Head Start is a Federal program for preschool children from low-income families. The Head Start program is operated by local non-profit organizations in almost every county in the country. Children who attend Head Start participate in a variety of educational activities. They also receive free medical and dental care, have healthy meals and snacks, and enjoy playing indoors and outdoors in a safe setting. Head Start helps all children succeed. Services are offered to meet the needs of children with disabilities. Most children in Head Start are between the ages of 3 and 5 years old.
What can Head Start offer your family?
Head Start offers you a sense of belonging, other support services, and a chance to be involved in activities to help your whole family. You can take part in training classes on many subjects, such as child rearing, job training, learning about health and nutrition, and using free resources in your own community. Some parents learn the English language; others learn to read. Head Start also offers assistance to parents interested in obtaining a high school General Equivalency Diploma (GED) or other adult education opportunities. Head Start staff members can assist in making referrals for families needing help with medical, social welfare, or employment specialists in the community, and will follow up to be sure you receive assistance. You can become a Head Start volunteer and learn more about child development. This experience may later qualify you for training which can help you find employment in the child care field. You can also have a voice in the Head Start program by serving on various committees. Parents' experiences in Head Start have raised their own self-confidence and improved their ablilty to make decisions.
What would be your child's routine in a Head Start program?
Most children who enroll in Head Start attend a half-day center-based program. However, some communities may operate a full-day program or provide Head Start services through a home-based setting. In a home-based program, staff called Home Visitors teach parents how to provide learning experiences for their own children. Some center-based programs offer children bus rides to and from home. When the children arrive at the center, they are greeted warmly by their teachers. They put whatever they have brought from home in a place which is their own to use every day. Classroom time includes many different activities. Some teachers begin the day by asking the children to sit in a circle. This encourages the children to talk about an idea or experience they want to share with others. In some centers, the children plan their activities. They may choose among art, playing with blocks or table toys, science activities, dancing to music, looking at books, or pretend housekeeping. Children can switch activities if they prefer another challenge. Each day, they have time to work in a small group with other children and to play outdoors on safe playground equipment.At lunchtime, children receive a nutritious meal and brush their teeth. All the children are taught to wash their hands before meals, and are encouraged to develop good personal and health habits. If they come for an afternoon session, they also receive a healthy snack.