Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why not computer programs?

I've explained HIPPY to random strangers on planes, elevators and grocery stores; as well as decision makers in schools, legislatures and the media. My "elevator speech" goes something like this: "We provide 30 weeks of home visits to parents of 3, 4, and 5 year olds, using a weekly curriculum that the parent works on with his/her child. This prepares the child for school and helps parents understand the importance of their role as their child's first teacher."  Most of the time people get it, they have their own childhood experiences to draw from, or their experience as a parent with their own children -- reading to them daily and later helping them with homework. As technology takes such a front seat in our society, education and parenting practices, more and more people have asked me "Couldn't you get a computer program for the kids to work on?", it always shocks me a little but I try to stay calm! NO! I want to exclaim. No video, computer game or video game will ever take the place of a parent playing with or reading to his or her child! I know that our kids need to learn how to use computers, and they will!!! Many of our parents have and use their own computers and internet, but nothing can replace that one on one interaction - that's the best way a love of learning and reading will be developed and handed down from one generation to the next. I saw an interesting website by an advocacy group trying to reduce the effects of corporate marketing on our children. I found it interesting because it relates to the fact that children spend more time in front of the TV and computer than ever before, and often this means less time with their parents. This makes that one on one time reading together, playing, singing, talking that much more precious and important!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Home Visitation in the National Spotlight

Children's gifts distributed to Dallas HIPPY family (mom in red, remainder is Dallas and Texas HIPPY staff)

The buzz has been growing about Home Visitation with lots of things happening at the national and state levels. At the national level, home visiting was included in the controversial Health Care Reform Bill. Every state has until the end of September to conduct an assessment on the need for home visitation programming. A statewide coalition has been formed in Texas, under the leadership of the Texas Early Childhood Education Coalition. Our first act as a coalition has been to offer our support to the state as they engage in the required assessment. We are hopeful that if funding comes in from the healthcare funding, it will allow us to expand much needed services within the communities already served, and to open new communities to home visiting services. It's interesting to be discussing the basic concepts of home visiting now, in my 22nd year in the field! For example, is home visiting a program model or a methodology? Can it be effective as a stand alone activity or does it need to be embedded into an overall strategy?

Texas HIPPY program coordinators would tell you that once you enter a family home, even though you may be there for educational purposes, all sorts of social, psychological and financial hardships are revealed, and program staff must be well versed in community resources and how to refer families to receive help. All of our programs have developed a strong network of partnerships that help families who are faced with a myriad of problems, including developmental disabilities in children; lack of basic resources such as utilities and food; and family crisis issues such as violence, depression and legal problems.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blue Print for Education Starts in Kindergarten

There's a big push going on right now to try to convince the Administration to include pre-K in the new Blueprint for Education--the education reform initiative. It seems only logical to include pre-school in the education plans for our country. We know beyond a shadow of doubt that the "home" is the greatest influence on a child's educational success. The blueprint exhorts for such improvements as better teachers and leaders in schools, equity for all students, raising the bar and promoting innovation. These are all commendable and desirable - and yet they can only take students as far as parental support, knowledge and participation will allow. Most preschool education happens in the home, especially with Latino parents, who represent the most rapidly growing sector of the school population. Begin with parents and better student outcomes will follow.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Serving Latino Youngsters

HIPPY Irving "graduate"

"States have a long way to go to develop early learning programs that are responsive to the needs of Latino and English language learner children and families," findings from a recent white paper by the The National Council of La Raza. One of the strengths of HIPPY has always been the Spanish language curriculum which allows parents to work with their children in their native language. Research by the Southern Education Development Laboratory: SEDL found that Latino students entered school with less competence than whites in foundational math and reading. Where 75% of white children could recognize letters while only about half of Hispanic children could do so. Our most recent evaluation results show that 83.1% of HIPPY Kindergarten students were rated overall as "ready for school" by their Kindergarten teachers across the state. Moreover, 87.7% were found to be particularly ready in the area of classroom adaptability, and 90.8% were rated as ready in terms of their classroom verbal behavior.