Home visits are one of my absolutely, positively favorite things about the beginning of the school year. When I googled “preschool home visits” today, though, I only found several anxious posts from preschool moms who didn’t finish cleaning in time, so I wanted to write a quick post about why I do (and love) them and how I do them. I hope any anxious parents who may stumble upon my little blog will feel less stress, and I can connect with other educators on ways we do them.
The primary reason I do home visits is to build relationships with my students. When I walk into the home, I do not notice whether or not the house is clean (really!) and I pay no attention to what anyone was wearing, including the children (I ask the same consideration; after the first visit of the day, I usually have play dough or marker on me :). I love walking into a home, especially meeting a child for the first time, because the child is totally comfortable there, in his/her natural element, with his/her favorite people in the world, his parents or caregivers!
Today, my assistant, special education teacher and I did three home visits — two in a neighborhood park and one in a family’s apartment. At the park, I met siblings, and saw how important my students’ siblings were in their lives. I saw what strong relationships they have with their family members, and I learned what upsets them (and equally important, what calms them down). In the park I watched how they played with other children, and at home, I was introduced to their favorite toys and activities, and sat on the floor to play with them. I learned critically important information I will use when planning experiences for the first week of school and beyond. I learned where families were from, how they spent their time, and what languages they spoke. I asked parents and caregivers what their hopes and dreams are for their child, so that I can do everything I can to honor them this year. I took photos of families to hang in the classroom on the very first day, to make a connection between home and school. I was also able to give the family valuable one-on-one attention outside of the stresses of the school day, on their own terms.
The attitudes toward me– and school– of the students with whom I have done home visits (before the beginning of the school year) is completely different than those who I met first in the classroom. I feel like I have begun to establish trust with those students. Just by visiting their houses (or them in their community, if the parent prefers), I have sent the message, “Hey! I know I’m new in your life, but I care enough about you to come and visit you. You are a special person to me.”
Educators, do you love home visits? I’d love if you left comments of your favorite questions to ask.
PS: A column in the Washington Post about home visits.