Nine years ago, my boys and I came to Canada as newcomers. We were, of course, excited about the new life that awaited us. However, within a few weeks, reality began to sink in, the excitement almost disappeared instantly, and the questions started popping up. Will I get a job? Will my children be able to adapt to school knowing that English is a second language? Will we be able to adjust to the Canadian way of life, with new food, clothing, school, and community? The what, where, why, and how suddenly became overwhelming.
As a mother, I want the best for my children, and my biggest concern at that point was their education. How do I prepare my younger son for school? How do I make sure he will be happy and successful in the classroom? Will he be able to communicate in English and interact with his friends and teachers at school? I had so many questions but did not know where to find answers or support. I felt isolated and disconnected. With my resilience and determination, I helped my son through school on my own. It was a difficult process as I did not have the tools, skills, and confidence.
My story resonates with many immigrant mothers with young children whose greatest desire is to see their child succeed. I did not know about the HIPPY program back then, or any support program for that matter. Knowing the support and service that HIPPY provides for families, I would have been spared the anxiety and the pressure that comes with being a newcomer in an unfamiliar place with a young child not totally ready for school.
What is HIPPY? The Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, or HIPPY as it is popularly known, is an evidence-based program that works with families in the home to support parents, primarily mothers, in their critical role as their child's first and most important teacher. HIPPY strengthens families and communities by empowering mothers to actively prepare their children for success in school while nurturing the mother-and-child relationship. It is offered at no cost to families through program funding from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, who also fund our Community Connections program for newcomers.
HIPPY Canada, now in its 20th year, has reached more than 14,000 low-income newcomers, Indigenous and other Canadian mothers with structured lessons and practical information that develop their own and their children's personal skills. It helps to ensure both children and families have a better opportunity to succeed in school and society. This year, the NWT Literacy Council has partnered with Mothers Matter Center, home of HIPPY Canada, to expand its community connections program by bringing literacy into the homes.
The core of the HIPPY program is a structured home visit that is designed as a three-year program for parents with three-, four-, and five-year-old children. It delivers a curriculum designed to help children to become school-ready. It recognizes role-play (between the Home Visitor and the parent) as an important method of teaching the skills needed to implement a child-centered curriculum. Well-trained Home Visitors deliver books, and 30 weeks of high-quality curriculum activities, directly to mothers who then work 15-20 minutes a day with their own children.
The curriculum is presented through the five key learning areas of literacy, language, science, motor skills, and math to expose children to a variety of activities that build and reinforce school readiness. HIPPY believes that every child can learn. Through the use of hands-on activities and manipulatives, children engage in active learning.
While mothers learn how to become the best teacher for their children, they also develop essential skills that build their own confidence to overcome employment barriers. Eventually, many HIPPY parents become Home Visitors themselves. This opportunity gives mothers a good start, and training before moving on to the workforce.
If you are a newcomer to Canada and a parent with a young child, or know a family who would benefit from this program, please contact the NWT Literacy Council for registration.
Coordinator – Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY)
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