Family Fun!

Family engagement is important in any preschool. Teachers and parents have to work together in order for the children to get the most out of early childhood education. When teachers and families work together it benefits the child greatly. It is also fun to get families involved and have everyone come together to show their support.

Reading Logs

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We encourage our families to read at home together by sending home reading logs and doing a classroom/school competition. This year we are seeing which classroom can read the most books by the end of 2018, and then again by the end of the school year (June, 2019). Each classroom is keeping track of their reading logs and how many books each child is reading. At the end of the school year we will see which child has read the most books. The classroom that wins will get something for their class, and the child that wins will be given a new book. The children are excited to turn in each reading log and that helps keep the parents excited, too.

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Family Nights

Another way we encourage families to get together is by hosting family nights. This year we are hosting family night once per quarter. It is an hour long, and something fun is planned each family night. Some family nights we have done in the past include game night, a picnic in the park, a scavenger hunt with pizza for dinner, and a picnic at the fountains downtown. Family nights are always fun and it gives the families an opportunity to meet with each other, and put a face to the name their child might always be mentioning. Family nights are a great way to encourage family engagement and bring everyone together.

Conferences

Our teachers try to make themselves available at drop-off and pick-up, but sometimes that just isn’t enough time to have a full conversation with a parent regarding their child. We try to set aside one day in the fall for Parent-Teacher conferences and then by appointment in the Spring, especially for our Pre-K children, after we have completed their Child Progress Monitoring Reports from Mother Goose Time. This is a great time for parents to hear how well their child is doing, and the things they are working on. It is also good for the teachers to learn more about the child from the parent’s perspective.

Fundraising

Finances for Early Childhood programs struggle like all educational programs and it is hard to ask parents for more than they are already paying. Let’s face it, childcare isn’t cheap, but neither are quality teachers and outstanding curriculum. We are so thankful to be part of the Blogger Program with Mother Goose Time to not only share the amazing things this curriculum has to offer in the classroom, but also to help us lower the cost to a point where it is possible for our program.

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To offset the costs, we have done some fundraising this Fall and will have a new set of options for the Spring. These extra funds help us do field trips, purchase new materials/toys/supplies, and allow for a tiny buffer for our budget.

Many local restaurants offer Dine-out Fundraising options. It is a fun and easy way to raise money and to see all the families go out to dinner together.

The Benefit App is a great way for families to contribute with minimal effort and no extra expense. All they have to do is download the app on their mobile device.  They can connect Credit or Debit cards through the app. Then when they shop at any participating retailer, they simply select what payment method they would like to use, and purchase an e-gift card for the exact amount to be used right then. They can also purchase these “gift cards” for places they frequent, to be used as payment anytime. A percentage of every purchase comes right back to our school.

Our final fundraiser for the fall was “Cards for a Cause” through Usborne books. Find a local Usborne consultant to set up your fundraiser. These box sets of cards for all occasions are very nice and our families were excited about them. They sold for $30 each and $13 of that came right back to our school!

HiMama

This program is by far our favorite way to engage parents! We use HiMama to help us communicate with parents. They get daily reports filled with pictures, and all the details of the day including what they had for snack. The reports can also include the child’s mood, how long they napped, and any supplies that they may need, any health issues, etc.. The reports automatically get emailed to the parents every night. Several parents use the reports to talk to their children about their day. The children love looking at the pictures from the day and telling their parents about what they did. One parent said that sometimes her child explains what they did exactly how it is written in the report (yes, they really do listen!) and for those that say they cannot remember what they did, the report is there to show the parents exactly what their child did for the day. HiMama also allows us to keep track of where the children are checked in to (classroom, playground, bathroom, etc.) which helps us keep track of ratios.

We use HiMama to send important emails to an individual, class, or the whole center. The parents can email their child’s classroom directly making for a great way to communicate because sometimes we do not catch them at drop off or pick up due to busy schedules. Parents can check in throughout the day to see pictures that may have been posted. We have the menu posted for parents to view so that they know what their children are eating. The calendar for the year is also posted, allowing for parents to keep track of any important things coming up. We have been very happy with HiMama, and so have our families!

 

 

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Trading Spaces

Sharing isn’t just for the children, but our entire center! We share our learning space with a church, which works out nicely due to zoning requirements, bathrooms, access to a kitchen, and an outdoor space (state requirements). The downside is that every single Friday our classroom supplies, furniture, etc. has to be converted for the church’s use on the weekends and every Sunday afternoon, after church, we have to set it all up again. Our weekends are very short, and our time together on Fridays feels like it is mostly spent cleaning and tearing things down. It is challenging for us to meet the church’s expectations, and them to meet ours, with all the shifting that takes place, but we try our best!

We have had to get creative with what we have in our classrooms, as most of it has to be light weight and movable. The church actually only has two preexisting classrooms, which worked great when we first started our program in this location in 2014. However, our center has now grown to five classrooms and we are quickly maxing out our space. The two existing classrooms are occupied by our Infants and Wobblers. Everything in our Wobbler classroom has to be moved to the back of the room, or taken to the Infant room for the weekend. The infant classroom is unusable on the weekends due to the cribs, high chairs, rolling carts, etc. that have to be stored there to get the Wobbler room cleared.

Our Preschool and Pre-K classrooms share one big room, with dividers down the middle to make a ‘wall’ and two ‘separate’ classrooms. It can get interesting when two busy classrooms are sharing one open room. On the weekends, this space is part of the sanctuary/fellowship space.

Our toddler classroom is another classroom that has to completely disappear on Friday’s, since they are located in the foyer of the church.

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Empty foyer- Toddler class space

We are limited in space to what we can hang up, and at the end of the week it has to be taken down. We try to keep things we hang on the walls under the level of the room dividers, or attached to them as much as possible. We also rotate bulletin boards- hang ours during the week and trade for theirs on the weekend.41990641_10155859518756527_1029582555105460224_n It gets tricky when you want to display a fun art project that your class worked hard on. We can hang it up for the week, but then we have to try to take it down without any damage and hang it again the next week.

We are thankful for the space we have to do this work and we appreciate the church’s willingness to accommodate us. However, this is an extraordinary amount of work that we do twice a week to keep our program running. The teachers are mostly responsible for putting things away on Fridays and we do have a couple of parents who volunteer to help set up on Sundays, but mostly it is up to the directors to make sure it all gets done.

We are always on the lookout for other options where we could leave our classrooms clean and set up over the weekend, but when it comes to a different building, we struggle with zoning requirements or rental/real estate costs. Every option that sounds great is not zoned correctly, and would cost a pretty penny to try and get it rezoned. Seeing as the demand for quality childcare programs is so high in our town, a logical explanation is it is just too difficult or costly for these programs to exist. 

It takes a lot to run a childcare center, and cutting our weekends short and spending most of Friday packing everything up once again proves that we really do love what we do. We are so thankful for Mother Goose Time and the ease of the program because not only are we attentive to the curriculum, the needs of the children and the requirements of the state, but there are a lot of things spinning behind the scenes. These little children and their families are so worth it, and this work is not for the faint of heart!