Important information: the Kindergarten@home project follows the '1000 first days' UNICEF programme as well as the recommendation to not expose to any screen children under 3 YEARS OLD. Kindergarten@home is a project that has been thought and early-developped though not launched yet, after Laetitia Barbu gave birth to her daughter in 2016. She is an independent worker, consultant and designer, working mostly from home or remotely. When she was 9 months pregnant she was finishing a European project funded under the COSME programme, had a maternity and parental break during which she found inspiration from her daily life with a baby and her slowed-down professional activity at home, hardly being able to balance both and trying to find what she never found: a virtual kindergarten, at home. She has then developed the concept as the community of remote workers, mother or fathers, was quickly rising, thinking that her own experience could benefit to other parents and families and that organizing time and work to be able to be there at least the first year(s) of one’s child, in the best possible conditions, was a very important matter, necessary for the child development. The project has slowly developed as Laetitia Barbu and Ruxandra Lupu have been working on several parallel projects regarding innovative education (including one funded by WORTH Partnership Project (funded by EU COSME and one funded by the Nordisk Kulturfond (Nordic Council)), especially spending immersive time to learn better about the Nordic education strategies and processes, nourishing the Kindergarten@home project. Then the COVID19 started to spread and even if not officially launched yet, the kindergarten@home made even more sense as everybody began to be locked at home.
What it does
Kindergarten@home is based on the proven fact that the first 3 years of a child’s development are the most important ones as it is the time the human brain develops most. It is also the years when damages can be done or deficiencies happen. Society has largely underestimated the importance of the early years of the child’s development, and in the light of neuroscience and neuropsychology, important shifts must be made. That’s why the UNICEF has launched the ‘1000 days’ programme: ‘Who you are today was shaped in your first 1000 days’. This program has been recently taken up by many governments, including France through the French Health Ministry but also Europe through EuroHealthNet. THEREFORE THE ACTIVE AND QUALITY PRESENCE OF AT LEAST ONE PARENT IN THE EARLY YEARS OF A CHILD IS HIGHLY IMPORTANT. Especially in societies where working time greatly exceeds family time and/or real connections with the child are degraded. Remote work can be a real chance if we are able to manage it effectively. If the continuation of children’s education is a major concern during the COVID crisis, most children will be able to make up for lost time. Children less than 3 years old will not, as the brain’s development months and years are almost irreversible and yet they are often forgotten. Kindergarten@home is very similar to a real advanced kindergarten, except it is a virtual one where the child care givers are the parents themselves assisted by the professional workers of the Kindergarten@home. The project is developed specifically for parents working remotely (independent workers, digital nomads, remote workers due to the COVID crisis…) as well as parents staying at home to take care of their child.
How we built it
The project is based on the non-existence of a really similar project. Therefore the project doesn’t require very advanced technologies to operate effectively. The project is made of a web platform, here a simple Wordpress website, and an app (a simulation is proposed). Remote workers are combining two lives, work and family life, especially with babies or toddlers who are very demanding. During a day, these are intertwined lives, often based on the child's rhythm. Thus, parents have very limited time and often very tired. The interface and user’s experience must be very efficient and the whole aim of the Kindergaten@home is to assist parent’s lives, bringing most important solutions to help them balance well their lives. It is a simple concept with a simple and easy understanding of it.
Challenges we ran into
Most challenges are about project financing to launch it, as we need to hire, at least part time, early childhood workers. Communication and promotion is also a very important aspect as this project is innovative and most parents have never seen it before.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
In our changing times, and now even highly disturbed times, we are proud to see that the project largely echoes the situation. As well it is a project that makes sense even post COVID crisis in the context of increasing levels of remote work and the necessary adaptations that will be taken after the COVID emergency state. We are also very proud about the fact that the project is addressing the most vulnerable age of humanity that is our future generations; giving a chance to young children to grow in the best conditions, as they’ll be the ones who will shape the future of our world. Unbalanced, unhappy and unhealthy people have never brought a sustainable vision to the world and to societies. Everything starts here…are we ready?
Additionally, the project is addressing the place of the mothers willing to keep their professional own activities without putting it on hold totally for months or years, but also, with great attention, to the fathers willing to participate more in their family life and child education.
What we learned
That it was time to launch the project, the COVID crisis bringing even more meaning to it.
What's next for Kindergarten@home
Most of the work will be to find the funding needed to launch the project as a test at first (in English) and monitor the feedback on it in order to adapt it if necessary (Lean start up methodology through test cycles). The project doesn’t require a very important funding to be operative. As well it could be partly supported by public entities and entrepreneurial ecosystems, such as companies using remote work and freelance community representatives.