Confession: right after I had my daughter, Makena, four years, four months, and eight days ago, I was a complete mess. Literally. I went from an uneventful (though high-risk) pregnancy at age 37 to a near-catastrophic delivery that ended with an emergency cesarean section. Because of my complications during birth, the doctor ensured I had around-the-clock support and attention for five days—support with sleeping, feeding, eating. You name it, I had it. Then, on a beautiful Friday morning in July, it was time to leave. I couldn’t believe they were going to let me walk out of the hospital, unsupervised, with my new baby. Yet there we were, getting in the car, and I didn’t even know how to put her in the car seat!
For what seemed like hours, I just stared at her and the car seat while my brain was saying, “What’s your problem? You’ve done this so many times before;” and that was right. I became an aunt at age 16 and had helped raise (to varying degrees) 14 nieces and nephews before Makena was born. I have installed car seats and secured babies in car seats more times than I can count. But there I was, a new mom going home with her baby, and I couldn’t figure out the five-point harness to save my life.
I share my embarrassing but true story because in that vulnerable moment my understanding of the instrumental role of parent and family engagement deepened, providing insight I had never gotten from my child development classes or prior work experiences. Every day, mothers, fathers, grandparents, and all the other family members who help children enter the world with hope and love find themselves in similarly vulnerable positions. They, too, are facing the unknown and need support and encouragement as they foster their children’s development.
Many early learning programs support parents and families by using curricula designed to do so. In my previous experiences as a State administrator and as a Head Start State Collaboration Office Director, I learned about many of these curricula and I found most of them have something in common: they present a two-pronged (at least) approach to the curriculum—content created specifically for families and content created for practitioners working with families. You can check out a database of different types of parenting curricula on the Office of Head Start’s (OHS) Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center (ECLKC) website.
A recent addition to the research-based parenting curricula collected and cataloged by the OHS is ReadyRosie™—a relatively new partner of Teaching Strategies. The mission of ReadyRosie™ is to equip and inspire schools and families to work easily together to change the lives and trajectories of children.
As someone familiar with the wide range of parenting curricula, what I find especially wonderful and unique about ReadyRosie™ is the thoughtfulness and intentionality they demonstrate in supporting families by focusing on showing rather than telling.
For example, ReadyRosie™ believes an approach that combines at-home learning by sending rich parenting content home and interactive, in-person learning by encouraging families to participate in workshops best enables those families to most effectively practice parenting skills, both in the comfort of their homes and with peers. So, their two-prong approach includes workshops that are 1-1.5 hours in length, providing participants opportunities to practice parenting skills, and, in addition, offers thousands of easily accessible Modeled Moment videos. Modeled Moment videos are designed by ReadyRosie™ to demonstrate fun, easy activities that families can do at home and on the go to strengthen bonds and build on classroom learning. The videos are two-minute clips of real families in real environments, filmed in both English and Spanish, delivered to families via text or email. Click here for a sample video clip. In addition to the Modeled Moments videos that families can access at home, ReadyRosie™ has compiled a series of short family workshops titled “Give Me Ten.’” These 10-minute workshops serve as additional resources to connect with families during open house, meet-the-teacher, or family conference events.
ReadyRosie™’s focus on demonstrating what is being taught really appeals to me. Remember my story about the time I couldn’t figure out how to strap my newborn into her car seat? Well, a week after taking Makena home, I had to take her for a check-up at the doctor’s office. It was the first time we were leaving the house and I had to put her in the car seat again. I still did not quite know how to do it. I put her in the car seat, took a picture, and sent it to one of my sisters to ask what I was doing wrong. See, as a new mom who was “mom-ing” without her own mom (my mom died when I was in my early teens) and living in a state without any extended family, I was seeking help from a trusted source with whom I felt I could be vulnerable. I did so from the privacy and comfort of my home, away from others’ watching eyes. I think ReadyRosie™’s Modeled Moments offer families that same kind of comfort, and that’s why I think they can take any parenting and family engagement effort to a deeper, more meaningful level.