Does Preschool Help or Hinder Children?

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My wife, an Education major, nods as President Obama says in his State of the Union address:

In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children ... students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own.

Studies do show that children in homes where parents are not around much--through neglect or need--benefit significantly from preschool. This time gives them routine and adult involvement and opportunities to learn. All very great things! On the other hand, I've read that an emphasis on early academics actually stunts a student's future performance (not to mention socialization skills).

What's going on?

My guess is that kids thrive when concerned adults look after them and that an education is best acquired when it is allowed to blossom.

So, I am pleased that the President wants to offer children more care, especially if these children do not have parents who can look after them. Caring for children--especially orphans--is a noble goal (though, I'm unsure how that will be accomplished and not "increase our deficit by a single dime"). On the other hand, I would like to know more about what a "high-quality preschool" looks like. If it is an environment full of picture books and opportunities to discover the joy of life-long learning, fantastic! If, on the other hand, it is a place that pushes laying a foundation for "science, technology, engineering and math," I'm afraid the results will backfire.

My wife tells me that the skills best learned in preschool are soft skills. And these, not surprisingly, seem best taught by parents.

I'll say it again: You, the parent, have the biggest impact on your student's succcess. In situations where the parent is not there, a great teacher can help fill this role. So for those children without parental support, I'd be thrilled if we could help them by providing excellent teachers. And I continue to say, especially in preschool, it is best to begin with a gentle approach that inspires a love of learning together.

Any fascinating educational studies you've read that I should know about?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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  1. Tanya

    This is a great article, and after hearing both Dr. Carson and Obama speak about the importance of education I hope we can get to the roots of what is causing these issues.

    I truly believe you can start teaching your children as soon as they enter the world.

    My concern for free preschool education is that the public school system is struggling as it is. The day after the President announced this idea for preschool, the Chicago papers printed articles about the 129 Chicago Public schools threatening to be shut down. If we cannot keep schools open, how are we going to offer preschool programs?

    One solution I can think of off the top of my head for all people and families in America to do is; turn off the TV and pick up a book! Read, read, read and read some more. It is the easiest thing you can do, it saves money, and it bonds people and family together.

    Thank you for your wonderful articles. I always look forward to reading them.

  2. Thanks, Tanya! I do agree that it would be a big improvement if families did turn off the TV and read books together. The more I read about the benefits of such a practice, the more convinced I am of it [smile].


  3. Linda

    I do agree that a preschool education is very important, but I believe that education should be provided at home by parents if at all possible.

  4. Sounds good to me, Linda [smile].