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Importance of Preschool: Childhood experiences differ by socio-economic class

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This is an excerpt from:

The Early Education Racket

If you are reading this article, your kid probably doesn’t need preschool.

It’s hard to tease out the effects of preschool on a child. Part of the problem is self-selection: Compared with kids who skip preschool, kids who attend usually have more well-to-do, encouraging parents who read and do puzzles with them at home. Children who don’t go to preschool are usually from more disadvantaged families, which means they watch lots of TV and are yelled at more than they are praised, which some researchers believe can stunt cognitive development.

I am not making a Bell Curve argument here; promise. But research suggests that parents who are financially comfortable tend to devote more resources and time to their kids, in part because they can. In work they conducted at the University of Kansas and chronicled in their book Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children, Betty Hart and Todd Risley recorded, for two-and-a-half years, a full hour of conversation every day between parents and children from 42 American families of differing social classes. Children with professional parents heard about 30 million words by the time they turned 3, compared with 20 million in working-class families and 10 million in welfare families. In addition, the ratio of parental encouragements to reprimands was about 6-to-1 among professional families, 2-to-1 among the working class and 1-to-2 in welfare homes. These different experiences closely tracked with the children’s later academic and intellectual performance, and other studies have since supported these findings.

But what does all this have to do with preschool? Research suggests that preschool only benefits children from these disadvantaged families (in particular, families that are below the poverty line, whose mothers are uneducated, or who are racial minorities). This could be because preschool acts as a kind of “equalizer,” ensuring that for at least a few hours a day, these kids get the same high-quality interaction with adults as more advantaged children do, which helps to even the developmental playing field.

For instance, in a study published last year, University of Texas psychologist Elliot Tucker-Drob assessed a number of different characteristics in a group of more than 600 pairs of twins. He looked at the scores the children got at age 2 on tests of mental ability; whether or not they went to preschool; how “stimulating” their mothers’ interactions were with them; their socio-economic status and race; and finally, how well they scored on reading and math tests at age 5. Because he was comparing what happened to identical twins, who share all of their genes, and fraternal twins, who on average share half (yet both sets typically grow up together), Tucker-Drob could home in on the effects of environment and genetics on the kids’ outcomes.

A hell of a lot of math later, Tucker-Drob reported that the home environments of children who do not attend preschool have a much larger influence on kindergarten academic ability than do the home environments of preschoolers. In other words, a bad home situation becomes a much smaller problem when your kid goes to preschool; when you have a good home environment, preschool doesn’t really matter. (Granted, children from poor families tend to go to lower quality preschools than wealthy kids do, but for them, a bad preschool is usually better than nothing.)

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by on Jan. 16, 2013 at 10:09 PM
Replies (11-20):
Bookwormy
by Platinum Member on Jan. 16, 2013 at 11:17 PM
Academically I think that this study is likely true, though there are certain things my DD has probably gained from 3 yrs at a Montessori program, 3-6yo, that we couldn't have provided her at home. The research does not address the social or other non-academic benefits of preschool. I heard about this research ages ago on public radio & don't find it very surprising.

I will say that 42 study subjects is not a very large subject pool. I didn't remember it being so small a subject pool. That's disappointing.
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Clairwil
by Ruby Member on Jan. 17, 2013 at 7:00 AM
2 moms liked this
Quoting mommygiggles317:

I call BULLSHIT!!! This article is wrong on so many levels it's sad... smdh

Let me put it another way for you:


Kids benefit from having adults talk to them.

When a kid is at preschool, adults talk to the kid.

If, when a kid is at home, adults also talk to the kid, then sending the kid to preschool won't increase how much the kid gets talked to.

If, when a kid is at home, the adults tend to stick the kid in front of the TV set and ignore them, then sending the kid to preschool will increase how much the kid gets talked to.


Make sense now?

Clairwil
by Ruby Member on Jan. 17, 2013 at 7:04 AM
1 mom liked this
Quoting futureshock:

Children with professional parents heard about 30 million words by the time they turned 3, compared with 20 million in working-class families and 10 million in welfare families. In addition, the ratio of parental encouragements to reprimands was about 6-to-1 among professional families, 2-to-1 among the working class and 1-to-2 in welfare homes. 

This is the key part.

There are also difference in how ON AVERAGE parents read books to the children, that correlate with socio-economic class.   'higher' class parents tend to ask question that tie things together and get the children to use imagination.  'lower' class parents tend to ask factual recall questions.

Debmomto2girls
by Platinum Member on Jan. 17, 2013 at 7:18 AM
1 mom liked this
It depends in the child. My oldest benefitted from Preschool because she was so outgoing and smart and wanted to learn. She needed more stimulation than I could give.

My youngest I sent a little later. She needed it more socially to help her with her extreme shyness. She never went has much as my oldest because it was too much for her.

So, my oldest went in to kindergarten reading. My youngest went in barely knowing her letters.

Guess what? The oldest had slight difficulty with reading later in and went to CORA services for 1 year and is now straight A's.

The youngest has been straight A's since 1st grade.

Preschool benefits some children not all
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jakesmom323
by on Jan. 17, 2013 at 7:26 AM
2 moms liked this
What I got from the "Politically incorrect" article is that children from better off families don't need to go to preschool due to education being affluent in their homes. The children from lower income families highly benefited from preschool due to structure and education they do not have in their home. Yes I agree with this. No matter where you are from, education can give them a future better from where they came;)
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toomanypoodles
by Ruby Member on Jan. 17, 2013 at 7:49 AM
1 mom liked this

 I homeschool.  Started at 5 with both---kindergarten, but I did a ton of pre-schooling activities before kindergarten. 

A am NOT a parent who thinks a baby should be shipped off to another woman all day--a child needs to be at home with mama and learning with mama.

rfurlongg
by on Jan. 17, 2013 at 7:55 AM
1 mom liked this
I think the article makes sense from a purely academic perspective. My children attended (youngest still attends) preschool. We did not enroll them to boost their academic growth as well felt we could easily do that home. Our purpose for preschool as a social one. They learned to listen to direction from others, learned to follow traditional classroom protocol, learned to take turn sharing with "strangers" etc. For us, preschool was a great benefit.
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Clairwil
by Ruby Member on Jan. 17, 2013 at 8:04 AM
2 moms liked this
Quoting toomanypoodles:

a child needs to be at home with mama and learning with mama.

IF the mama is the sort of mama who will talk with their child.

But what if the mama isn't and isn't going to change?   Yes, ideally the mama would change, but what should society advise in the case that is seems likely that the mama won't?

Should society plan for and make available pre-school places?

Or is the whole concept of pre-school a bad one?

toomanypoodles
by Ruby Member on Jan. 17, 2013 at 8:11 AM

 

Quoting Clairwil:

Quoting toomanypoodles:

a child needs to be at home with mama and learning with mama.

IF the mama is the sort of mama who will talk with their child.

But what if the mama isn't and isn't going to change?   Yes, ideally the mama would change, but what should society advise in the case that is seems likely that the mama won't?

Should society plan for and make available pre-school places?

Or is the whole concept of pre-school a bad one?

 Unfortuntely some kids have crummy mothers and being away from a lousy mom would probably be better for the kid.  What a shame that a mother cannot raise and teach her own child though---at least for the first few years.  How hard is?!

LilyofPhilly
by Gold Member on Jan. 17, 2013 at 8:16 AM
By what stick does one measure the benefits of preschool? For my kids, preschool meant community involvement, a place to make friends, lots of fun crafts and field trips, meeting other moms, and getting a small break for myself every day. To me, that's a win. Oh and, I'm middle income, but my kids' preschoolers were practically free. My girls went to the city rec's PCN and my boys went to the public school's PCN. Sadly, the mayor killed the public school program years ago and the city rec is probably gone too.
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