It can be a difficult time preparing your child for “big school”. Katie Jones, our local Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters (HIPPY) Coordinator, explains how children can be nurtured to achieve positive learning experiences in their early learning years …
What is the history behind the HIPPY Program?
The first experimental HIPPY program was set up in 1969 by Professor Avima Lombard. The project was designed to examine the feasibility and effectiveness of home based education intervention involving mothers and their preschool children from educationally disadvantaged sectors of society.
Today, HIPPY operates in eleven countries across the world, with HIPPY-inspired programs running in another six countries. The Brotherhood of St Laurence holds the licence with HIPPY International to deliver the programs in Australia.
The first site in Australia was started in Melbourne in 1998, and now there are 100 sites across Australia delivering the program. The Australian Government has committed more than $100 million to continue supporting program delivery, with a particular focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.
HIPPY Taree-Forster commenced in 2016, with 25 families enrolled in the program.
Who are some of the organisers behind the program locally?
Uniting holds the local sub-licence for the HIPPY program, and delivers to families across the Taree and Forster areas. The coordinator is Katie Jones, and the 2017 home tutors are Monique Foster, Melissa Foster, Hanna Deer and Kelsey Wicks. Uniting has partnered with a number of organisations to help promote and deliver the program, including Karen Clarke, the principal of Taree Public School and Geoff Battle, the pastor at the Uniting Church at Forster. Both Karen and Geoff have been huge advocates for the program and have been very supportive in offering their space, services and volunteers for the program. A number of the local playgroups and preschools are also key supports for the program.
What does the program aim to support families with?
The HIPPY approach is based on evidence that children’s earliest and most powerful learning comes from their family. Over the two years, HIPPY children work through play-based, educational activities with their parents and family.
They are encouraged to ask questions and try new things, developing their confidence and passion for learning, which encourages school-readiness.
HIPPY benefits children and families by: encouraging a love of learning; promoting language, listening skills and developing concentration; building self-esteem and confidence in learning; improving relationships between parents and children; helping create a learning environment at home; increasing parents’ knowledge of child development and the way children learn.
Preparing for “big school” can be a confusing time. What are some of the common problems families talk to you about?
A main concern many families are faced with is deciding whether their little one is ready for school. HIPPY is a great program, as it provides parents with an understanding of some of the things that are expected when children start school. This not only includes being able to focus or concentrate for short periods of time, but importantly how to make friends, share and take turns, or ask for help if they need it. These are all skills that are embedded in the HIPPY activities each week, and enacted at group meetings.
The fortnightly groups are a fantastic opportunity for parents to connect with each other and ask questions and advice. Guest speakers often come to these meetings, and are a great resource for families. This year, we had Paediatric Occupational Therapist Deb Hopper talk about school readiness, pencil grip, helping left handed children, and self regulation, as well as Early Connections speak about transitioning to school and how parents can prepare for this at home.
These speakers, as well as the home tutors and HIPPY Coordinator, are valuable resources for families and can ease parents’ minds, answer questions, or seek out further information for families, helping create a learning environment at home; increasing parents’ knowledge of child development and the way children learn; providing parents with opportunities to enjoy positive time with their children; enabling parents to be actively involved in their children’s education; supporting parents to meet regularly and promoting a sense of inclusion and connectedness with their community; increasing parents’ self-confidence.
When do people in the program meet?
Activity packs are delivered to families weekly in the first year of the program, and fortnightly in the second year. Delivery alternates between home visits, where tutors meet up with families and go through the activities, drop off story books, craft materials and resources and group meetings.
The group meetings are held at Taree Public School and Forster Uniting Church. At groups, families have the chance to chat through the activity books with the tutors, as well as other parents/carers. There is also morning tea, games and craft activities and a guest speaker. This year we have had lots of great speakers, including occupational therapists, speech pathologists, police officers, a visit to the fire station, the local library, dental team visits, Sportlets, yoga and dance, Bunnings, as well as excursions to Inflatable World, the Petting Farm, Billabong Zoo, Forster Beach, the movies and lots more!
How long does the HIPPY program take to complete?
The HIPPY program is a FREE two year program. Children start HIPPY in the year before they start school, and continue into their first year of school.
Tell us about the recent graduation cere- mony …
On Saturday 2nd December we celebrated with 21 families from Taree and Forster who had completed the two year HIPPY program. It was a fantastic afternoon held at the Pacific Palms Recreation Club. The children looked very grown up in their graduation gowns and caps, receiving their awards and gifts. The afternoon included a photo booth, tasty nibbles and kids’ disco.
HIPPY Australia has a great website: http://hippyaustralia.bsl.org.au/ . I’m the local coordinator for the program and can be contacted on 0427 414 488. Enrolments for 2018 are now open, with only 30 spots available!