A home visit has become a very common practice in Montessori Toddler programs all over the world. The home visit is an opportunity for your child’s teacher to come visit him or her in his own home prior to the start of school. Teachers who offer home visits consistently report that those children who have a home visit prior to the start of school begin the school year with less separation anxiety and more confidence.
So, what exactly is a home visit? A home visit is basically a play date for the student and his teacher. The visit is an opportunity for your child to get to know his new teacher on his own turf, so to speak. In the coming weeks, if your child is new to our Toddler program, your child’s teacher will reach out to you and ask if you would like to have a home visit. The choice is entirely yours and you are not required to have a home visit. The home visit is simply one more tool for easing your child’s transition. The teacher will arrive and her focus will be establishing a bond between her and the child. She will allow the child to lead the visit, allowing him or her to select where they play and what they do together. She will stay for about 30-45 minutes. She may leave a small gift with the child or ask him or her to bring an item to school on the first day, such as a picture of his or her family. Overall, it is a casual time meant to introduce the child to his teacher and establish bonds of trust.
Now, you might be thinking won’t the teacher and my student have to bond eventually or why only for the Toddler students. Absolutely your child and his or her teacher will develop a special bond even without a home visit. But, home visits are an added resource for helping your child with this transition which is uniquely difficult for toddlers. An infant will not be able to connect a visit in August with the start of school a few weeks later and once their parent has left, infants are easily distractible. With infants, when the parent is out of sight, they are out of mind (don’t worry they still love you just the same!). Older children, also benefit from home visits, but they tend to still demonstrate separation anxiety because their displays are more about testing the parents’ reaction than genuine fear. Preschoolers and Elementary students that genuinely feel separation anxiety are able to communicate and comprehend reason at a higher level so teachers are able to engage them in the activities of the room to distract from the separation much faster and with more ease.
The toddler, on the other hand, is in a unique developmental limbo where he or she is capable of deep, complex emotions, but does not have the communication skills to express those feelings or the reasoning abilities to understand the explanations, the time frames, and the obligations that are associated with parents dropping and picking children up for school. A preschooler understands “I will pick you after nap,” (although they may not accept that). A toddler does not because they are rooted in the present. They have yet to understand that crying no longer satisfies their desires as it does for infants so. They want what they want and they want it now! Additionally, for toddlers, entering school may be the first time that they are away from Mom and Dad or a home environment for an extended period of time. As such, separation anxiety is often most difficult on toddlers, so we try to give you as many tools as possible to help minimize the stress for your entire family. Knowing your child is entering a classroom with a teacher who already has a sense of who he or she is and who is not a complete stranger, is not just a relief for the child, but for you as parents as well. We encourage to take this wonderful opportunity and make the most of it.
Here are some tips and items to keep in mind to make the most of your home visit:
- The visit is entirely about your child
- It is not a time of evaluation. The teacher is not evaluating your home, your family, your parenting, or anything at all. Similarly, it is not a time for you to evaluate the child or teacher
- It is not a conference between the parent and the teacher. While it will be tempting to ask questions about the program, discuss parental anxieties or point out your child’s capabilities, it is crucial that the child remain the focus of the visit. If you have such questions, let the teacher know and she will find another time when you can speak privately
- Naturally, parents have anxieties about a new phase in their child’s life and that is OK. However, the home visit (as well as in the first weeks of school), is not a time to show it. If you are anxious, your child will pick up on it, which will only reinforce and increase his or her anxieties. Remain positive and excited about school
- Do not stress about the visit. Do not run around cleaning the house or make elaborate snacks. Try to act as regularly as possible
- The act of inviting the teacher into your home is significant to the child. It unconsciously signals to the child that this is a safe person, a friend, and while a child cannot verbalize this feeling, you are establishing his or her sense of security with this teacher
- Allow the child to plan and lead the visit. It is important for your child to feel in control. He or she many plan to do one activity and then totally change his or her mind when the teacher arrives. This is ok. Go with your child’s flow.
- Don’t worry about planning an elaborate activity. Blocks, puzzles, games, and/or outdoor play are just fine. Again, allow your toddler to choose.
- Schedule the visit for a time your child is alert and happy. Avoid meal times, nap times, or too close to bedtime. A mid-morning or early afternoon visit, usually works best for a toddler
- Try to schedule the visit when other siblings are not present. If this is not possible, minimize sibling involvement as much as possible.
- Be respectful of the teacher’s time. Do not expect her to stay more than 45 minutes. She is conducting home visits for many students and many visits happen during her personal time
- In the event the home visit does not go well, don’t panic. Some children may not want to engage with the teacher or may get upset. Such a reaction is perfectly normal. Do not force the issue. Instead, have a quick, casual visit between the parents and the teacher. Seeing you have a friendly exchange is also beneficial. Just remember to keep it light!
- Most importantly, do not hover or attempt to interfere with the visit. Stay nearby so your child feels safe, but try to participate as little as possible. Preferably remain within an earshot, but out of sight. Take the opportunity to treat yourself to some quiet time!