HIPPY tutors Serina Tapau, Tarlissa Watcho, co-ordinator Robyn Hofmeyr and Rasheeda Cobbo

February 14, 2018

Cherbourg’s successful HIPPY program for families has been opened up to include Indigenous and non-Indigenous families living in Murgon … but the slots are filling quickly.

HIPPY stands for “Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters”, and is supported in Australia by the Brotherhood of St Lawrence.

Cherbourg co-ordinator Robyn Hofmeyr said the two-year program works with families – usually mothers, aunts or nans – rather than the children.

(Male relatives are also welcome, of course!)

Families join when a child is aged three, turning four.

Robyn said the cut-off for the 2018 program would be 25 families, and they already have 16 so interested parents would have to act quickly.

HIPPY programs have been operating in Australia since 1998 and are based at about 100 sites across the country.

Robyn said this was the third year the free program had been running at Cherbourg.

HIPPY helps to prepare youngsters for school as well as allow families to understand more about how their child learns.

The family becomes the child’s “first teacher”.

A family member spends a short time every day doing specially developed educational activities with their children.

This helps to build positive relationships at home as well as allow the children to learn skills at their own pace.

Robyn said two or three parents from a cohort were selected to become HIPPY tutors.

“We train them and then they go and practise the activities on their children. They then visit the other families in the program and share the skills,” Robyn said.

There is a HIPPY curriculum which the tutors follow, and every parent enrolled in the program also gets a workbook.

Serina Tapau is one of the tutors who will be working with parents this year.

She said she had noticed the difference between her two children, one who was enrolled in the HIPPY program and the other who went to school before the program started.

“It took my little girl half a year to get into the swing of Prep while my little boy is all ready,” she said.

The fun activities teach the children fine motor skills as well as learning about concepts such as colours and shapes.

There are also special reading books that the families work through together.

At the end of the course, a book is put together for the family’s “graduation”.

Robyn said the training sessions for the tutors are held once a week, and they take it in turns to “role play” as the parents and children.

Over praise is avoided as is criticism. Parents are shown to “complete, confirm and correct” as their children do an activity.

“I purposely get things wrong so I see how they will correct me,” Serina said.

Robyn said HIPPY wanted to encourage a love for learning.

“It’s got to be fun from the get go,” Serina agreed.

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