Equipping parents to support their children’s education: The effects of Charlotte Bilingual Preschool’s Family Program
Charlotte Bilingual Preschool’s Family Program aims to equip parents to support their children’s education at home and at school by increasing parents’ educational engagement, promoting parenting best practices, developing families’ social capital, and supporting families’ mental health and well-being. This study aimed to evaluate 1) how the Family Program promotes growth in these areas for the families at the preschool, 2) the interconnections among parents’ attitudes, behaviors, and supports, and 3) how parents’ attitudes, behaviors, and supports relate to their children’s functioning in preschool. The analysis of survey data collected at the beginning and end of the 2019-20 school year uncovered little evidence that attendance at Family Program events (i.e., Family Cafes and Workshops) led to improvements in family or child outcomes, other than increased parent friendships and more connections in the preschool family network. The disruption of programming caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to remote instruction in March 2020, likely relate to the lack of findings in this area. Nonetheless, correlational and regression analyses did identify relationships among mothers’ attitudes, perceptions of social support and social capital, and educational involvement behaviors. For instance, findings suggest that common good social capital (i.e., a positive, collaborative community atmosphere) may promote positive interactions with teachers and other parents, which could in turn, promote more positive educational involvement behaviors, including home-based involvement, ethnic identity parenting, and more positive behavior management practices. Additionally, analyses indicated that the positive relationship between maternal stress and negative behavior management practices was attenuated when mothers perceive strong social support and social capital. While these positive outcomes did not relate to parents’ attendance at Family Cafes and Workshops, they were associated with parents’ self-reported school involvement, suggesting that parents’ broader interactions with the Family Program (i.e., beyond attendance at Family Cafes and Workshops) may yield positive outcomes. This study’s findings support the approach of Charlotte Bilingual Preschool’s Family Program, by connecting caregivers’ attitudes, sense of support, and social capital (which are intermediate goals of the Family Program) to their educational involvement behaviors (the Family Program’s primary goal). Theoretically, promoting positive family involvement should yield more positive developmental outcomes for children in the short- and long-term as well. This study provided some support for this hypothesis, by connecting parents’ bonding and bridging social capital and their efforts to promote children’s appreciation of their ethnic and cultural identities to children’s social-emotional functioning and language skills. Furthermore, results suggested that when parents reported greater increases or improvements in several family-level variables, their children tended to show larger improvements in social-emotional protective factors and behavior. These findings indicate that the Family Program can have an important impact on children and families, especially by connecting socially isolated families with greater social support and social capital. The COVID-19 pandemic and the preschool’s shift to remote programming in March 2020 was a major limitation that disrupted programming and reduced this study’s capacity to draw strong conclusions. However, the pandemic also provided an opportunity to examine the links between various forms of remote engagement and outcomes for children and families. Despite the pandemic, this study’s findings have important implications for Charlotte Bilingual Preschool, as well as other stakeholders seeking to enhance two-generation approaches to early childhood education; especially those supporting Latino immigrant families and English language learners. Limitations, implications, and future directions are discussed.