TSR Connect

December 2019

relevant research

Building Relationships and Partnering with Families 

From late fall and into winter children may have more days at home and less at school with holiday breaks that may include more time with family. With this in mind, this issue will talk about the value of families to young children’s education.

Family support of their child's learning and development involves care, education, and of course the specific attention their preschooler needs to learn and develop. When children enter a school or center setting, parents and teachers have an opportunity to build partnerships to support learning. Although children may spend less time at home with direct parental guidance after entering the classroom, parents continue to have a significant impact on their child's development.

Through shared information, teachers can gain critical information on the child's interests, skills, and abilities, as well as unique behaviors and dispositions. Teachers can in turn share valuable learning experiences with the parent for continued and partnered support of their child's learning while in other settings outside of the school.

Research suggests that family involvement in education can boost young children's academic success and lead to better schools, contribute to higher standards, and provide lasting opportunities for students.

University of Oxford researchers found that when parents participated in the Peers Early Education Partnership--a program for supporting families with children ages 0-5—the children “made significantly greater progress in their learning than children whose parents did not participate.” Children ages 3-5 showed strides in vocabulary, language comprehension, book understanding, as well as print and number concepts. In addition, these children with participating parents exhibited higher self-esteem when compared to children of non-participating parents (Evangelou & Sylva, 2003). Could this be due to the double-dose of praise and encouragement the children received from both their teachers and their families that then contributed to their academic progress?

The Journal of Instructional Psychology reported in a published study that improving parental involvement in the classroom can improve schools in general (Machen, Wilson & Notar, 2005). The authors describe that when parents and teachers work as partners the entire school community benefits.

 Mom playing on the floor with her young daughter. 

Parents Should Accept Their Valuable Role

Both parents and teachers have an important role to play in a child’s early development. Their roles complement and reinforce the other’s, thus providing the child with a consistent message about reading and learning. Thinking of parents and teachers as partners refers to this mutual effort toward a shared goal. This thinking also implies shared responsibility of parents and teachers for supporting students as learners (Christenson & Sheridan, 2001).

Father cutting paper shapes with his two sons.

Develop a Relationship with Families

When family members take the lead and make decisions about their children’s learning, they are truly engaged. Positive goal-directed relationships between families and program staff are key to engagement and children’s school readiness. And, when a child feels recognized and connected to a parent during a learning activity, this positive association promotes an interest in and willingness to continue to engage in that activity. 

There is a substantial research base that concludes play-based learning, in combination with responsive parent-child interactions, is the best way to build academic and executive functioning skills in young children. But many programs have yet to embrace play-based learning as a family engagement approach, opting instead for more traditional homework exercises like worksheets. Traditional homework is often developmentally inappropriate for preschoolers, frustrating for parents, and unappealing to children. Alternatively, there are some schools who choose to institute no homework policies, which may set up a barrier to connecting families with play-based learning opportunities.

CLI recommends shifting to effective home-based learning that is grounded in play and responsive interactions. In addition to more effectively building academic skills, this approach has the added benefit of building the social and emotional bonds between young children and their parents, siblings, and other family members.

Teachers can encourage this learning at home by coaching parents in how to play and how to recognize and be responsive to their children’s signals.

You can learn much more about encouraging play-based learning and responsive interactions at home by visiting the comprehensive set of resources, free trainings, tool kits, checklists, and more on CLI Engage.


Christenson, S. L. & Sheridan, S. M. (2001). School and families: Creating essential connections for learning. New York: The Guilford Press.

Evangelou, M. & Sylva, K. (2003). The Effects of the Peers Early Education Partnership (PEEP) on Children's Developmental Progress. Department of Education Studies, University of Oxford.

Machen, S. M., Wilson, J. D., & Notar, C. E. (2005). Parental involvement in the classroom. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 32(1), 13-16.

teaching tips

Building a Partnership with Families

The CLI Engage platform has a multitude of resources and tools to support this unique partnership and promote continual dialogue.

Parents have access to play-based learning activities that support their child’s learning in the classroom. Activities for parents are available to the public on the CLI Engage website under the Family CIRCLE Activity Collection. 

A large array of videos of real parents conducting activities with their child is made available as model demonstrations for parents wanting to know more about how to support their child’s learning at home.

Teachers can partner with parents in practicing specific activities tied to their child’s classroom instruction. Activities are available in English and Spanish.

If you have just completed CIRCLE Progress Monitoring for pre-K, you can also find recommended activities for the family in the grouping tool within the assessment on CLI Engage. These targeted activities are directly tied to the child’s identified interventions needed to support academic growth.

Teachers and families can work in tandem to best support the child’s learning and development!

notable news

  • The Children's Learning Institute offices will be closed for the holidays beginning December 23, 2019 - January 1, 2020. The CLI Engage Support Team will not be available during these dates, thus no help tickets will be serviced. Our offices will reopen and return to normal operations on Thursday, January 2.
  • Share the CIRCLE Family Activity Collection with parents and caregivers to support skills learned in school. Family members can now easily access the collection by going to https://cliengagefamily.org. No login or password is needed to access these fun and educational activities that can be conducted at home.
  • family engagement tool kit was recently released that helps families better understand their child's development while engaging in fun, developmentally appropriate activities that build skills and strengthen family bonds. Included is an administrator’s guide that provides support on planning how to fold CLI resources into district-level family engagement plans. Teachers can use the new checklist to set goals for practicing family engagement strategies.
  • Middle-of-year assessments are suggested to help teachers plan instruction that supports their students’ areas of need. CLI suggests that MOY assessments be conducted beginning in mid-January through mid-February, but can be conducted at another time. For a refresher, please review our progress monitoring User Guides for general administration guidelines.
  • Before the opening of your middle-of-year progress monitoring testing window, please update your student rosters. Also remember to reset your measure selector to the wave 2 setting.

recommended resources

CLI Engage Website

Texas School Ready Website

Children's Learning Institute Website

Infant, Toddler, and Three-Year-Old Early Learning Guidelines

Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines

Texas Early Childhood Professional Development System (TECPDS)


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