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KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Forty percent of Knox County children are not ready for kindergarten. The school system is responding by making house calls and even sending parents back to school.
Trained parent educators make house calls for families enrolled in Knox County Schools' Birth to Kindergarten program.
Two-year-old Traveon Wiley and his mother, Carmen Faulkner, are both getting an education thanks to home visits. We watched as Traveon, his mom, and the educator sat on the floor in his living room helping Traveon sort colored, plastic bears, putting the red bears in a red bowl, blue bears in a blue bowl, and so on.
"Like at two, I didn't know, at two they could identify their colors and match them up and actually count. He even knows his ABCs," Carmen said.
Experts say the skills are critical for children to learn early.
"When children come into kindergarten and they are not ready, they know it very quickly. They become shy and withdrawn. They start to not answer questions, not raise their hand, and a lot of times parents don't know what to do at home to make sure they're getting the skills, and they're keeping up," explained Birth to Kindergarten coordinator Susan Barrentine.
Knox County Schools is working with future students from birth and coaching parents.
"Not only are they their child's first teacher, but they are their child's best teacher," Barrentine said.
"I'm amazed, and I recommend it for whoever can get into the program. Get in it, because it's a lot of help," Carmen said.
Parenting classes without the kids, are also offered.
"With the tools that they're giving us, it's keeping me focused on what they actually need to learn, and what they need to know when they get to kindergarten," said Lakyra Hill, a mother of three.
She also says the positive interaction is even strengthening family bonds.
"It gives us our activity time together. You know, as parents and working hard you barely have time to spend time with your child anyway. So as you're getting activities ready, and getting things done, it puts, I think it puts more of a smile on my face knowing that I have more time with my child," Lakyra said.
Traveon's mom credits the lessons for a boost in his confidence and even better behavior.
"Now that I'm spending more time, like even after school, spending more time, he's, the temper tantrums are almost completely gone, where they was like from the time I get off to the time I go to bed," Carmen said.
The Great Schools Partnership pays for the training, literature and other expenses for the Birth to Kindergarten Program.
The program is free of charge to parents who qualify. For parenting classes, you must live in Knox County in a Title I school district. For home visits, you must meet certain income requirements.
Classes are offered three times a year. Parents receive a guidebook, toys and children's books to keep.
Of the children who graduated from the program, 93% were proficient or advanced on the kindergarten entry assessment.
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