ELC Family University aims to strengthen education for young children at home
Since opening in 2015, the Early Learning Center has served as the doorway for the youngest CCSD59 students to begin their education. It has played an integral part in the district’s commitment to building a strong educational foundation for students until they reach high school.
However, ELC principal Michele Ramsey has long wanted to contribute to growing that foundation before students even enter the building for the first time.
“We know the time between birth and five years old involves significant growth in all areas, including socially, emotionally, physically, cognitively, and linguistically,” Ms. Ramsey said. “We also know that children’s families play a key role in their development. We want to capture this time of significant growth and learning and partner with our families as they support their children.”
This is how the idea for the ELC Family University came to be. Ms. Ramsey wanted to start providing families with the tools to help children develop in these areas before they reached an eligible age to become ELC students.
“Our families have a wealth of strengths and abilities, and we hope to help them build on them so they can support their 2-to-3-year-old children. We also want our families to be able to support one another and share their strengths for the benefit of our community and school.”
The vision, which has been years in the making, will become a reality this year as the ELC has planned to host Family University courses throughout the fall and spring semesters. The program, spread across seven dates each semester, will be tailored to each participating family’s interests, with topics including Kindergarten readiness, discipline, nutrition, potty training, fine/gross motor skill development, and social emotional development.
Involvement will be driven by what each family cares about and feels is most important for their children. Each session will also foster community building as participants will have opportunities to share challenges, success, and questions with fellow families.
“This will not be us telling families what they need, rather, us listening and partnering with them to help them strengthen the good things they are already doing,” said Ramsey.
The structure of Family University has resulted from planning based around observations of similar programs at other school districts. When CCSD59 completed its strategic planning process in 2020, one priority involved the district becoming more engaged with community members with younger children. While the idea of Family University was pitched before the strategic plan was updated, the original intention of the program was still in tune with the newly-established areas of focus.
“I am excited to see our youngest children get enthusiastic about school and learning. At their age, kids are so active and learn so much from their environments and interactions,” said Elizabeth deGruy, Executive Director of Educational Services at CCSD59. “This is a great opportunity for the district to work with families on their priorities for their children while also helping build strong relationships that will benefit students, families, and the district for years to come.”
Ms. Ramsey also wants all involved to feel they are part of a district-wide community, even if they are entering it for the first time.
“I hope they come to realize they contribute so much to us and each other and that they have so much to offer their children, the ELC, and the community at large,” she said. “I hope they take away that they are the most important factor in their child’s life and can learn a few new or different ways to support their children in life and on their learning journey.”
The first night of Family University for the fall semester is set for Thursday, September 16, 2021. Interested families can find more information and fill out the ELC interest survey here.