ANOTHER VOICE: Thriving families ensure children’s ‘readiness’

The lead story from Saturday, Aug. 17 News, “What’s the big picture for schools?”, describes the new Oregon Kindergarten Assessment program as a measurement of …“early literacy, math, social-emotional development and self-regulation.”

Rep. Mark Johnson emphasizes the word readiness, “because readiness is essentially what OKA looks at.” And he asks us to keep an open mind on OKA, saying “it is an assessment to help us determine how we’re doing in that early pre-K(indergarten). We need to assess.”

As a child care provider of 23 years, I have to chuckle. How “we’re” doing? How are we doing? Why is it that when money is suddenly involved, “we” suddenly have to test young children?

In the field of early childhood education, assessment does not primarily mean testing; it means individual observation and evaluation over time. Testing is a cheap, barely effective way for policy makers to try to figure out how they can manipulate outcomes.

What outcome do “we” want? Young children who are all “ready to learn” when they get to kindergarten! What we don’t want is ever more pressure on child care providers and pre-schools to trade in valuable play time for inappropriate academics and canned curriculums.

Let me share the outcome I want: Each child should know that she is well loved. He should know that he is safe, that he can trust his instincts about people. She should know that her imagination is one of her most powerful allies. He should know his own interests and be engaged enough to follow them. She should know that the world is magical and so is she, brilliant, compassionate, wonderful, marvelous.

But each child should also know that love needs respect, safety needs some personal responsibility, imagination needs determination, personal interests also need cooperation, and magic needs humility. My outcome has nothing — and everything — to do with the alphabet and math. It isn’t so easily put on a test.

If we really want to know what policies will get the desired outcome, then why don’t we assess young families’ needs? Do families have enough income not to scramble for food and shelter? How about health care? Are there enough books in the household for everyday sharing? Quality art materials, real musical instruments and enough time left in the parent’s day to be creative together?

Enough time — now there is something to assess if you want real results! Families need more than one day a month squeezed in as family time out in Nature. Close relationships over the early years create optimal outcomes for learning.

Don’t get me wrong; I can applaud more official attention to the world of early child care. If Oregon wants to improve learning outcomes, then be willing to make policy changes where they most count: helping families with worker benefits — maternity leave, sick leave, vacation leave, child care subsidies — effective parent training, single-parent assistance, student debt relief.

One of the biggest advantages we can give children is a simple, carefree childhood. Children are born, “ready to learn”; let’s give families a better chance to nurture that spark.

Karen Harding lives in Mount Hood, where she and her husband operate StarShine ChildLife Habitat.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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