Answer 3 of the following Questions
- How can we authentically involve family and community members in the early childhood context?
- In what ways can we involve families who are not able to be present in the classroom?
- In what ways can we learn more about a child’s home experiences and their funds of knowledge?
- Discuss ways to build a child’s funds of identity.
- Discuss ways we can further connect children to the historical experiences of their surrounding communities.
Reflect on 3 of the following questions as you complete the required readings for this week.
· How can we authentically involve family and community members in the early childhood context?
· In what ways can we involve families who are not able to be present in the classroom?
· In what ways can we learn more about a child’s home experiences and their funds of knowledge?
· Discuss ways to build a child’s funds of identity.
· Discuss ways we can further connect children to the historical experiences of their surrounding communities.
Theme Five: Home-School-Community Connections
· To understand the significant role young children play in their own development and construction of learning
· To explore how community members can be involved in meaningful and authentic ways in early childhood contexts
· To think about the role of documentation and learning stories in enhancing home and school connections
Key concepts to pay attention to:
· Funds of Knowledge
· Funds of Identity
Module 5 Introduction
Like any form of community, a community in an early childhood setting doesn’t just happen – people actively make it happen
We can never think of the child in the abstract. When we think about a child, we need to remember that he or she is already tightly connected and linked to a certain reality of the world that is comprised of a number of relationships and experiences. We cannot separate the child from a particular reality. Therefore, we must be mindful that young children bring their experiences, feelings, and relationships to school with them.
Building relationships with families is recognized as an important aspect of early childhood education (MacNaughton, 2003). Despite this fact, many facets of family involvement in early childhood remain unclear. For example, there is no agreement about the goals of family involvement, the role family members can play in the early childhood classrooms, or the ways in which families can become partners in their child’s learning.
Historically, family involvement in early childhood education was viewed from a traditional minority perspective (e.g., mothers were involved as volunteers, primarily to assist teachers with ‘tasks’). Later on fathers were invited to be involved, and more recently, siblings and extended family have been included under the umbrella of family involvement. Throughout the years family members’ roles have also significantly changed and progressed in the early childhood setting.
Strengthening the Home-School Connection
· Shifts in thinking – It is important to understand that families do not need ‘fixing’ (Hill, Stremmel, & Fu, 2005), and instead need to be recognized for the rich knowledge and strengths they bring to the early childhood classroom. MacNaughton (2003) posits that early childhood educators need to think differently about their relationships with families. Instead of transmitting knowledge and information to parents, educators and families need to dialogue with each other about the children, including discussing the children’s interests and out-of-school lived experiences.
· Environment – Early learning environments provide families with messages about the value educators place on children’s knowledge, abilities, and creativity in the early childhood setting.
· Collaborative projects – A practical way to invite families to take part in their child’s early learning experience is to embark on collaborative projects that involve teachers, children, and family members in researching and learning together about a topic that they have identified as important.
· Documentation – We will explore the practice of documentation as a valuable component of the negotiated curriculum (see module seven). However, documentation – the sharing of children’s learning experiences through text and images posted on panels and displays can also play a significant role in strengthening home-school relations.
5.1 Funds of Knowledge
At the beginning of the course, we discussed the importance of constructing a rich image of the child. This thinking also needs to extend to our ‘image of the family’. Our relationships with children change dramatically when we view families as resourceful and capable, similarly, the quality of our relationships with families change when we view families as valuable partners and co-constructors of knowledge and meaning. A ‘funds of knowledge’ concept (Moll & Greenberg, 1990), as discussed by Kirova et al. (2019) in our readings for this week, recognized the importance of the knowledge and skills found in children’s households. By valuing, respecting, and capitalizing on children’s social and cultural household and community knowledge we can, as teachers, organize our everyday teaching pedagogy in a way that far exceeds in quality the rote-like instruction that children commonly encounter in school.
Following is an excerpt from an interview with Amelia Gambetti, coordinator of Reggio Children. In this article, she discussed the value of documentation for parents (from: Including Parents in the Process of Documentation: A Dialogue with the Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education):
Q: How does documentation help to enhance the relationships among children, educators and families?
A: Among many other things, documentation is also about leaving traces, about giving visibility to actions, and about being committed to dialogue and sharing. Families can see what their child is doing on an individual basis, and in collaboration with other children in the classroom. If parents become curious and interested, they become more skillful in posing questions, seeking answers and beginning to give answers themselves. I believe that if this process takes place with the support of educators, then everyone will feels like they are a valued part of a ‘community of learners’.
Q: How does documentation, as a process of listening, further the dialogue about education?
A: If parents feel that they are listened to, they will enter into reciprocal relationships with educators. The listening becomes active and not passive, producing debate, exchange, and the sharing of ideas. Listening to parents also produces an attitude of being in a situation of permanent research that gives more value to educators’ actions, more motivation to their work, and more possibilities and opportunities to continue to think about and study. This collaborative process thereby enables parents to become valued contributors to the early childhood classroom.
5.3 Family Involvement
Photography Exhibit & Cookie Festival
The following narrative outlines a project that occurred in an early childhood classroom involving the process of documentation and demonstrates including families in programming choices. This project combined digital technology, ‘student voice’ in curriculum development, and revealed the significant role popular culture, and relationships with family members and pets, played in three and four-year-old children’s out-of-school lives.
Throughout the educators eleven years of teaching, they always taught in inner-city public schools. Part of their practice included visiting their three and four-year old students in their homes three times a year – in the beginning of September, mid-year, and at the end of June. The purpose of these visits was to learn more about the student’s out-of-school lives, and to develop strong ties with the children’s family members. During these home visits, the educator noticed the value of photographs in the students’ homes, and they began to think about how they could include digital photography in their early childhood pedagogy. They also realized that many of these photographs were taken by adults, which led them to contemplate how their young students could be given access to their ‘own’ digital camera to document their world.
At school, the educator often took photographs of the students as they engaged in play. These photographs were included in documentation panels, and in personalized books that were created for each child at the end of the year. All of the children were very interested in the digital camera, and loved seeing their image on the screen of the camera. Due to their interest in photography, the educator encouraged the children to use the digital camera in the classroom to take photographs of their artwork and different projects in the classroom.
The children’s continued interest in documenting their lives and projects in the classroom motivated the educator to ask the children if they would like to take our classroom digital camera home – to document the people, toys, or other objects that were important to them. * It is important to mention that the educator had been teaching at the school for five years, and had been a teacher in the community for over a decade. She was therefore very familiar with the community and the families. She had taught many of my students’ older siblings, and had known many of the students in the classroom since they were born. As a result, a level of trust had been developed with many of the families. The educator also informed the parents that the intent of this project was to learn more about their children’s lives and interests, in the hopes that this information could be interwoven in the early childhood classroom.*
Sixteen children were in the classroom, and each week a different child took home the camera (which was placed in a Ziploc bag, along with two extra batteries, and a note for their family members about the importance of letting their child take his or her own photographs). Every week the educator uploaded the student’s photographs onto the classroom laptop computer. As the educator and students looked at the photographs, each student would tell about the photographs, and at times provide detailed descriptions of the images. These sessions were videotaped, and occasionally during the taping, other children would stop their play to come over and look at one of their classmate’s photos, and then happily return to their play. This occurred every week over a period of four months.
Each child took anywhere from 32 to 176 images, and then chose their favourite photograph to include in a Photography Exhibit and Cookie Festival (the Cookie Festival was the children’s idea) in mid-June. The children looked though numerous cookbooks with photographs of cookies to decide which ones they wanted to bake from scratch. The class made over 600 cookies; enough to feed their class, their family members, and the rest of the students in the school.
Many of the photographs taken by the children in this project centered on their interest in digital technology and popular culture, particularly their engagement with popular culture websites on the internet. The importance of siblings and pets in their worlds was also evident in their photographs. Throughout the project, these recurring narratives were addressed and woven into the classroom context.
5.4 Community Involvement
It is not only essential to consider the child’s home and the knowledge the child gains within this primary learning environment, but to also connect children to their surrounding community. A community-centered/sociocultural perspective is an important part of early childhood programs. This perspective has evolved due to the growing recognition of the role of community in children’s development, greater awareness of the embeddedness of young children’s learning in the contexts of their community, and an increased respect for a community’s culture and diversity. From this perspective, relationships with community members can become a key component in the early childhood programs.
The following narrative outlines another learning experience that occurred in an early childhood classroom. During that year, a local Aboriginal Elder was invited into the classroom to share her knowledge, and play with the children. The Elder visited the classroom on a bi-weekly basis, and often drew on the mode of storytelling to make connections with the children. The Elder shared stories about her own childhood, which resonated deeply with the preschool children in my classroom. For example, the Aboriginal Elder shared stories about baking and cooking with her grandparents, and playing outdoors with her siblings. She also shared traditional Cree stories centered on respecting your elders, listening to your parents, and sharing with your siblings.
Required Readings Module Five
· Kirova, A., Prochner, L. W., & Massing, C. (2020). Chapter Two: Children are Citizens. In Learning to teach young children: theoretical perspectives and implications for practice. Bloomsbury Academic.
· Kirova, A., Prochner, L. W., & Massing, C. (2020). Chapter Three: Children, Communities and Cultures. In Learning to teach young children: theoretical perspectives and implications for practice. Bloomsbury Academic.