Family Connections offers the only tuition free cooperative preschool program for children and parents in San Mateo County exclusively dedicated to low income families. Students and their parent or guardian attend class together in a unique parent participation setting where both the parent and child receive education: children receive preschool curriculum and parents gain training on basic parenting and leadership skills. Students attend two or three times a week from newborn to five years old.
Curriculum and Goals
At Family Connections, we believe that the best education for preschool children will result from an active partnership among parents, teachers and children.
In our program, qualified bilingual teachers focus on developing a passion for books and for going to school, teaching children to work in groups and resolve conflicts, while practicing gross and fine motor skills. Mothers, fathers and guardians also participate in the classroom in a vital role designed to enhance their understanding of their child and improve their parenting and leadership skills. Parents work alongside credentialed teachers, attend parent education inside and outside of the classroom as well as help with special projects throughout the year. Additionally, parents develop the habit of being involved in their children’s education from the start which we believe is critical to helping them guide and support their children throughout their elementary education.
Family Connections utilizes a developmental curriculum in its classrooms. Our goal at is to give every child the opportunity to be a successful learner when they begin Kindergarten. Before coming to Family Connections, most of our students have had little experience playing with other children their age or separating from their parent/guardian. A part of each class is devoted to promoting cooperation among participants in group activities such as playing with the parachute, group games, story time, and singing together.
During class, children and their parents experience a variety of educationally enriching activities including art projects, dramatic play, outdoor play, and exploring educational toys. Within the cooperative classroom, Family Connections teachers can directly focus on art, science, music, and other projects, often drawing on the talents of parents. Students also work on developing large and fine motor skills through hands-on projects.
Family Connections has a Kindergarten readiness program for the 4 year olds about to transition to Kindergarten. Students learn how to sit and participate during circle time, listen to stories, share supplies while making art projects, and separate from their parents during group discussions. Children take activities home to work on with their parents, reinforcing the skills they will need to succeed in Kindergarten.
Family Connections is unique in that it requires the involvement of parents or guardians inside the classroom with their children. Our goal is to help parents gain important parenting skills as well as guide them in developing leadership skills that will make them more effective advocates of their children’s education when they enter elementary school.
Our parent curriculum is two fold: Parent Education and Parent Leadership.
At Family Connections parents attend weekly parent education workshops taught by our teachers who have a minimum of 24 units of Early Childhood Education (ECE) college coursework and have California State Adult Education Credentials. Although parenting classes cover a variety of parenting topics (child development, nutrition, social skills, kindergarten readiness, literacy, etc.), our primary focus is on positive discipline. Many parents who first come to our school feel frustrated about their children's behavior, and they are looking for more effective approaches to discipline.
Because our families are 100% low income, our program would not be successful unless we first addressed the basic needs of the family that extend beyond class work and often inhibit these families from being able to focus on education. We provide help to our families with a wide range of personal needs, including clothing and food, domestic violence prevention, mental health counseling, health insurance and transportation. We partner with a number of service organizations who help our families inside and outside of the classroom.
We believe parents have an innate ability to advocate for their children. To help parents further develop these skills, we give them opportunities to become leaders in their school -- Family Connections. Parents are asked to participate in a variety of ways that are matched to their interest level and abilities. Some parents organize special projects or school outings. Other parents are asked to speak at Family Connections events, participate in focus groups, recruit families, or even serve on our Board.
Regardless of what they choose, each and every parent attending with their child at Family Connections has a job to do which encourages their ongoing attention to their children’s education from day one – from preschool. This has translated into successes as Family Connections families move onto K-12 education. A survey conducted in 2008 among Family Connections alumni shows a strong continued commitment on the part of parents to participate in their children’s classroom: 71% of Family Connections parents attend or help with school fundraisers or events; 46% volunteer in their kids’ classrooms; and 29% serve on the ELAC or PTA.
We believe that if parents are taught basic leadership and advocacy skills they will be in a better position to assure that their children's educational needs are met. To get to that level, we believe parents need to be educated about the importance of staying involved in their children’s education.
Dads and Family Connections
We recognize the vital role fathers play in their children’s education and the fact that due to working schedules, many fathers find it difficult to have quality time dedicated to bonding with their child. As a result Family Connections hosts monthly parent nights, field trips and other weekend/evening activities to give fathers a chance to get involved. For dads that are available, Family Connections also has Saturday classes where fathers can attend a class with their children just like the programs during the week.
“My husband has learned to be more involved with my kids. Now he reads to them a couple evenings a week. He’s attended Family Connections’ field trips and has helped out at the school many times.”—Susana Aguilar, 4 years with FC, mother of 2 children (6 and 8 years now) and currently attending Family Connections with her neighbor’s child
“I’ve brought my kids since they were a baby. My son, Ryan, was having problems as a toddler talking. I believe that having him with other children helped him with his talking. At Family Connections, I saw progress.”