Date of Graduation
Many parents need support and intervention from the community to realize their essential role as their young children's primary teachers. Home visitation is one type of family support program that supplies that need. Although some measurable outcomes for children and parents in such programs have been noted, the dynamics of the action between the catalyst for development, the family educator, and family members cannot be measured quantitatively. Programming and funding decisions can be made with more accuracy if the rich human interactions are systematically narrated and thus appreciated as essential data. The research literature contains few qualitative studies focusing on family educators, and none related to Appalachian families in poverty. The purpose of this investigation was to address that need for in-depth descriptive data by studying the strategies which one Even Start family educator in an Appalachian community employed to adjust herself to identify and meet the needs of two low literacy, low resource families in relation to literacy development, adult education, parenting skills, and early childhood education. Four research questions pertained to the educator's personal characteristics, professional background, philosophical framework, methods of work, ideas about advocacy, as well as to parents' viewpoints on their experiences with the Even Start educator. A pilot study of a Home-Based Head Start family educator provided practice in the ethnographic method and valuable insight into the individuality and methods of that educator. Issues raised in the pilot study were incorporated into the major study. Data collection consisted of observations of three home visits with each family, 10 interviews with the educator, interviews with both mothers, observation of a parent meeting, and reflections noted in the investigator's journal. The Even Start educator also recorded her reflections. Data were inductively analyzed and systematically interpreted in relation to the research questions and in keeping with the perspectives of the family educator. Comparisons of data were drawn between the Head Start and the Even Start educators. The study suggests that the educator's interpersonal skill in building trust and empathy is more important than lesson content in facilitating personal development with highly stressed families in severe poverty, who are rooted in the traditional roles, relationship patterns, and attitudes toward learning of the Appalachian coal culture. Such personal growth, often occurring in microchanges, can lead to the parents' increased ability to facilitate their children's learning and to achieve literacy goals of their own. Implications are drawn for preparing family and early childhood educators for work with diverse families, particularly Appalachian families in severe poverty. Directions for further research are suggested.
Gnatuk, Carole Ann, "The process of home-based early intervention: A case study of a family educator in an Appalachian community." (1996). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 8917.