(This post is the latest in a series on how daycare is harmful to children. Click here for the beginning of the series.)
Early education has become a political buzz-word lately. New York City’s Mayor De Blasio has just announced that full-time preschool will soon be available for all city dwellers. This is universally seen as a good thing—that with programs such as these, the United States will raise its test scores in comparison to other nations, that we’ll have better educated children, and a more well-rounded citizenry.
This is also something that I hear commonly in the daycare debate. It is not infrequent for women to think that if they stay home with their children, the kids will not be as well educated. With so much information available about early development, and so many programs training teachers for it, most women reason that they are not the best person to educate their children. With this understanding, it makes sense to put a child in daycare where he will be in a more stimulating educational environment with a skilled, trained teacher.
But while this is a popular thing to think, and an over-used reason to encourage a young mom to put her children in daycare, there is simply no basis for thinking that our young children learn better outside the home than in it. In fact, the science says completely the opposite:
A study of third graders by researchers at the University of Texas found that full-time daycare children had poorer grades and poorer study skills than children who were home-reared or whose mothers were employed part-time. (Dreskin, 131)
These is plenty of internet discussion evaluating the benefits (or lack of) full-day kindergarten. But the discussion of pre-K is an even more important one. The smaller a child is, the more damaging a full day of daycare will be on the attachment he has with his mother. The possible emotional effects of a damaged attachment far outweigh any educational benefits there might be at a daycare or pre-K facility. Wendy Dreskin, who ran both a preschool and daycare center for several years, tell us:
’We’re professionals,’ they claim. ‘We can teach your children better than you can.’ Dr. Burton White, the country’s foremost authority on educational development in the first three years of life, has determined that without question parents are the best teachers in a child’s early years. He has found that young children learn best from the person to whom they have a strong emotional attachment.” (Dreskin, 131)
As a stay-at-home mom with a few more children than is considered normal, I find it ironic that institutionalized learning for young children is championed by politicians. One of the main critical questions that I receive with my six children is, “How do you have enough time for them all? Are you able to give each child the individual attention he needs?” The attention that my smallest children receive from me, even when divided with a few other children, is so much more individualized than any daycare would provide. For children three and over, it is typical to have one adult for every seven children. The fact that I am my children’s mother means that I will be far more emotionally invested in them than any childcare workers, and that fact alone will ensure that the quality of care and education they receive from me in their early years will be better than a daycare facility would provide.
There is no center, there is no program, there is no caregiver whose attributes could ever be compared with the ‘properties’ which a mother, how has given life to her child and who has the greatest and deepest commitment to that child, can give her own child. (Armento, 141)
There is no amount of early childhood education that can replace the emotional connection a small child has with his mother. Damaging that emotional connection will never be overcome by providing amazing educational resources. A mother, sitting with her toddler on her lap, reading Goodnight Moon to him for the forty-seventh time will be giving him the kind of love and educational input that his little mind needs. No center, full of trained professionals and the latest high-tech toys, can ever replace that.
Update: Here’s a great piece from the Washington Post on whether or not early education actually helps anybody.
Part 1 I Part 2 I Part 3 I Part 4
Schlafly, Phyllis, Ed. Who Will Rock the Cradle. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1990.
Dreskin, Wendy. “Daycare: A Child’s View.” Schlafly 123-138.
Armento, Gene. “How Do We Measure Quality Child Care.” Schlafly 139-146.