Last weekend's USA Weekend magazine (the one in our local Sunday paper) included an article entitled "Your A+Back-to-School Action Plan". Although it's intended for parents of children in grades K-12, it struck me that many of the suggestions would be a good annual check-up for child care providers as well.
The author, Peg Tyre, makes the following suggestions:
- "Make contact with teachers by Week 3." Hopefully, we have open lines of communication with each family. Even so, back-to-school is a good time for a refresher; check-in with your families and evaluate whether there are any families with which you don't have good communication. If so, what can you do to try to improve it?
- "Check that your child is reading at grade level." While we won't be checking for grade-level reading, this is a good time to make sure that we have some sort of system in place to monitor the development of the children in our care. (DayCareTools has Developmental Checklists available, if you don't already have this in place.)
- "Understand the importance of downtime." We wrote a blog article back in 2008 about the importance of recess in the daily schedule. Outside play time is just as important (if not more so) for young children, as is the opportunity for a lot of free choice of inside activities throughout the day.
- " Analyze test scores". In this, Tyre suggests that parents look at the overall school philosophy; are they all about test prep activities or are they focused on " helping kids understand, analyze and write about complex subjects"? Use this back-to-school time to check your own program for developmental appropriateness.
- "Stay on track for college". My first thought was to skip this tip, but we are preparing our students for college and/or careers. How? By empowering the children in our care to be self-motivated active learners; the most important skills they need to be successful in college or a career.
- "Don't trash-talk about math", or any other subject. Recent brain research reinforces what we have often told students; you can do anything you set your mind to doing. Young children are generally not afraid to try new things. We have to be careful to keep our own biases out of our programs and not squelch their enthusiasm. We have to encourage them to branch out, even if it's something outside of our own comfort zone.
- "Be part of the learning community". Look at your parent involvement calendar for the upcoming year. Do you have opportunities for parents to have conferences with your teachers; do you have some family activities involved; have you invited parents, and given them suggestions for being involved in your program?
An annual review of your program will help you stay on track. Back-to-school time can be a good reminder for that review.