Getting Children Ready for Kindergarten: An Alternative to Home Visits
A Michigan school district is starting a program it calls “Begindergarten.” The idea is to help prepare preschool-age children for kindergarten through monthly sessions. Each month, parents and students will meet as a group for instruction. Parents will receive packets of reading materials and information about how to continue teaching their children at home.
The district is missing some of the advantages of programs like Parents as Teachers, that send educators into homes. It won’t have the opportunity to observe every child’s daily schedule and family environment. It also won’t be able to watch parent-child interactions very closely or make individualized suggestions.
On the other hand, the district won’t incur the cost of paying people to drive out to every child’s house and spend time with them one-on-one. While I’m skeptical of the assertion that Begindergarten “will not cost the district any money” — even if it’s run by volunteers, there’s at least the expense of photocopying all the materials — it won’t call for anywhere near as much funding as Parents as Teachers.
Some Parents as Teachers programs do minimize home visits as children get older, or place greater emphasis on group programs. It would be wise for more of the Missouri programs to move in this direction, because Missouri doesn’t have the resources to give every child the ideal home visiting program through age five. Parents as Teachers will have to consider whether the most costly aspects of its model are truly necessary for all the children it serves, or whether something like Begindergarten would be good enough for older children.