Families, parents and carers are the child’s first teacher, they know their children the best of all. As educators, we have the honour of joining them on this journey to encourage and nurture children’s development, so close collaboration and communication is fundamental in supporting children to flourish.
The African proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ rings so true when we consider the dynamic between families, parents and carers and educators. We are all working together as a village and community to care for, nurture and educate the child’s potential by bringing something unique to the process.
Children grow up in diverse family dynamics and equally attend diverse learning environments; the child may go to a nursery, childminder, home-based educator, pre-school, primary school, have a nanny or be home schooled. Regardless of the family dynamic and educational setting, when the adults in those environments work in partnership, the child’s learning, development and abilities can blossom.
Urie Bronfenbrenner recognised the intricacies of the environment on children’s development, establishing the Ecological Systems Theory in 1979. Bronfenbrenner’s theory suggests that children develop and interact within a series of social ‘systems’. At the centre is the child and who they are as an individual, then the Microsystem; this social system is made up of the child’s family, peers, educational learning environment, place of worship, health services etc., institutions and groups that have an immediate influence and impact on a child’s knowledge and understanding of the world.
Beyond the Microsystem is the Exosystem, which includes environments, institutions and groups such as industry, social services, mass media, politics, neighbourhoods etc., that do not directly influence the child but would perhaps influence the family and consequently the child.
Outside of the Exosystem is the Macrosystem, this is the overarching culture that the child lives within, influenced by the attitudes and ideologies of specific countries and cultures.
Between the Microsystem and Exosystem lies the Mesosystem, the expression of how the groups within the Microsystem interact with each other. This is where the dynamic between families, parents and carers and educators is found. The Mesosystem recognises the importance of the relationship between key aspects of the child’s Microsystem – the home, the educational learning environment and the important adults within them.
Infograph based on Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory
This is similarly echoed in Montessori’s belief in the trilogy of ‘the child, the environment and the adult’. As these are seen as interconnected, when the adults work in collaboration this creates a strong foundation for the other two aspects; fostering a positive and enabling environment and therefore allowing the child to flourish.
Communication between the important adults in a child’s life can benefit both the child and the adult. By sharing ideas, thoughts and experiences both adults at home and adults in the educational learning environment can be kept informed on the child’s current interests, abilities or challenges. It also provides insight into the child’s unique development so that potential areas to focus on can be highlighted early on. Sharing knowledge and practice similarly encourages consistency for the child between these two important environments.
To illustrate the benefits of collaboration and communication, Montessori Network members share their experience and insight of the potential of this dynamic.
‘Building links with families, parents and carers is incredibly important for us at Bright Beginnings. It starts with the informal face-to-face conversations we have with the families, every time they drop off or pick up their child. There is a limit to how much you can say at the door. We therefore make sure we keep families sighted on how their child is developing with a daily diary to the families, as well as us writing learning stories each term. This is in addition to the starting points document. The families, parents and carers have opportunities to comment on all these.
And finally, on leaving our setting the family is provided with the child’s learning journey file and report, to provide them with memories of their child’s time with us. The collaboration between ourselves and the families, parents and carers of the children we care for means we are better able to support the child by communicating suggestions and putting into place the same interventions in the setting and at home.’
Jacqueline Daniel, Bright Beginnings Montessori Childcare
Solihull, West Midlands, England
‘I cannot emphasize enough the importance of collaboration and communication between educators and families, parents and carers.
Recently, (in fact last week) I contacted my daughters’ nursery about a concern regarding her ‘toe walking’. My daughter is 3.7 years old and is an extremely bright, independent, and capable child. To my surprise, although walking on her toes was something I’d observed and been supporting for a while, surprisingly her nursery had not noticed this habit. (As well as being a parent, I think it’s important to add that I do have substantial expertise in the early education field so from this perspective her development in this area may be something I was more observant of).
The nursery and I are now working together to ascertain if the toe walking is a habit my daughter only displays at home, in the setting or consistently in both environments as it has now got to the point where it aches her feet to go for short walks and she has to be constantly reminded to walk with ‘flat feet’. With both myself and the nursery working in a collaborative effort, I have no doubt that my daughter will reach this milestone soon.’
Anneka, Parent and Early Years Consultant
South East London/Kent, England
‘As a mother of two children educated in both a Montessori setting and a traditional one, I find the approach to communicating with families, parents and carers and offering feedback on the child’s evolution radically different. Besides rejoicing at observing how children evolve into kind, empathetic, disciplined and courageous human beings, there are two key aspects to communication between families and a Montessori setting.
In both my experience with Bloom School in Sarajevo and Monterra School of Bucharest, the schools offer training opportunities to families, parents and carers and succeed to create a group of dedicated advocates who not only rejoice at seeing their children develop as whole, kind and curious human beings but understand how it’s made. Such families become part of the success story of any Montessori school.
The other communication channel is the evaluation of the child. With its child-centered, holistic approach, non-judgmental and kind, no labels and no shaming or overpraising, the Montessori setting is treating our children in a manner we would all like to have been treated as children and adults as well.’
Mihaela Osorio, Parent
‘By enrolling a child in kindergarten, families, parents and carers and educators must become equal collaborators who will adequately respond to the individual and developmental needs of the child and provide support for their overall development.
Trust, tolerance, objective exchange of information, togetherness, and the constant pursuit of the same goal are important requirements for educators and families to be as harmonized as possible, and thus more successful in the upbringing and education of children. Harmonization of educational procedures in the family and kindergarten opens greater opportunities for a more favourable impact on the child. Good cooperation has the outcome of strengthening the child’s sense of security and self-worth. It is a valuable stimulus to the child’s development and enrichment of their personality.’
Adela Šimun, parent and educator at Ciciban Kindergarten,
Velika Gorica, Croatia
‘For me as a parent, dialogue with my child’s teacher is extremely important because she sees my child in a different environment, in a different community than I do at home in our family. Therefore, if we share our observations, we can help each other to better support my child in developing her personality and learning skills.’
Anita Romhalmi, Parent
‘Cooperation and partnership in the relationship between kindergarten and family is very important for the development of the child. Creating a safe atmosphere for the child and for the families plays an essential role in the work of the educator. Timely information, communication and support especially in the process of adaptation has proven to be something that creates a sense of interconnectedness and trust.
Cooperation with families, parents and carers can take place in several ways, such as meetings, individual conversations and daily information. In our small team we also use a virtual bulletin board. Through a virtual bulletin board that is a secure platform, families, parents and carers have insight into photos and everyday activities. Of great importance are the organization of joint trips and visits, cooperation on various projects and the organization of education for families, parents and carers and educators to use the same tools in mutual education and thus guide the child. This form of cooperation is of great importance for the child to grow into a safe and happy person. The family-kindergarten partnership creates a small community that learns and grows together respecting each other’s wishes and needs.’
Maja Rodić Škondro, Roda Kindergartern
‘I am the parent of a 3-year-old toddler. In my experience collaboration is important for building trust between the educator and families, parents and carers. If the families know what is going on with their children’s education or activities, then they can go away with peace of mind that everything is being taken care of. It also feels safe knowing that someone has your back and fights for your child’s wellbeing.
Ideas can also come from families, parents and carers who can help the educators to see things from a different point of view. The ideas may not be expressed to start with but through getting to know each other, more can be said and decided on educational matters.
Collaboration also makes you feel part of a community and if you are a working family, parent and carer, you can be assured that the educators will keep you in the know.’
Naomi Annakie, Parent
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