- Reflect on what it means to implement meaningful curriculum and assessment as you manage your family child care program.
- Identify key elements of developmentally appropriate practice and reflect on how these elements contribute to program management.
- Understand the importance of being a lifelong learner with regard to working with children and their families, and identify ways you can pursue your own professional development.
Two of the most basic and at the same time significant questions family child care providers need to consider are: “What should the children in my care know?” and “How do we know if children are developing well and learning what we want them to know?” Spend a few seconds thinking about how you would respond to each of these two questions.
You may have determined that the what question refers to the curriculum, or the experiences and activities you plan and use in your daily interactions with children, and the how question refers to the assessment, or the ways in which you find out about children’s development and progress over time.
Meaningful Experiences for Children and Families
Children attending family child care programs should have a variety of experiences that are developmentally appropriate, intellectually stimulating, engaging, and fun. High-quality programs rely on a written, evidence-based curriculum as the foundation for teachers and providers to use to plan daily experiences and activities. Curriculums and lesson plans are different things. A lesson plan is an outline or map for a specific lesson or learning experience. It has learning objectives for the activity. It should include also: materials needed, steps for the activity, teaching strategy, child’s role, connection to early-learning standards or goals, and adjustments for individual learners and needs. Curriculum is the comprehensive framework for all lesson plans. You may have chosen a particular curriculum, assessment, and format to document children’s growth and development. The curriculum you use directly influences how you manage your program.
As a family child care professional, you bring your own personality, talents, and interests in your work with young children to enrich the curriculum. The curriculum should build upon the interests, experiences, and backgrounds of the children in your setting. Families should be invited to share information and skills with you in their child’s program. Adaptations and modifications to the chosen curriculum for individual learners and their needs can be undertaken with the help of special-education support professionals or with the help of your family child care administrator or community specialists. You should also refer to your military Service-specific policies when making adaptations and modifications. Your family child care administratorsPUB or licensing specialist will support you in promoting high-quality developmentally appropriate practices for all the children in your care.
In defining developmentally appropriate practices, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC, 2009) highlights the following:
- Meet children where they are in their development and supporting them in reaching achievable, and at the same time challenging, goals to promote their progress and interests
- Use practices that are appropriate to children’s age and responsive to the social and cultural contexts in which children live
- Ensure that goals and experiences are based on knowledge and research-based evidence—not assumptions—about how children learn and develop
The environment is a critical part of instruction (the environment is often called the third teacher). The environment includes not just furniture, materials, and equipment but also teacher-child interactions. Many extensive studies show the impact adult-child interactions have on children’s outcomes.
Written lesson plans are another way to engage in discussing your practice. The setting you work in may have a particular format for written plans. Work with your family child care administrator or licensing specialist to review plans and examine the effectiveness of your curriculum. Learning to use a written curriculum, and create well-developed lesson plans is a process that takes time and guidance. Your trainer, coach,PUB local resource and referral child care specialist, or family child care administrator should be prepared to provide constructive feedback and suggestions to you as you develop your lesson plans.
Activities should be meaningful and build on the interests of the children and youth in your program. Plans for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers should include developmental information and how the planned experiences and interactions support development. Primary-age children and older youth can join with peers and providers to plan ongoing project work (e.g., creation of a science experiments, brainstorming costumes for a play or planning food for an upcoming event). As you work with your trainer, coach, or family child care administrator to review new activity plans, you should remember to ask reflective questions, like the ones listed below. These will help gauge your personal understanding of the curriculum processes, and you will learn where to ask for more support.
- Where did you get your ideas for your activity plans this week?
- How do you think these plans will help individual children meet their goals?
- What are you hoping the school-age youth will gain from this experience?
- How can infants and toddlers participate in these learning experiences?
- Do you think any modifications might be necessary to ensure all children can engage in this idea?
- What resources might you need to make this plan successful?
- Are there ways you could involve families in this activity?
What are Indicators of Effective Curriculum?
Your goal should be to implement experiences and activities that are carefully planned, engaging, developmentally appropriate, challenging, and culturally and linguistically responsive. Aim for growth and positive outcomes for all children in your care. In doing so, you learn the following indicators of effective curriculum as stated by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education (NAECS-SDE) (2009):
- Children in your program are active and engaged.
- Your goals for each child is clear and shared by all (yourself, families, any related professionals or support personnel, your family child care administrator or licensing specialist).
- Your curriculum is evidence-based. In other words, it is based on research-oriented knowledge about best practices in the field of early-childhood education.
- Experiences and activities are meaningful and intentional and involve children’s engagement with and exploration of their environment.
- Experiences and activities build on children’s prior learning and experiences.
- Your curriculum is comprehensive and addresses each child’s multiple developmental domains.
What are Indicators of Effective Assessment?
Gathering information about the development of the children in your care helps you make informed decisions about their growth, and identify needs or concerns that may require further attention. Your goal should be to carry out assessment practices that are ethical, developmentally appropriate, and culturally sensitive. This means your assessment practices are based on a thorough knowledge of child development; they help children see themselves as capable and competent learners, and they respect and acknowledge children’s and families’ varied cultural experiences. The assessment practices you implement play an essential role as you manage your family child care program. You should use assessment information to support growth and positive outcomes for all children in your care. In doing that, familiarize yourself with the following indicators of effective assessment practices, as stated by the NAEYC and the NAECS/SDE (2009):
- Your assessments are developmentally appropriate and culturally and linguistically sensitive for children in your care.
- Families know about and are invited to be part of the assessment process.
- Assessment information and evidence is gathered from realistic settings and situations that reflect children’s actual performance within daily experiences.
- What you assess is developmentally and educationally significant for each child.
- Your assessments include multiple sources of evidence about a child’s performance gathered over time.
- The evidence you gather from assessments is used to better understand children and improve their development and learning.
- Your assessment practices are ethical and responsible. For example, assessment instruments or screening tools are appropriately used based upon their design and purpose. Assessment evidence is collected in realistic and multiple ways, and decisions regarding a child are not based on a single observation or assessment tool. In addition, children are not publicly compared to one another. Rather they, and their families, are encouraged to reflect on the child’s own growth over time.
Work with your family child care administrators or licensing agent to ensure that assessment practices are developmentally appropriate for the children in your care. Ensure that you have the necessary resources (e.g., learning environment or playground supplies, materials, equipment) and supports (e.g., observational feedback on your practices, additional resources) to promote these experiences and offer children and their families high-quality care and education.
Considering your Own Professional Development
In order to be knowledgeable about best practices in the field of early childhood education, you must stay current with the field. Joining a professional organization (e.g., NAEYC and NAFCC) is an excellent way to receive timely information about what is new in the field. Web sites that contain evidence-based information can be bookmarked. Attending local or state conferences is another way to learn about evidence-based practices and keep current on new information.
Your trainer, coach or family child care administrator can be a great resource and mentor in your professional development. They can answer questions or address concerns you may have, conduct observations of your work with infants and toddlers and give you constructive feedback, assist you with further or specific training, help you access resources like books, articles, or videos, and support your overall professional growth. You may also consider looking for a mentor, book group, or groups on social media where you can share ideas and news about the early care and education field. You will be a better provider and advocate for the infants, toddlers, and families in your care when you attend to your own professional development.
In your daily work as a family child care provider, engage in the following practices with children, families, and other professionals that support you program:
- Get to know the children and families in your care. Plan for bias-free experiences, materials, and assessment. Treat each child and family member with respect, and acknowledge and honor individual differences in gender, cultural background, family income, abilities, or family composition.
- Provide a variety of developmentally appropriate choices and experiences for all children in your care.
- Make sure your expectations about children's behaviors are developmentally appropriate.
- Ensure that curriculum goals are the basis for planning experiences and activities for children.
- Review curriculum goals with your trainer, coach, or family child care administrator and make sure that you offer opportunities for each child to achieve those goals. During this process, make sure to invite families’ input.
- Act in a responsible, reliable, and dependable manner. Be ready to start work on time, be prepared, and communicate clearly with children, families, fellow providers,PUB licensing specialists, and your family child care administrator.
- Support practices that are ethical, responsible, and developmentally appropriate, and speak out when they are not. Familiarize yourself with your state’s regulations, standards, and expectations for high-quality practices. Remember to always look to your family child care administrator for guidance when confronted with difficult situations.
- Develop and cultivate a collaborative spirit and work with other family child care providers. Ask a more experienced provider questions about his or her practice or offer ideas to a newer provider who may need assistance.
Read and review the activity Curriculum: Decision-Making. Take some time to reflect on the checklist provided. Then, share and discuss your responses with your trainer, coach or family child care administrator.
Use the resource in this section to learn more about planning meaningful experiences and activities for the children in your care. First, take some time to read the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s Position Statement on aligning Early Childhood Curriculum, Assessment, and Program Evaluation.
Then, read the Berkeley Center for the Study of Child Care Employment article, “Mentoring and Coaching: Distinctions in Practice” and use it to help you complete the activity, Mentoring for Program Improvement. Complete the questions, and then share and discuss your responses with your trainer, coach or family child care administrator.
NAEYC Position Statement: Early Childhood Curriculum, Assessment, and Program Evaluation
Mentoring and Coaching: Distinctions in Practice
Bruno, H. E., & Copeland, T. (2012). Managing Legal Risks in Early Childhood Programs. New York: Teachers College Press.
Copple, C., & Bredekamp, S. (Eds.) (2009). Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children Ages Birth through 8 (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Heffron, M. C., & Murch, T. (2010). Reflective Supervision and Leadership in Infant and Early Childhood Programs. Washington, DC: Zero to Three.
National Association for the Education of Young Children (2011). Code of Ethical Conduct and Statement of Commitment. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/image/public_policy/Ethics%20Position%20Statement2011_09202013update.pdf
National Association for the Education of Young Children and National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education. (2003). Early Childhood Curriculum, Assessment, and Program Evaluation: Building an effective, accountable system in programs for children birth through age 8. Position Statement with Expanded Resources. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/CAPEexpand.pdf
National Association for the Education of Young Children and National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education. (2009). Where We Stand on Curriculum, Assessment, and Program Evaluation. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/StandCurrAss.pdf