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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 (41-50):
MeAndTommyLee
by Platinum Member on Jan. 17, 2013 at 3:50 PM
1 mom liked this

My children did not attend pre-school.  I only attended one year of college.  I did not scream at my children, or put then in front of the television.  They developed an impressive vocabulary and reading skills because I read to them and we spent a lot ot time at the library and Barnes and Noble,  LOL  My time WAS their time and we went new adventures everyday because I am their first teacher.   I spoke to them in people talk opposed to baby-talk.  I marveled in their capacity to learn and understand from their  tiniest beginnings.  I feel badly for children that are just `there' if you will or somehow have `freeplay' around the house 24/7 with no parental  interaction unless it is to yell at them.  Most parents are not like this -- at least I'd like to  believe that.  Making generalizations about parents that did not attend college and are within a lower income bracket is somewhat offensive.

ethans_momma06
by on Jan. 17, 2013 at 3:55 PM

I am the only kid out of my family to not go to preschool- it just didn't happen.

I graduated early, valedictorian of my class.

In the end, it's not about 'preschool' but what children are being introduced to early. Parents with better educations are able to provide a more education rich environment to their children just by talking to them in the day to day. Parents who do not have that advantage CAN compinsate for it though.

I read somewhere that all advantages of preschool are erased by 1st grade anyways though.

OHgirlinCA
by Platinum Member on Jan. 17, 2013 at 4:02 PM

 My youngest went to preschool while my older two did not.  All of them were ready for Kindergarten and excelled (or are excelling) their first year.  With my older two, I had not yet gotten through college, but I had graduated from high school with honors and had completed one year of college. 

I don't feel preschool is necessary as long as the parents take the initiative and responsiblity to teach their children what they need to know.  Parents need to take an active role in education and emphasize to their children just  how important education is from a young age.

IntactivistMama
by on Jan. 17, 2013 at 4:06 PM
Preschool where I live is expensive.
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littlelamb303
by Bronze Member on Jan. 17, 2013 at 5:20 PM

I do not agree.  I am a former pre/k and kindergaren teacher and they need pre/k.  When I had children that did not go to preschool, they were behind.  Eventually some would catch up, but they were at a disadvantage from the beginning.  K is very academic, and they need to be ready with reading/writing/math readiness BEFORE kindergarten.  The children that did come from families in poverty (no preschool) had serious problems.  Pre K is something all children need.

littlelamb303
by Bronze Member on Jan. 17, 2013 at 5:21 PM

 


Quoting OHgirlinCA:

 My youngest went to preschool while my older two did not.  All of them were ready for Kindergarten and excelled (or are excelling) their first year.  With my older two, I had not yet gotten through college, but I had graduated from high school with honors and had completed one year of college. 

I don't feel preschool is necessary as long as the parents take the initiative and responsiblity to teach their children what they need to know.  Parents need to take an active role in education and emphasize to their children just  how important education is from a young age.

Parents do not do this though.  Even children from middle/upper middle class families do not always prepare them. PreK is necessary. 

 

EireLass
by Ruby Member on Jan. 17, 2013 at 5:31 PM

Pre-K is not necessary. My kids did not go to Pre-K. In fact, I didn't start them with formal lessons until they were close to 6. They finished high school early, college early, and are quite successful in their careers.

Quoting littlelamb303:
Quoting OHgirlinCA:

 My youngest went to preschool while my older two did not.  All of them were ready for Kindergarten and excelled (or are excelling) their first year.  With my older two, I had not yet gotten through college, but I had graduated from high school with honors and had completed one year of college. 

I don't feel preschool is necessary as long as the parents take the initiative and responsiblity to teach their children what they need to know.  Parents need to take an active role in education and emphasize to their children just  how important education is from a young age.

Parents do not do this though.  Even children from middle/upper middle class families do not always prepare them. PreK is necessary. 



TCgirlatheart
by TC on Jan. 17, 2013 at 5:58 PM

This is so very true, and I'm a very big pre-school fan.

Quoting JakeandEmmasMom:

 I really think it depends on the quality of the preschool.  Many of them in my area are glorified daycare. 


~"Dream the dreams of others and you will be no one's rival." ~

fullxbusymom
by Bronze Member on Jan. 17, 2013 at 6:02 PM

I strongly disagree as will almost all Kindergarten teachers.

TranquilMind
by Platinum Member on Jan. 17, 2013 at 6:07 PM
1 mom liked this

I know my kid didn't need preschool.  We skipped right to Kindergarten level work at age 2.  She's been in college-level (and actual college classes) work since age 12. 

But hey, my husband and I are both the first to get degrees and come from blue collar backgrounds. We had smart, but uneducated (formally, that is, though big readers) parents. 

It's all choices.  You can decide you want to do better.  Anyone who disbelieves this needs to read the story of Dr. Ben Carson, a surgeon at Johns-Hopkins, who did amazing things.  His illiterate Mom raised he and his brother in the ghetto.  She finally turned OFF the TV one day and took them to the library.  She made them do two book reports a week and read them to her (because she couldn't read).  They both became doctors. 

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