The test confirmed what La Tasha Cartwright already knew.
Her son Josiah was ready for kindergarten.
Josiah had scored high on the kindergarten readiness test, called the Bracken School Readiness Assessment, which measures pre-academic readiness skills. The test is part of the Easter Seals Blake Foundation’s Parents as Teachers program, which First Things First funds in the Pinal region.
It had been three years since Cartwright signed up Josiah for the program. At the time, she had decided to quit her job and concentrate on in-home child care for Josiah, then 2, and home schooling for her older daughter.
Parents as Teachers provides voluntary, in-home visits from a parent coach who provided parenting information, support and encouragement to help young children develop optimally during the crucial early years of life from birth to age 5.
Studies show that critical brain development reaches 90 percent by age 5, and critical skills like motivation, focus, self-discipline and self-esteem are developed during these early years.
“I wanted my children to love learning and become self-educators,” Cartwright said. “With the help from the Parents as Teachers program, we learned to make a scheduled time to play and to make learning a priority. We also learned how to have fun with using the simplest of materials around the house. Sometimes we think we need all this stuff to teach our kids and really we don’t.”
The program also helped her better deal with what she described as Josiah’s “meltdowns.” Parent Educator Kim Alvey gave Cartwright recommendations on how to diffuse the meltdown and in some cases, how to prevent them.
Knowing what parents can expect for a child at different ages is important, Cartwright said. For example, a 2-year-old child might not be able to handle sitting still for a long period of time. Or if it’s time to go to bed, give the child a 10 minute warning.
Alvey and Cartwright also worked with Josiah on how to control his loud voice.
“I brought a book with me to a visit called Voices Are Not for Yelling by Elizabeth Verdick,” Alvey said. “I left the book with mom so she could read it to Josiah. With much practice and reinforcement from mom, Josiah was able to use his quieter voice inside and know if he was supposed to use a loud or soft voice in a situation.”
As Cartwright learned about how best to teach her son, Josiah grew physically, socially, and cognitively, Alvey said.
“She would scaffold the activities, so when Josiah mastered one thing, mom would make the activity more challenging,” she said. “For example, after Josiah learned his letters, mom would teach him the letter sounds. Once the letter sounds were mastered, mom started teaching him words. Josiah was now able to read.”
Josiah’s interests peaked in different subjects.
“Now when he does activities at home, he makes a connection of why he’s doing what he’s doing,” Cartwright said.
About First Things First – First Things First is a voter-created, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten. Decisions about how those funds are spent are made by local councils staffed by community volunteers. To learn more, visit FirstThingsFirst.org. To learn more about the Apache Junction Fun Van, visit ajpl.org/van, or call 480-474-8559.