Families are where learning begins. Babies and young children are naturally curious, responsive and eager to explore their surroundings. Families—in all their glorious diversity and ‘not quite perfection’—are where the young child starts this journey, a lifelong path outwards from self, towards mastery and understanding.
First conversations and relationships, creativity, capacity to express joy, kindness, gratitude and all the other human emotions (as well as how to regulate them), learning whether to persevere or give up—all of these first experiences are shaped by life within family, whatever that family looks like and holds valuable. Sensitive educators and quality early learning environments support families because they amplify children’s social, emotional and cognitive development. As Anne Stonehouse reminds us, this hinges on knowing the family:
‘There is now, more than in the past, a greater understanding within the profession that in order to support children’s learning we need to know them in the context of their family, culture and community. It is difficult to imagine really knowing a child without knowing the child’s family’—Anne Stonehouse, Every Child Vol. 18 No. 1 2012.
There are strong traditions within the early childhood sector of collaborating with families, Stonehouse says, in an article that explores how partnerships with families differ from family involvement. Valuing the family’s knowledge about their child and building mutual knowledge through sharing insights an information are among her tips and suggestions.
In Families Week consider how your practice and your team recognise and respond to families, understand the family context of each child and share power with families. In National Families Week you can celebrate with us:
- Share your stories. We’d love to see your posts about the wonderful families that make up your early childhood community.
- Read this free online Every Child article by Anne Stonehouse to revisit her suggestions for focusing on families and partnerships.
- Build your team’s or your own understanding of families and the child’s community through an ECA Learning Hub module such as Partnerships with families for inclusive practice or Partnerships with communities.
- Try Raising Children Network’s factsheets, videos and resources about families, parenting and information for grandparents and kinship carers. Or read Karen Nemeth’s short blog with ten tips on grandparent’s role in families.
- Explore the National Families Week site to find resources or an event.
- Check the Early Learning: Everyone Benefits site which celebrates the collaboration between families and early childhood educators.
- Learn more and support families and parents to deepen their understanding of Families: where learning begins with this great Everyday Learning Series publication. It puts a framework around what families often do intuitively and can help strengthen specific parenting skills as well as support families to understand how they are developing and nurturing their young child.