Essential Tips: School Skills for Families

Partnering with Parents for School Readiness

What is the most important thing that we want our children to remember about their school days? Is it following too many rules? Being told what to do? Testing, testing, testing? Of course not! And when we think about our own days at school, we remember more personal and experiential events – rather than test answers or when to raise our hands. Support for our children and their families as they enter their educational journey is an awesome and important reality for Head Start programs. How to make that successful requires thought and intention on our part. Consider these things:

Tip #1:  Developmental language may be new to families.

Not every family understands child development. They may not realize how the ages and stages of children relate to school success. Displaying newsletters, classroom notes and posters in a Family Service Worker’s office will provide your families with ongoing information about their children’s growth. Discuss their own child’s specific development at conferences or home visits. Talk with parents about what is typical and address any questions they have. Follow up with ways to encourage developmental stages with home supplies or materials as a great home-school connection.

Tip #2:  Publicize the great things that go on every day in your program!

Offer a training or parent event on the important skills that children are learning. Detail the sets of important skills –  social/emotional, gross and fine motor, cognitive and transitional – and give families a way to see their child as others do. We often slip “eduspeak” into our conversation. While it’s helpful to clarify terms, avoid it when possible. By giving parents an understanding of educational terms and phrases, we provide them with talking points for their first kindergarten parent conference and transition them into the public education sector.

Tip #3:  Start with success.

Parents have many strong supports already in place. They deserve validation and recognition for those successes. Give them an opportunity to answer questions that show how they work with their child at home: “What do you do at home to help your child be successful at school? How do you partner with your child’s teacher?” Help families understand that regular book time or a specific bed time schedule is far more valuable than any set of flashcards or purchased school skills booklet.

Working together with families for school readiness provides the most success as children move into elementary school. When families are comfortable with their role and empowered as advocates for their child, they will make an important difference throughout the school years.

Interested in staff training on working with families to promote school readiness? Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at