Your Kids Don’t Need Special Preschool

January 17, 2013  |  

If you’re like many parents, you’re already anxiously awaiting news about where your little one will end up next year—for preschool. But an article from Slate suggests parents should leave the crazy application process for college.

Writer Melinda Wenner Moyer remembers the process of getting her kids into preschool, which started with her husband waking up at 5 am to deliver their son’s application when the school opened at 8. This kind of pressure on preschool is common for New York parents, and tons of parents all across the country. But is it worth it? How much difference does early education actually make for children?

It seems it doesn’t make much of a difference, at least not to the children actually getting into those schools. The children getting into the most competitive preschools, or going to any program at all before kindergarten, are the ones who come from homes with rich environments. Parents in those homes do puzzles and actively teach their kids. The children who would most benefit from preschool—whether competitive or run-of-the-mill—are those from low-income and minority families.

If a child is in a home where parents don’t speak to him, or even to each other very much, or play games with him, his vocabulary and other skills lag behind those in his kindergarten class. Children from non-white or low-income families are also less likely to be praised than children in white upper middle-class and professional homes, and praise has been shown to be connected to academic performance. Preschool is most beneficial to disadvantaged children, balancing out their home environments. And experts say what matters most is a child’s home environment. Home environment was found to have a larger influence on children who didn’t go to preschool than on the children who did go. Wenner Moyer found that even a “bad” preschool that a low-income family would be able to afford would be better than not going to any pre-kindergarten program at all.

Still not ready to let go of the early education scramble? If you do have your pick of the pre-Ks, choose the one that best matches your child’s learning style.

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