New Ways to Approach School Readiness in Home Visiting

Amanda Bryans

By Patty Marickovich and Amanda Bryans

It’s been a series of dreary days in Washington, DC. As we watch the steady, heavy downpour of cold springtime rain from the Head Start office, our discussion drifts to how the home visitors are doing in our community. They are out in this soaking weather, visiting families and honoring their work of building partnerships with each parent who invites them into their homes. They are out there providing the essential comprehensive services that are the foundation of school readiness.

Yes, home visiting does provide school readiness, and has since Head Start began in 1965. We are certain that each of our nation's 7,445 home visitors could name the five central domains of early learning because every element is essential for school and long-term success:

  1. Language and Literacy
  2. Cognition
  3. Approaches to Learning
  4. Physical Health and Motor Development
  5. Social and Emotional Development

Two adults play with a child and large ball

What comes to mind when you hear those two essential words: school readiness? Home visitors work with the families in many ways to achieve that readiness—helping set goals with parents, making sure the child is eating well and growing up healthy, and teaching parents how to build their child's brain. These comprehensive services unfurl the child's development and the family’s network of support. It is important to think about each family's progress and what we hope to accomplish in partnership with parents.

Children have a way of enriching us as a family, in our professions, and as human beings. There are principles that underpin how parents and home visitors approach the development of their children. The key principles are:

  1. Listen to what each child communicates to discern individual needs, emerging skills, and interests as they grow.
  2. Empower parents during every home visit, especially when reflecting together during joint planning times to ensure progress. Planning ahead for the next home visit or socialization results in a fuller experience for everyone, especially the children.
  3. The daily growth of each child is a source of great joy.
  4. We are charged with an awesome responsibility to prepare children for their road along life's path. The future is wide open; children, parents, and home visitors can dream boldly!

Two adults hold two children on a couch in a vintage photo

There are many resources available in the area of home visiting. The Home-Based Program Option portal on the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge (ECLKC) website offers a great opportunity to reflect on whether your program's home visiting school readiness services are as intentional as they could be. Look there to find resources to support home visitors' work with children and families.

Likewise, OpenDoors is an interactive tool for home visitors, their supervisors, directors, and others.

We all have a role to play. This portal offers a conduit to supporting healthy parent and child relationships, another cornerstone of school readiness. We hope that you take the time to explore this new portal and discover fresh ways to assure school readiness success for every child entrusted to us.

By the way, please be assured that our conversations drift to our 7,445 home visitors on days when the weather is favorable and sunny, too!

Patty Marickovich is the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Coordinator for the Office of Head Start, and Amanda Bryans is the Education and Comprehensive Services Division Director for the Office of Head Start.