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Early Head Start Curriculum

Several early childhood curriculums are being used in early childhood education programs. Among such program is the Early Head Start curriculum. It mainly targets pregnant women, newly born babies, and those aged three. It provides a variety of services to children. Such services include education in the form of nursery education, medical services, nutrition services, and parent attachment. It was first developed as a catch up summer school program. Jule Sugarman developed Early Head Start program, which was entirely meant for children from low-income families (United States, 2003). It was implemented in the United States by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, where it was adopted into law as part of Economic Opportunity Act.  In the Head Start Act of 1981, the curriculum was stretched. It was then revised and reauthorized in December 2007; and by 2005, more than 22 million pre-school aged children had gone through it (Roopnarine & Johnson, 2005).

Early Head Start curriculum can be described as a packaged curriculum since it is not inclusive of all people, but it only covers a specific population. The program can be accessed from any office of Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge center or the Early Head Start agency serving at the community level. For one to be eligible to join the program, one must meet the basic criteria set in the HHS poverty guidelines, which are usually restructured every year by the federal government.

These poverty guidelines are also referred to as the federal poverty levels. After filling in the application forms, an Office of the Administration for Children and Families Early Childhood Learning determines if the family meets the qualification by basing their assessment on family income. Anyone who meets the qualification set forth is eligible regardless of color, nationality, race, sex, or any type of disability. Enrolment requirements also include a copy of birth certificate, income records for at least the last twelve months. These income records are W2, tax return, SSI, documentation, TANF documentation, student loan documentation, work one wage documentation, child support printout, pay stubs, and foster care statement. One also needs immunization records for the child.

Philosophy/Foundations in Early Head Start Curriculum

The federally funded Early Head Start curriculum works under the philosophy that children begin learning at an exceptionally tender age, unlike in the past years when it was recommended to start at around the second year after birth. If the children are given favorable surroundings early enough, they will have a better chance of success both in their academic and social life. This theoretical approach in Early Head Start curriculum is in line with other learning beliefs that propose that learning starts early in life and reaches its peak in post-puberty. Another philosophy that Early Head Start curriculum works with is that of amplification of children, communities, and families through a quality education, comprehensive health and family services and at the same time promoting community affiliation.

Goals and Objectives of Early Head Start Curriculum

Initially, when this program was developed in 1964 by June Sugarman, it was meant to be a catch-up program for children during the summer holiday. However, after reassessment, more objectives and goals have been attached to this program. Among these objectives is improving the child’s bodily and health capacity. The health scheme in this program also covers rectification of any psychological or bodily problems. This is usually achieved by providing proper nourishment to both the expectant mothers and the newly born babies. Another goal of Early Head Start program is encouraging self-belief or self-esteem, inquisitiveness and self-discipline. This is necessary for any child’s emotional and social development. Another objective of Early Head Start program is to enhance the capacity of any particular child’s connection to the family and others. Finally, the last objective of this program is to improve the pride and self-value of the child and his own family.

Early Childhood Approaches Central to the Implementation Early Head Start Program

The central approach in Early Head Start curriculum is that children begin learning at an extremely tender age, as suggested by many psychologists. This is the time a child will learn the most fundamental things in life. A child can develop a strong self-esteem at this age and thus enhance his or her success.  Children will also learn to cope up with different situations by being engaged with other children.

People Involved in the Early Head Start Program

Early Head Start program is meant for those families that fall under the federal poverty levels. The curriculum is targeted at pregnant mothers, newly born babies and toddlers of up to 3 years. The federal poverty levels are revised every year by the federal government. Only after successful application does one join the program.

Organization and Key Components of Early Head Start Curriculum

The curriculum was established with the scientific evidence that the first years of child growth are essential to enhance healthy life development. It thus incorporated pregnant mothers, new born babies, and toddlers of up to the age of three. Since its establishment in 1964, the program has enrolled more than twenty five million children. Early Head Start curriculum usually receives funding from the United States Department of Health and Human Services. In 2009, it received $1 billion in subsidies that were intended to enhance success of the program. The coordination of both Head Start and Early Head Start is enhanced by the Recovery Act which disburses the funds.

Major Components of Early Head Start Curriculum

Education. Early Head Start educational program has been planned in such a way that it embraces the requirements of every child, ethnicity, or community served, as well as their cultural characteristics. The curriculum aims at meeting every child’s education needs, promote academic, emotional development, and collective needs.

Health. The program realizes that without better health to the young growing infants, little can be achieved. It thus incorporates such health services as medical care, dental care, immunization, mental health, and nutritional services. All of those are aimed at improving the health of the expectant mothers and the toddlers.

Parent involvement. This aspect of Early Head Start program acknowledges that parents’ involvement in the development of a child during the first years is vital. Parent involvement becomes more valuable especially when a child needs special attention due to a mental or psychological disorder. The parent is able to liaise with the program officers and enhance such a child’s future success in life.

Another component of Early Head Start program is social service provision. After family needs are identified, the program goes further to provide all other needed services. These services include outreach, referrals, family needs assessment, recruitment and enrolment of children and emergency assistance, if necessary.

Early Head Start program can be organized so that it is center-based or home-based. In a center-based organization, the classroom setting is established. In the classroom, peer-group relations are enhanced, where the children take part in a variety of learning activities. The classroom setting helps in reinforcing cognitive development, emotional, social, and physical skills among the children. In a home-based organization, trained staff works at homes with the pregnant during occasional home visits. This staff provides birthing services to pregnant mothers; it also offers information regarding fitness and emotional adjustments associated with pregnancy, birth, and deliverance.

Early Head Start is also organized in a mixed-approach program. Services are provided to families through center-based, home-based, and locally available services in a joint venture with society child care providers.

Research that Support that Early Head Start has been Successful

To access its worthiness, some research has been conducted by various non-governmental and governmental organizations. In Volume One of a final technical report on Early Head Start program by the Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. and Columbia University’s Center for Children and Families, in collaboration with the Early Head Start Research Consortium and Administration for children and families office of planning, research and evaluation in June 2002, 3,001 children and families were involved in seventeen different sites. According to this research, one third of the successful applicants were African American, one forth were Hispanic, and slightly more than one third were Whites. Most of the families received assistance from Medicaid, WIC, AFDC or TANF, and SSI. The following were some of the identifiable successes achieved in this particular curriculum:

  • Children were able to develop cognitively. By the time the children were three years, they had scored 91.4 on the Bayley Mental Development Index.
  • The program also had significant impacts on the social and emotional development of children by the age of three years, as evidenced by video recordings of children and parent interactions.
  • Improved parentage, where parents were taught in a better way of bringing up their children so as to enhance their success in life.
  • The program provided health benefits. Early Head Start program reduced the national average of mortality rates due to the quality health services provided.
  • There were also educational benefits. Children who went through the program performed well in subsequent grades.

Further, the findings of this research reveal that a majority of children who have undergone this program are now successful young adults. They have joined careers of their dreams, such as teaching, nursing, and engineering. The recommendations of this research are that Early Head Start program has been a success and blessing to many who fall under the definitions of the federal poverty levels. It has enabled majority to have a sense of social belonging by being provided with the most fundamental necessities, such as education and proper nutrition.

How Teacher Friendly is the Curriculum?

The Early Head Start curriculum utilizes the management and administration practices that uphold the quality of teachers and the entire staff. This principle is a cornerstone set forth in the Early Head Start curriculum initiative. This interdisciplinary approach ensures that all teachers and staffs are cross-trained in the areas of child development, community building, family development, and staff building. This training creates an essential opportunity for reflection and feedback that emphasize building of a good relationship as a foundation for interaction between families and children with the teachers and staffs.

The curriculum provides a teacher-centered approach with the aim of building and developing the capacity of teachers. This objective is usually achieved through a series of ongoing supervision, as well as training and mentoring that encompass an interdisciplinary methodology with an emphasis on quality relationship-building. The curriculum has established staff development as a best practice in the child rearing, community building, and family development.

Another activity during implementation that focuses on teachers is the preparation of facilities. This ensures that staffs and children are provided with the physical environment and facilities that ensure the presence of a learning environment conducive to child development. Such environment is essential, because it usually supports the teacher-child relationship through interaction, observation, and facilitation of the child’s development (Neuman & Dickinson, 2001).

Identification of the approach of the curriculum is essential, since it outlines the goals for child development and learning and the experiences through which these goals will be achieved. Furthermore, the approach usually outlines clearly the role of the teacher and the parent in achieving these goals, as well as the materials required to support the implementation of the curriculum. Other activities include ensuring that the community partners and are ready to receive the families. The benefit is the possibility to implement this curriculum within a short period of time.

Training Involved for Effective Implementation of the Project

The moment all staffs are hired, the program requires training plans to manage implementation of the curriculum effectively (Roopnarine & Johnson, 2005).  It also enables them to meet the needs of young children and promote their intellectual development. The elements of the professional and training development system need to include the assessment of the program goals and staffs. The formulation and development of the training plan and appraisal of the process need to consider multiple avenues for the staff development and to ensure effective curriculum implementation. This includes group workshops, one-on-one conversations, mentoring relationships, individual and group supervision, formal course and educational institution, training conferences, and written and audiovisual material training.

When the teacher undergoes the extensive training process above, her flexibility and creativity is enhanced. The entire curriculum is meant to induce teacher’s creativity during the teacher-children interaction and help children develop imaginary skills, which range from playing to story writing. Frequent engagement of children in creative activities by the teacher assists the children in gaining the skills that provide them with an opportunity to expand their imaginative abilities.

Assessment and Evaluation of the Student

In the Early Head Start curriculum, an ongoing assessment of every student is carried out as mandated by the program performance standard (Roopnarine & Johnson, 2005). The preliminary screening of the children is usually carried out in order to identify evidence of development, sensory and behavioral concerns, and to determine whether the children need more formal evaluation to pinpoint disability.

An ongoing evaluation is also conducted for each child to help identify his or her strengths and needs. This usually helps tailor learning activities and experiences and other services, and support staff in communicating with parents and families about the progress of their children. The assessment of the student is considered to be central to the curriculum process.  There are three types of assessment for both home-based and combination programs. They include Devereux Early Childhood Assessment for Infant and Toddler, Teaching Strategies Gold, and the Denver II. Entire assessment information for the student is usually kept confidential and totally locked, the reports are only shared with the parents during home visits.

The Deveraux Early Childhood Assessment is usually a strength-based evaluation of the protective factors, which normally contains the screen for behavioral concerns of the child. This assessment is usually finalized by parents and in a combination room by the child’s parent and teacher. The evaluation is done to children with various risks factors and provides information necessary for referrals. Through this evaluation, the teacher and parent are able to plan appropriate activities for the child.

The Denver II screening is usually finalized on each child within the first forty five days of admission to the program. This screening is usually reviewed with child’s parents, and any significant concern is addressed. The parent, together with teachers and home visitors, sets appropriate goals for the child, and all referrals to the first steps are made from this screening process.

The last assessment to be carried out is usually the Teaching Strategies Gold. This is the assessment system that blends an ongoing, dependable, and observational evaluation for all parts of learning and development with the intentional, focused performance evaluation of responsibilities for the selected predictors for school success in the area of numeracy and literacy. The goals are all usually set for the child by the parent, teachers and home visitor. These assessments are necessary since they track the progress of the child over a relatively longer time.

Recommendations for Curriculum Planning Implementation

The implementation of the Early Head Start curriculum usually needs to involve multiple and simultaneous tasks. It includes identification of a team or an individual to manage and plan the structure and organization of the program. The team usually determines the status of the management systems and procedures that are designated as a primary contact for various partners in the program support network and create the timeline for all implementation process.

The implementation process can easily be executed through a series of activities that involve hiring staffs and initiating staff development activities, i.e., orientation process to all staffs, teachers, volunteers, and consultants. It usually exemplifies the goals and underlying philosophy of the Early Head Start curriculum. The orientation process focuses on individualized one-on-one activities to the formal training workshops. This is viewed as a beginning of work with families and children and a start for a continuous staff development process.

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