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December 4, 2014

Full-Day Preschool Better Than Half-Day? Really?

Recent Research

Findings out of the Institute of Child Development and Human Capital Research Collaborative (say that three times real fast) at the University of Minnesota found that kids who were involved in full-day preschool ended-up being more prepared for Kindergarten than those kiddos who went half-day. As per the reported highlights of the study, the former had better scores in math, language, socio-emotional development and physical health tests. The headlines might make a parent think they need to immediately enroll their 3 year-old in a full-day preschool program. Think again.

Deeper look at the results

As I’ve preached on many occasions, you can’t simply look at headlines and brief descriptions of research; that’s too misleading. First, let’s look at the subjects: 409 4 and 5 year-olds, in urban Chicago schools. Next, let’s look at the significant differences; for socio-emotional functioning, the disparity in scores was 59 vs. 55; language, 40 vs. 37; math, 40 vs. 36; health, 36 vs. 34; total score, 298 vs. 278. Non-significant findings were found in the areas of literacy and cognitive development. Looking at those scores and the subtle differences, is there anyone concerned that their child, if not immediately enrolled in a full-day preschool, is going to be ill-prepared for Kindergarten compared to kids going full-time?

The “Obviously’ and ‘So What’ Factorsudrban

My initial thoughts after reading the results of the study was, ‘well, obviously’ and then, ‘so what’. Okay, the first thought; it is perfectly logical that kids in school 7 hours a day for one or two years, compared to kids who are in school ½ that time, would be a bit more better-prepared for Kindergarten. They’ve simply had more practice at school-stuff. However, I have no doubt that the other kids catch-up very quickly, and lots of research supports that notion. This also leads to my second thought of ‘so what’; a child a few points higher is not a big deal and, again, the others catch-up rather quickly. Lastly, take note that these findings are not entirely applicable to all kids (those raised outside of an urban area), which is something that needs to be considered when applying the results to any given child.

Who is feeling guilty?

There was a day when parents who sent their kids off to daycare/preschool for long hours felt guilty for doing so. I believe that any such guilt is silly; if you’re a parent in that boat, you’re working your butt off to meet your family’s needs and doing what you have to do. Many a parent would much prefer to be home with their kids and families, but reality gets in the way. Research suggests that your children turn out just fine (and some would say they turn-out even better, as per the above-cited research), so no harm, no foul. However, by the same token, there is no reason for headlines to mislead and give the impression that being away from your child all day is ‘better’ for your child. That too is silly. Kids like to be with their parents, and parents like to be with their kids; and this can be especially important for three and four year-olds. If you’ve arranged to be at home most of the time with your young child, then fine; no harm, no foul.

Okay, that about sums it up

Hope you all had a relaxing Thanksgiving, and that you have a blessed and joyous Christmas and Holiday Season.

Dr. John Carosso

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