Voices of Florida. Made possible through the generous support of the Gidel Family Foundation.

Daisie Overman: Partnering with Parents

Daisie Overman is the director of the Miami Shores Baptist Academy and a board member of the Child Development Education Alliance, based in Jacksonville.

My life and work for more than three decades is early learning. As an early education educator, I’ve always believed that parents and early childhood educators must build a partnership to create a strong foundation on which children can build the rest of their lives.

Our parents and teachers hear this from me: The early childhood staff is not their child’s most important teachers -- parents are. I want children to spend as much time as possible at home learning from family members.

Many of our parents find that the three-hour VPK day best serves the needs of the children and families. I share these three parent testimonials to show the value of shared time between home and preschool (and specifically Florida’s VPK – or voluntary prekindergarten program):

  • Kashleigh, with two children, one age 4 and the other 2, chose our three-hour-day program to give her children more time together before her son begins kindergarten. Meanwhile, Dad’s flexible schedule gives him some time in the afternoons with the family. Kashleigh spends the afternoons involving her son in learning activities that reinforce what he is learning in VPK. She also looks for free or inexpensive community events to introduce her children to various cultural experiences. This, she believes, gives her family a well-rounded learning experience.
  • Maricel and Jakeimeo, the parents of twins, feel that the longer-hours options we offer are too long for 4 year olds. So they make the necessary sacrifices so Maricel can stay home with their children. They view the VPK year as a bridge to that next step in their educational choice. Their family time includes going to the park and participating in learning activities that include instilling Biblical values in the girls’ lives. Maricel spent her early years in fulltime child care because her mother had no other choice. She is sure it all worked out for her, but she and Jakeimeo prefer the children to be at home as much as possible in their early, most formative years.
  • Amber is a single mom whose father is helping raise her daughter. She prefers the shorter day because it “gives Grandpa a break” and still allows Mom to have time with her daughter after arriving home from work in the early afternoon. She feels that the extra time Kayla spends with her and Grandpa gives the three generations time to bond and learn from each other.

Our preschool and church also feel it is important to partner with school-readiness families who cannot afford to pay market rate. We use the same curricula and offer the same rich learning experiences throughout the day; thus, those children who attend more hours continue receiving the same enriched experiences if they are not able to be at home. As a participant in Florida’s School Readiness Program, we’ve found that the current reimbursable rate is about half of our market rate. Because we have chosen not to require parents to pay the difference, we must limit the number of families we can serve. A higher reimbursable rate would allow us to provide high-quality learning experiences for more children. That’s at the core of our overall mission.

This we believe: Partnering with parents is essential to laying a solid foundation for our preschool children. Eventually, let us hope state government and private businesses will join in partnership with us to ensure that our next generation is healthy, educated and able to reach their greatest potential.