Curriculum Overview

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, and those who work for its passage are creating a social revolution. It is a peaceful revolution.

The authors

Curriculum Components

Raising Children With Roots, Rights & Responsibilities is designed for two-hour sessions. Each session follows the same time format: The first hour includes parent-child interaction time and a community circle where families gather for songs and information sharing. The second hour is a planned parent education time where adults focus on the topic in one room, while the early childhood educator helps the children practice skills for living in a democracy in another room.

The curriculum can be adapted to any setting where families gather to learn. Such groups as Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE), parenting classes, child care centers, family child care homes, faith communities, YMCA/YWCA programs, Scouts/campfire groups, neighborhood and play groups, community schools, after school programs, and home schoolers can use this curriculum.

This curriculum is best suited for children ages three to six, their parents and educators. Children younger than three can attend and will enjoy the activities. A "T" designates the activities that are age-appropriate for toddlers (as well as preschoolers). Where parent participation is low, this curriculum can be used by sending letters home with the children as they complete each session.

You may find some sessions have more information than you can cover in one session. Choose the portions that seem most relevant to your group, or, if you have time, plan to spend two sessions or more on each topic. As you choose what to include, take note that we think the most important part of the parent education component is the discussion about human rights.


Component Format

Specific activities which are done each session (interaction time, circle times, individual learning time) are enjoyed by children when they are consistently repeated, week after week. This predictability helps young children mentally and emotionally prepare for the transitions.

Each session contains the following components:

Greeting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5 minutes
Parent/Child Interaction Activities . . 30 to 60 minutes
Community Circle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 to 25 minutes
Separate Learning Time . . . . . . . . 40 to 60 minutes

  1. Children's Guided Play (50 - 60 minutes) and Learning Circle

  2. Adult Education (40 - 60 minute

Component I - The Greeting - 5 Minutes

One staff member has the specific assignment of greeting the families, showing them where to put coats and bags, and handling logistics, like location of the rest rooms and making sure each person puts on a name tag. A friendly, warm reception will role model respect and care, and set the tone for the session. Some people may feel uncomfortable coming to class. It may be their first parenting class, or it may be the children's first out-of-the-home educational experience. They may be unsure about the content or worried about their child's behavior. The greeting time helps everyone relax and mentally prepare to enjoy their time together.

Component II - Interactive Activities - 30 to 60 minutes

Each session provides parent and child activities designed to build positive relationships between adults and children and among families. The activities are an age-appropriate way for children to experience hands-on learning about human rights concepts. In these cooperative activities, children and parents recognize and appreciate simple family pleasures (time together, working, playing, having fun, creating, exploring). They also learn about and practice sharing, cooperative play, imagining, making friends, and treating others with respect. They move toward empowerment as they self-select activities. These activities are intentionally designed to be done by a parent and child together. Staff may wish to enter this interaction where there is more than one child in a family.

A "free choice" approach for these activities provides families a chance to spend a little or a lot of time on each activity and to choose to do only one activity or all of them. Each activity has an information sheet (table tent or cue card) to be read by parents when doing the activity. This card helps parents understand why they are doing the activity and provides questions for them to ask their child(ren). You may wish to copy these out of the book and then laminate them or place them on construction paper for easy visibility and safe storage between sessions of this class. Carefully protected, these cue cards can last for years.

"To learn is to change; and to change can be both exhilarating and wrenching."
Tom Peters and Nancy Austin, A Passion for Excellence

Component III - Community Circle -10 to 20 minutes

Expanding on the cooperative interaction activities of the first component, Community Circle time combines active, age-appropriate songs, games, and concepts with group participation. Preschool readiness skills are encouraged. Children observe, listen, participate, and practice. The 10 to 20 minute group time focuses on one particular concept or human right and the corresponding responsibility, reinforcing cooperation and respect within each group circle. This component encourages physical closeness (when children sit on their parents' laps or hold their parents' hands) and for social interaction through songs, finger plays, and circle games.

Component IV - Separate Learning Time - 40 to 60 minutes

The fourth component provides separate learning time for adults and children.

Children's Guided Play and Children's Learning Circle
Children remain in the early childhood room with the children's teacher and any assistants. A guided play preschool routine is provided for them which includes: free choice time, snack, and large muscle time. You will need a setting with a children's play area and access to professionals to help guide the children's play.

The Children's Learning Circle lasts from 10 to 20 minutes (depending on the children's attention span). You may choose to gather the children on the circle near the end of your time together, just before the parents return to get them. This timing is useful for-

  • pulling children together to prepare for meeting their parent;
  • reviewing songs learned in the previous circle;
  • providing an opportunity to review and summarize the day's topic;
  • giving children a chance to learn interaction skills they will need in school;
  • providing an opportunity for children to honor each other's rights and feel their own are honored.

The Children's Learning Circle format is as follows:

  1. Invite children to circle (use the same song each week);
  2. Review some or all of the songs done earlier in the circle with parents and children together;
  3. Familiarize children with their rights and responsibilities for the session and initiate a discussion about them, and/or read a book to the children;
  4. End with the same song each week, such as, "If You're Happy and You Know It," or "This Little Light of Mine."

Parent Education

Parents spend their time discussing and thinking about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and its implications for parenting and participating in community life. The facilitator relates the importance and meaning of parent-child interaction activities and what the children are learning from the day's topic. Handouts that are used only in one session are provided at the end of that session. Handouts that are referred to over and over are provided in the Appendices.

Parents explore such topics as: "How does this information impact your parenting? What might you do differently now that you have this information? What are some of your current parenting strategies that are being confirmed?" The facilitator avoids setting up some parents as "models" for the others. This may create a tone of competition which will reduce the effectiveness of the dialogue. Rather, all parents serve as models for each other. Even what you consider "bad" parenting can be instructive, especially when you explore the rationale for a particular parenting strategy deeply, so beliefs can be questioned and attitudes and behaviors can change.

An important part of the parent curriculum is the Action Steps, which are included in each parent session. They include family, neighborhood/community, and larger social/political actions people can take related to the topic. Parents work on their Human Rights Action Steps Journal. This is a handout provided in the first session.

You may wish to break the sequence and spend one out of three weeks exclusively on Action Steps - discussing strategies and reporting on actions. This provides an opportunity to stop and take a look at the bigger picture, as opposed to the specific articles that are discussed during individual sessions. Participants can complete action steps outside of class and report on their activities during sessions. They are encouraged to keep a record of their efforts and changes in their Human Rights Action Steps Journal.

The entire session ends when parents conclude their discussion and rejoin the children in the early childhood classroom. You may wish to briefly gather everyone for a short closing song, but since the adults and the children have both had closure in their separate learning times, this is not necessary. Saying good-bye and helping facilitate the transition is important.

Teacher Tips:

  • Provide each family with a folder for the handouts or use a folder with pockets to hold the Human Rights Action Steps Journal and the handouts.
  • Keep a supply of each week's handouts in a file in the classroom so individuals who have missed a week can get them when they attend.
  • Have extra copies of the Summary of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child on hand so people can use them if they forget their copy from week to week.
  • Speaking to or touching children on the shoulder reminds them that a circle time will begin soon (this may be the Community Circle with parents and children together, or it may be the Children's Learning Circle with children alone). After connecting with each child, the teacher begins a song. Singing the same song each week helps children make the transition to the circle.
  • Note that we use food items in the sensory table. If you have objections to the use of food, please substitute with colored rocks or blocks.
  • Human Rights Action Step Journals are needed for each adult. See Appendix

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