I first learned about Early Head Start at the local DHS office. I had recently given birth to my daughter, Ame, and wanted to continue my college education. I expected to only go to school part-time because I could not afford full-time childcare. Then I saw a flyer about childcare at Early Head Start and asked if I would qualify. There was an opening and no co-pay. I was ecstatic! This meant I could go back to school full-time – it was a huge, huge help.

Enrolling My Children in Early Head Start

It was hard for me to get used to leaving my daughter, but when I saw she was getting great care I felt secure about leaving her. Ame really enjoyed being at EHS Merriman Center. She met her first friend Brook when they were little babies, and they are still close friends at Head Start four years later.

When I became pregnant with my son Jaithen, Ame’s EHS teacher encouraged me to enroll in their parent/child program at EHS West Medford Center. I learned infant massage and the Parent Group helped me get support from other parents. When my son Jaithen was 6 months old he joined his sister in childcare and I continued my education while working full-time as an adult caregiver. Ame was itching to go to Head Start to be with the bigger kids. Her learning ability was full-speed ahead. Six months into Head Start she could write her first and last name.

Her developmental assessments at Head Start showed she was performing at her age level. The academics came more naturally to Ame than physical development, so her teacher Linda and I set goals to increase Ame’s physical skills. Ame and Brook were in the same Head Start class and continued their friendship. Jaithen transitioned into Head Start a year later. Although I was concerned that Jaithen would not listen well, he learned all the words to the Head Start songs and made good progress with his learning.

Beyond the Classroom

Head Start was not only supportive of my goals with the kids, but also my personal goal of graduating from college. I applied for, and received, a free computer through Head Start which I really needed to write my papers. I am currently applying for a Head Start scholarship. Head Start staff helped with vision screenings and eye doctors. Both Jaithen and Ame needed glasses. According to her doctor, Ame no longer needs glasses for her far-sightedness because her vision issue was identified so early. I talked to my other family members about the importance of vision screening, and now three other kids in my extended family have gotten glasses.

My youngest daughter Citrine is now in the toddler group at EHS. She looks forward to going to school with her teacher Jenifer. Jenifer also makes home visits to our family. We do learning activities together such as making play dough, and talk about Citrine’s development. I also get help with issues I have. Jenifer is helping me create a friendly learning environment for Citrine in my home similar to the EHS classroom to help my husband and I get our work done while she plays and learns nearby. Jenifer has given me ideas about how to create this space with things I already have in my home so I don’t need to buy anything.

Jewel will be graduating from Southern Oregon University in June 2012 with a B.S. in Graphic Design. Ame will start Kindergarten next fall ready-to-learn, and Jaithen and Citrine will be in Head Start.

“I think it’s sad in this country that we put such emphasis on education but we aren’t funding it the way we need to for everybody to get a good education. I wish they had Early Head Start and Head Start available for everyone.” — Jewel supporting pregnancy

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