Learning and development don’t begin when children enroll in early education or kindergarten, and they don’t stop when children leave the classroom at the end of every day.
Families need relevant, clear information about the science of development and whole-learner approaches so that they can help inform and develop locally contextualized, relevant approaches, and be well-informed partners at all stages of development—beginning at birth.
Embed whole-learner approaches in prenatal care and home visiting programs.
The skills children acquire between birth and age 3 become the foundation for future learning,16 and families are often the primary drivers of formative developmental experiences during these years.
Incentivize holistic development in home visiting.
- Incorporate holistic child development and whole-learner approaches, specifically play-based approaches, into prenatal and home visiting programs. Modeling these approaches and providing hands-on experiences for families can provide valuable insights into the link between play and learning, increase their awareness of the dynamic potential they hold as key partners in their child’s development, and provide helpful tools to foster active engagement with young children.
Recognize parents and caregivers as full educational partners.
Throughout a child’s developmental journey, parents and caregivers represent powerful partners in the reinforcement and expansion of whole-learner concepts. Parents and caregivers are the experts on their children and are uniquely equipped to provide engaging, learner-directed experiences at home. States, districts, and schools should engage parents and caregivers as full educational partners to expand the reach of rich instructional experiences and amplify opportunities for joyful, engaging, and meaningful experiences that generate positive learning outcomes.
Investment in staffing dedicated to ongoing, culturally competent family engagement—over the full course of a child’s educational journey—can provide enormously valuable information to guide the development and implementation of the most effective family engagement strategies, tailored to particular communities. The more parents are intentionally and effectively engaged, the more able they are to create positive feedback loops for child-centered information, to support educators, and to advance positive learning outcomes for their children.
Implement school policies that recognize parents and caregivers as full educational partners, including sharing information on evidence-based practices to support in-school learning at home; providing data in easily accessible, digestible, and culturally relevant formats; and engaging parents in school-based decision-making.
- Increase the ESEA Title I parent engagement set-aside to expand district capacity to support schools in engaging and supporting parents, particularly in school-based decision-making; sharing best practices; and modeling high-quality whole-learner approaches with their children.
Co-locate parent, child, and educator activities and supports.
While parents and caregivers can be powerful partners in the expansion and amplification of whole-learner concepts, many families—especially low-income families—already find time and resources stretched to the breaking point. Information, education, and engagement opportunities have diminished utility and impact when families are unable to afford food, housing, child care, or medical care. Without basic family necessities, disparate outcomes for children widen and cycles of poverty become more entrenched.
Explore innovative solutions in order to increase parent accessibility and engagement.
- Expand funding for community schools, community centers, and aftercare facilities to support the co-location of critical services like child care and medical care with opportunities for parents and caregivers to learn about and experience whole-learner approaches and to explore how they can lift up the concepts at home. This should include creating financial incentives for developers to consider co-locating services at the front end of building design, and rewarding those who sustain service providers as occupants within their buildings. Co-location of essential services will meaningfully decrease the burden on families and allow more parents and caregivers to be actively involved in their children’s education, without sacrificing their other critical responsibilities; and
- Expand the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program to include a priority to evaluate and disseminate best practices for on-site co-location of services to enhance parent engagement and activate parents as partners in learning.
16 Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2016). 8 Things to Remember about Child Development. Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu.