Soucheray: Early childhood family education helps parents tooWhen I joined the Early Childhood Family Education class with my daughter Maggie 24 years ago, ee were in the first ECFE class that was offered in Woodbury, with only three moms and children in the class.
By: Kate Soucheray, Columnist, Woodbury Bulletin
I joined Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) when our daughter Maggie was about 9 months old. We were in the first ECFE class that was offered in Woodbury, with only three moms and children in the class. Our class was so small that we did not go into separate groups from each other. Instead, the teacher sat on the floor with us as we played with our babies and talked about what it was to be a new mom and what it all entailed.
The program generally begins with a playtime for the parents and their children, with teachers and helpers in the room. The parents then leave the children with these instructors and separate out to another room to discuss a parenting issue regarding the specific age of their children. There is time for check-in, instruction, and discussion. All in all, it provides a new parent with time to be with other adults, learn new ideas for interacting with their child, and to form new friendships.
I continued with ECFE until our daughter was in kindergarten, as it was her preschool experience. At the time, the other mothers in my group were people that I saw, not only weekly at the class, but also for parties with our children, play dates at someone’s house, or for a walk around Colby Lake and time to play at a park. It was one of the best things I did as a young mom with a new baby, living in a suburb where I knew practically no one.
Our involvement with ECFE began 24 years ago and has influenced our family’s life in a significant way. You see, so many people seem to think this program is all about the kids. Ask the moms and dads and you’ll hear a different story.
As new parents, many of us had taken time out of our careers to spend time with our children. The classes offered enriching friendships, valuable information, and new playmates for our children, many of whom have become lifelong friends.
The group I seemed to be with regularly met during our children’s toddler and preschool years and continued to meet for several years afterward, celebrating birthdays and favorite holidays with the mothers. It proved to be a life-giving experience for me at a time when I could have otherwise felt lonely, as my family does not live in Minnesota. My friends in ECFE became like family members. We were excited about one another’s achievements and milestones, as well as the accomplishments attained by our children.
I have a group of friends from my ECFE years with whom I still meet with for birthdays. Someone in the group starts the e-mail to remind us that it is time to get together for coffee, cards (no gifts we say every time and no one listens), great friendship, and camaraderie.When we say we’ve been friends for more than 20 years in Woodbury, no one can believe it. People wonder how that could be? They think Woodbury is too new to have existed two decades ago.
I now have two nieces who are ardently involved with ECFE in their own communities. One is the member of the board and the other is a regular attendee and frequent play date coordinator in her own right. I am certain ECFE will be as enduring and influential in their lives, and the lives of their families, as it has been for me and my family.
If you are interested in finding out more about the ECFE program in Woodbury, go online to the Woodbury ECFE website (www.ce- cool.com then click on ECFE) and see that no one is sent away for the inability to pay. A variety of classes, programs, and schedules is offered to fit the busy lives of families today. If you decide to become involved in ECFE, I think it will be one of the most important decisions you will make in the life of your family. It was at this group that I learned about becoming an Askable Parent. This concept has been with me, and continues to influence interactions with our children to this day, 24 years later.