children in early ages. Therefore, family involvement in early childhood education is an undeniable reality.
Quality early childhood learning and care have been shown to promote physical, language and motor skills; and social, emotional and cognitive development (Mustard and Picherack, 2002). Families’ involvement in early childhood learning and care is essential to meeting early childhood development, learning and care goals. Families have the primary responsibility for the care and supports that promote healthy development, provide opportunities for interaction and play help prepare children for school and respond to the diverse and changing needs of families.
Family Involvement in Early Childhood Education
Dearing et al. (2007) assert that family involvement in schools is a means of improving the achievement of children living in low-income families, especially those who face the additional challenge of low parent education. In light of their findings, they recommend that schools view family involvement over the long term, ideally creating an educational environment that increases the involvement of families who are less involved and that helps sustain that involvement across elementary school. Families' involvement in children's education takes a variety of forms, including involvement in the home (e.g., help with homework), involvement in the school (e.g., attending open houses), parent–teacher communication, and parent-to-parent communication (Dearing et al., 2007).
Dearing et al. (2007), in their research, indicate that increases in family involvement in the school predict increases in literacy achievement. They also indicate that family involvement in school matters most for children at greatest risk. They insist that in their research high levels of family involvement were most strongly and positively associated with the literacy achievement of children whose families were low-income and whose mothers had very low levels of education.
Traditionally, in many societies, early childhood education is considered the responsibility of the family. Substantial research supports family involvement, and a growing body of intervention evaluations demonstrates that family involvement can be strengthened with positive results for young children and their school readiness (HRFP, 2006). To achieve these, according to HFRP (2006), it is necessary to match children’s developmental needs, parents’ attitudes and practices, and early childhood programmes’ expectations and support of family involvement. Weiss, Caspe, and Lopez (2006) assert that three family involvement processes support positive outcomes for children. These processes include parenting which involves quality parent/child relationships, parental participation in child- centered activities, home-school relationships which involves communication, frequency of contact between the parents and the school, participation in activities, and responsibility for learning outcomes which emphasizes activities at home that support school success, supporting literacy at home, everyday parent-child conversations.
Complementary Learning in Early Childhood Education
It should be noted that families (parents) involvement in early childhood education is connected to the concept of complementary learning. Complimentary learning emphasizes the linkages-such as those among the home, early childhood setting, and school-that work toward consistent learning and developmental outcomes for children (HFRP, 2006). Children need multiple opportunities to learn and grow - at home, in school, and in the community. According to HFRP (2008), complementary learning is a comprehensive strategy for addressing all of these needs and ensuring success for all children and youth. Complementary learning is the idea that a systemic approach—which intentionally integrates both school and nonschool supports - can better ensure that all children have the skills they need to succeed.
A complementary learning approach provides and aligns effective schools, supportive families and opportunities for family engagement, early childhood programs, health and social services, out-of-school time activities (including sports, arts, and mentoring programs), and community-based and cultural institutions (HFRP, 2008). Contrarily to traditional programmes, complementary learning systems assure learning supports are intentionally connected. Complementary learning systems, according to HFRP (2008), align resources to maximize efficiency, create a web of opportunity so that no child falls through the cracks provide disadvantaged children enriching opportunities that are the norm for middle class children, and promote success from birth through adolescence so that all children are ready to enter school and ready to exit.