Home visits ease children’s, families’ transition into formal school setting

Peggy Hoffman-Schmidt
Kaiserslautern District
Public Affairs Officer

The first day of school is an exciting and emotional day for both parents and children. Department of Defense Dependent Schools realizes the importance of this initial step into formal education and makes a very special and unique effort to provide a smooth transition for the children of full-day kindergarten programs, Sure Start programs and pre-school by scheduling home visits.
Teachers and paraprofessionals schedule home visits before school actually starts so that children get to know the teacher and paraprofessional before ever entering the school building.
The home visit provides enjoyable opportunities for the child to share special things with the teacher — favorite books, toys and/or pets, for example.
The teacher has the opportunity to learn about each child as an individual, so when all the children enter the classroom, each child is already “special.”
As the teacher takes this individualized special interest in the child, the fears about school are greatly reduced. This visit is to focus on the child and the new adults who will be significant to them in their first steps into the career of school.
According to research, parent involvement in the school is a major factor in student success in school. DODDS teachers are trained to take the initial step in developing a positive home-school relationship.
The home visits also provide an opportunity for the parent, child and teacher to establish a rapport. Be-cause the child has met the teacher on his own turf with his parents, before school begins, the child’s transition during the initial days of schooling goes much smoother.
“As a result of the home visit, fewer children are afraid of the first day of school and less crying is seen (except for the parents), said Jennifer Halley, DODDS Europe, Early Childhood Specialist. “It is because the child already knows the teacher and the paraprofessional, so his first encounter with school is not entering a room where he or she knows nobody, which can be intimidating for adults as well as children.”
“During the school year, children still talk about how the teacher came to visit ‘my’ house. The children were thrilled that the teacher took the time to visit each of them in their home,” Mrs. Halley said.
Because this initial meeting has such an important impact for the child, DODDS remains committed to the goal — to ease the transition of the child to school and to get to know the teacher in a familiar setting.
The home visit not only benefits the child, but it is a sound way for the teacher and the parents to build a relationship. “The personal contact makes it easier for parents to feel comfortable providing information, asking questions or sharing concerns about their child with the teacher throughout the year,” said Elaine Grande, assistant superintendent of the Kaiserslautern District. “Parents find the home visit to be a positive experience, and often say they wish that teachers visited throughout the school year.”
Ramstein Elementary School will initiate full-day kindergarten this school year.
All other KMC schools have had full-day kindergarten for at least one year.