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.
Families who have completed at least one year at Family Connections and have a child entering Transitional Kindergarten or Kindergarten may apply for the Young Scholars Program. The Young Scholars Program offers continuing academic support, social skills development and parent education in a coach/mentoring model from Kindergarten through high school with the goal of students entering and attending college.
Preschool 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 is to give every child the opportunity to be a successful learner when they begin Kindergarten. This learning process begins at birth. Parent with children ages newborn-3 years old participate two mornings per week in our Nurturing Families Program. Through the Nurturing Families Program families receiving an initial home visit, complete intake and assessment and follow up case managed support depending upon the level of need. The goal is to foster, nurture and encourage a positive parent child attachment during a child’s first critical year’s of life.
Parents with children ages 3-5 years old participate three mornings per week in our Pre-K Program. 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. In addition, 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. Our annual Parent Alumni survey continues to show that over 80% of parents stay involved in their child’s K-12 school activities with 70% of parents taking on leadership roles in their child’s school such as Parent Teacher Associations.
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.”