Parent Engagement Tips from a YOU Program Parent

Beatriz Castro's family

Photo courtesy of Beatriz Castro.

Parent Engagement Month serves as a reminder to boost our parenting efforts toward helping our children become successful, happy adults. During a recent visit to a California school district that has implemented our YOU Program, we met Beatriz Castro.

Beatriz is an extraordinary example of an engaged parent. A proud mother to her two sons, Moctezuma, 4, and Tizoc, 3, she and her husband are expecting a baby girl in December. She immigrated to the United States from Morelos, Mexico when she was 7 years old with her parents and three siblings for a better education and opportunities. While she struggled with balancing work and college herself, she has prioritized her children’s education so they will have a successful future.

When Beatriz enrolled her sons in an Early Head Start program in 2011, she took a big step toward prioritizing their education. The next year, she boosted her parent engagement efforts by getting involved with the Policy Council Committee at her Early Head Start school. During this time she learned more about the program, the financials, and the critical role parents play in a child’s education. She has brought that knowledge into her daily life with her kids and currently serves as the treasurer for the State Preschool Policy Council.

When Beatriz and her husband first planned to have children, they wanted to ensure their kids would have love, attention, communication, discipline, and an education. In her own words below, she tells us how she gives those things to her children everyday. These daily activities are a great way to bring learning into your home. Even the smallest efforts make a difference. 

Getting Dressed
A typical day in our home is a consistent routine. We get dressed, but we make getting dressed a learning experience. The boys love to match clothes, so we discuss colors, shapes, stripes, and lines. As they get dressed, we also talk about the letters. What letter begins with sock? If they don’t remember, I make the sound of the s. Sometimes, we do it by singing scissors, scissors sssss, sssss, s.

Both boys know the sounds of the letters already, so that’s why they catch on fast. I’m still practicing the ABCs and sounds with my youngest, Tizoc, but he’s learning quickly.

The next thing we do is have breakfast. Depending on what we eat, we discuss the benefits of the food. What does milk give us? Calcium! What does calcium do for us? It makes our bones strong and healthy.

Brushing Teeth
After breakfast, we brush our teeth. Although the kids start the process, I help them at the end. We say front teeth, right side, left side, back teeth, molars, and lastly tongue. Then we rinse while cleaning our toothbrushes with water and putting them back in our cups.

Tying Shoes
We then prepare to start the day outside. They put their shoes on, and I tie Tizoc’s shoes by showing him how to do it first. Moctezuma knows how to tie his shoes already so he does it on his own. I taught him when he was 3½ years old.

Driving to and from Preschool
We put on our seatbelts when we get into the car. Sometimes Tizoc cries because he is having trouble.  If he says he can’t buckle it, I say that I can’t help him until he tries first. However, I let him know that I can help him if he cannot do it. He always tries, and then he says, “I did it mommy! I’m a big boy!” So I acknowledge him by telling him what a good job he has done!

On the way to school, we listen to their favorite songs like “ABC Rock,” “I am a Pizza,” “Slippery Fish,” and “Letter Sounds.”  Then I drop them off at school.

Later, when I pick them up, they are so happy to see me and share their wonderful day. They tell me what they ate, what they learned, and what activities they worked on that day. On the way home, we listen to favorite songs again.

Lunch and Playtime
When we arrive home, we eat lunch if they have not already eaten. It is a tradition that we always try to eat every meal together as a family. The boys help me set the table and put out the food, and then we sit down and discuss our day in more detail, one by one. We also talk about the type of foods we are eating (like we do in the morning). After the boys are done, they clean up their plates, bring them to the sink, and I give them another chore, liking cleaning the table and drying the dishes. As they do that, we sing the ABCs or count 1-20 together. Then they do chores, make their beds, and take out their trash from their room. I reward them with a piece of candy and a sticker.

After that, they play for one hour. These activities range from Legos, puzzles, reading books, or playing with toys. During this time, I usually do my cleaning.

Afterward, we do homework from school and homework from home, which are alternative assignments that are different from the school. I bought them their favorite activity book, which they love to do. Moctezuma likes to connect the dots, and by doing that he practices his ABCs and numbers. Tizoc is learning numbers and letters right now.

Post-Homework Playtime
Then we play outside together, and a little after, they play by themselves while I get ready for dinner. They usually play soccer, or golf with their father when he gets home early from work. When the kids shower, I teach them about hygiene and the importance of staying clean and healthy.

At the end of the day when they are ready to sleep, my husband and I read to them. We read together so that they can learn efficiently, then we choose another that they read by themselves. While reading, they recognize things we are already learning about in everyday life: colors, shapes, places, settings, numbers, and more. Anything you see everyday in the street, we practice. That is how I taught Moctezuma to read at 4 years old: anywhere you go, you see numbers, letters, colors, shapes, etc. It’s so practical and easy.

I love it, because they surprise me in how much and how quickly they learn. We do the same thing when we go out hiking—we talk about the environment and the importance of caring for it. They also know how to sign basic words and their names. Spanish is their first language, as we speak it at home, and English is their second language.

Beatriz has said that the YOU Program taught her how easy and practical it is for parents to teach their children throughout the day. As she mentions above, children absorb information quickly—all you have to do as a parent is provide the small lessons for them to pick up. A huge thank you to Beatriz, who is an inspiration to parents everywhere and a great example of an engaged parent.