Molly Ogelsby Testimonial
By Ellen Taetzsch
Family Engagement and Kindergarten Readiness
I had the opportunity to chat with Molly Ogelsby, the Home to School Liaison at Windham Northeast Supervisory Union, about how her role impacts kindergarten readiness and the importance of family engagement in getting families ready for kindergarten. She shared some tips on what makes a child ready for kindergarten, how to register for pre-school and kindergarten and the impact that Building Bright Futures has had on her work.
Describe your role at Windham Northeast Supervisory Union:
I am the Early Education Home to School Liaison which is funded through Title 1, part of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act that provides aid to schools with a high percentage of children from low income families to make sure they meet academic standards. I work with families whose children have not made it to kindergarten yet, so that means children between birth to age five.
I do a variety of activities with families such as weekly play groups, family events which can be workshops or fun events, and I visit pre-schools weekly to make sure that families know about and have access to the 10 hours of free pre-school.
I also help families figure out pre-school options as well as childcare options for infants and toddlers.
How do families register for pre-school or kindergarten?
So in the state of Vermont there is Act 166 which gives all families 10 hours of free pre-school for the school year. In order to register for that there is a form that, in Windham North East Supervisory Union (WNESU), parents are mailed. I deliver it to all the preschools and parents fill out that form. Parents must have a copy of the birth certificate, if that is difficult for families to find, I can help them with that. Then it is just a matter of proving residency which sometimes it is difficult to prove because families rent from another family member or don’t have utilities in their name. This can be solved by a home visit, which is also a big part of my job.
That would then register them for pre-school. At WNESU families get to choose whether they want to the 10 hours of public pre-school which is currently housed at Cherry Hill or Westminster Center School or families can go to private partners and they can choose to attend more than 10 hours. That is up to the family and the private partner.
To register for kindergarten, families who have registered for pre-school I already have contact with through pre-school visits so I am able to get them their forms easily. When families register for kindergarten there is paperwork that goes out, once families are on the kindergarten list every family gets mailed a package with the date and time that they will come and visit the school and the majority of schools do a kindergarten round up day where the kids and parents come to the school for about an hour, play in the classroom, meet the kindergarten teachers and parents can tour the school and they get to ask questions. It is play based and gives teachers a chance to look at kids in their social development. It ends with a bus ride, which is a big hit!
Most schools in WNESU offer kindergarten camp so the kids come to school for a few times during the summer and the kindergartners are there when there is no one else at the school so they have the chance to practice a lot of things and are a little more prepared for kindergarten.
How do you support the transition?
We do a lot of family engagement activities that support parents in the pre-school to kindergarten transition. In February or March, in WNESU, there is an Off to Kindergarten night where parents from all over the Supervisory Union can come and meet the superintendent, principals from each school, kindergarten teachers from each school and the early education team if they have not already met them.
Collectively, all those people talk about what Kindergarten looks like, what the transition will look like not only for the kids but also the parents. It gives them some basic information on how to talk to your child about the transition, about how you as a parent might feel and how you get that kindergarten begins in the fall but when you say “You are going to Kindergarten” a child thinks that tomorrow he/she is going to kindergarten, even though it is a few months away. So we provide information on how to help with that time and space concept. At the Off to Kindergarten event we break up into groups by school and so there can then be more in depth conversations about the particulars of the school.
Usually the Wednesday that school gets out we have a big Kickoff to Summer Party that is very well attended. Families come and the premise is that all sorts of activities that kids, parents, grandparents, uncles, whoever the family is, can do together and are able to replicate at home. It is a set of activities as simple as play dough, setting up an obstacle course, ice cube painting and more that are set up in stations all around the playground. The early-ed team is there as well. Last, year BBF sponsored the books and every child was able to leave with a beautiful new book. The Kickoff to Summer preps families on what playgroups will look like during the summer and anything special that might be going on.
What can a family do to help prepare a child for kindergarten?
During summer families are often worried about what their child needs to be ready for kindergarten but really the key to being ready is really simple things like routines, and impulse control, like stop and go games.
At WNESU kindergarten readiness is:
- A child who is happy because he likes himself and believes he is a worthwhile person.
- A child who expresses emotion and accepts hugs and signs of affection.
- A child who listens when people speak to her, because people listen when she speaks.
- A child who loves to do the simple tasks she can do because she is proud of her abilities.
- A child who wants to learn to do other tasks not yet tried because he has succeeded and knows he will get the help he needs to succeed again.
- A child who asks questions knowing that she will be answered.
- A child who speaks for himself because he knows that people think what he has to say is important.
- A child who loves rhythm and sound.
- A child who can sit peacefully for a short period of time to accomplish an activity.
- A child who notices the differences between shapes and colors and who notices similarities.
- A child who is eager to visit places and people outside the home.
- A child who feels the thrill of being capable and is increasingly able to cope.
- A child who can follow simple directions to complete a task.
- A child who enjoys using new sounds, and finding the names of new things.
- A child who can make simple decisions and live with them.
- A child who has learned to identify a problem and to choose a solution.
- A child who understands that his actions cause things to happen.
How Has BBF helped you in your work?
BBF has helped fund Kickoff to Summer, prizes and focused on outdoor activities like pool passes for families. BBF has also helped with providing Help Me Grow materials, like developmental materials, posters, magnets that are very useful. The biggest piece of BBF is that the council has been a great place for partnerships resources, materials, and information sharing between myself and families and other community partners particularly focusing locally. I thoroughly have enjoyed that partnership.
Northern Windsor, Orange & Springfield Regional Coordinator
Building Bright Futures