Archive for Thursday, October 18, 2001

Program has parents working as teachers

October 18, 2001

Around 9 a.m. at Dan and Tina Breedlove's house, about the only sounds are the rain on the roof and the pat, pat, pat of plastic drinking straws on the yellow lid of an empty can of mixed nuts. James Breedlove, 19 months, smiles and coos as he plays on his makeshift drum.

More than just a play session, James' musical experiments are a learning session with Parents as Teachers parent educator Lisa Quackenbush, who guides James' mother, Tina Breedlove, through interactive play on a monthly home visit.

Quackenbush's lesson focuses on music and sounds, especially teaching James to discern between loud and soft sounds. She explains to Tina Breedlove how music helps children develop and how they react to it at different ages.

"He is unable to do any filtering," Quackenbush said, explaining why playing "smart" music like Mozart in the background, which studies show works on teenagers, won't work on James.

Parents As Teachers, a child parenthood education program open to anyone in the Eudora School District, has been in Eudora for about two years and uses mostly state money coming through the district. The free program helps children and their parents from the prenatal stage to 3 years. Unlike some programs that target certain socio-economic groups, PAT serves all different types of children and families.

"I have principals' children in the program, kids from single-family homes, both high-end and low-end," Quackenbush said.

Home visits, like work with the Breedloves, are open to those registered with the program, which has a waiting list. But Quackenbush emphasized that home visits are the only aspect of the program not open to those on the waiting list. Other activities, like family gatherings and classes, are open to anyone.

Quackenbush, who studied elementary education, had her own children in the program.

"I was amazed at how much information I learned," she said. "I was impressed with the program."

Sitting on the floor across from Tina and James Breedlove, Quackenbush opens a plastic tub filled with multifarious items ranging from poker chips to beans to metallic tissue paper, which she scrunches in her hands to make a crackling sound. The beans go into tennis ball canisters and decorative tins to make rattles while the poker chips are rubbed together to make a scratching noise. Quackenbush shows Tina Breedlove how to teach James to experiment with sounds.

James started the program at about six months.

"It was easy because they come into the home," Breedlove said. "They show me things I might not have though doing with him."

Then comes the lesson in soft and loud noise. Tina Breedlove bangs a large plastic spoon on a plastic tub while she and Quackenbush tell James this is what a soft noise sounds like

"He knows 'Shh' for quiet," Breedlove said, so that's the word Quackenbush had her use to draw the association between the sound and the word.

The same spoon on the tin shows James what a loud noise is. When James takes a turn with the spoon, his mother tells him to make a soft noise. He lightly taps the spoon on the tin and the crescendos to a flinching bang, which Quackenbush and Breedlove reinforce with the word "loud."

Although Quackenbush gets to know the children through monthly visits, she also relies on the parents' and caregivers' knowledge about the children. For instance, when she pulled the dried beans out of a zipped plastic bag she asked Breedlove whether James would put them in his mouth or play with them, and she asked what type of instruments they make at home, like guitars from tissue boxes and rubber bands. In return, Quackenbush makes suggestions for playtime between mother and baby, like using James' tape recorder to document household sounds, like shutting doors, so that he can learn sequences through sound.

Sitting in between the two women, James has the undivided attention of Quackenbush and his mother.

"Kids know that I show up they'll be the center of attention," Quackenbush said.

Often times parents won't even answer the phone during home visits, she said.

After the musical activities, Quackenbush pulls out a book about sounds called "Crash! Bang! Boom!" which fights for James' attention with a "Toy Story" video he carries around, squealing. Quackenbush lets parents and children pick a book read between visits.

For more information about home visits and other programs, contact Lisa Quackenbush at 542-4920 or at

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