Preschool Education — A Huge Return on Your Investment

This article has been circulating around Facebook, but it was too good to not share. We believe wholeheartedly in the importance of a good foundation. Credit goes to NPRed and Eric Westervelt. 

How Investing In Preschool Beats The Stock Market, Hands Down

If you got 13 percent back on your investments every year, you’d be pretty happy, right? Remember, the S&P 500, historically, has averaged about 7 percent when adjusted for inflation.

What if the investment is in children, and the return on investment not only makes economic sense but results in richer, fuller, healthier lives for the entire family?

That’s the crux of a new paper out Monday, The Life-Cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program, co-authored by Nobel laureate James Heckman, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the director of the Center for the Economics of Human Development.

There’s a growing body of research on the value and importance of high-quality early education programs — especially for disadvantaged kids.

But there’s surprisingly little research on its impact over time. This paper helps change that. Heckman and his co-authors examine the many ways in which these high-quality programs helped participants thrive throughout life.

The paper analyzes two North Carolina programs founded in the 1970s that worked with infants from 8 weeks old through age 5. The rub for researchers: The programs included data collection from birth through age 8 on a wide range of school and home life factors as well as long-term follow-ups through age 35.

Quality early education programs are expensive upfront. But as Heckman argues, the returns are enormous; the investment well worth it.


Your study found enduring positive effects of quality pre-K on a lot of things, including future earnings, health, IQ and crime reduction. Is the bottom line here stronger, fuller, richer lives?

Yes it is, but it’s more than just stronger, richer, fuller lives for the children. It’s also stronger, richer, fuller lives for the mothers of the children. Let me explain why. In America today we have a lot of single-parent families. We have a lot of mothers who are working.

What we’ve done is shown the benefits across two generations of the study of these enriched early child care programs. Not only providing child care for working mothers — allowing them to get more education — but primarily to get more work experience, higher earnings gains through participating in the workforce, but also getting high-quality child care environments that turn out to be developmentally rich. It promotes social mobility within — and across — generations. That I think is an important finding of this study.

Tell us about the two programs you’ve studied, serving mostly lower-income, predominantly African-American families.

The program starts very early. The children are 8 weeks old. It stays with the children until they’re age 5.

It’s a program that runs nine hours a day, so it’s very child care-friendly in the sense that women could leave their children at the child care center and then go on to work. They provide these disadvantaged children with enriched family environments: more verbal attention, more enrichment and parenting resources available to disadvantaged, predominantly African-American women, as you say, and single-parent women. It supplements the early lives.

In addition, it gives health care screenings for children 0 to 5. The pediatrician has access to the treatment group. The pediatrician then would suggest what health indications should be taken. What kind of steps, what kind of treatment might be taken. Doesn’t pay for the treatment but it does essentially screen the children and alert parents to the need for treatment.

This is true wrap-around service and personalized attention?

Yes. Turns out one of the most effective ingredients for these early child care programs is interacting with the child. What I mean by interacting is a give-and-take. The term that’s used by the child development specialist is scaffolding, like building a sculpture — in this case of a human being. Staying with the child, taking the child to the next step, challenging the child. In that sense it’s very personalized education.

It’s very time-intensive education, but it’s education that stays with the child. It also has another effect, which is that it engages, through the enhanced stimulation of the child, the parent. Parents themselves visit the center, so that there is also stimulation of the parent-child relationship that lasts long after the program itself is formally ended at age 5.

This kind of comprehensive program is more costly upfront?

For sure. The main benefit of this study is, if you count all of the benefits that accrue from this program in terms of reduced health care costs, reduced crime, greater earnings, more education, higher IQ — the list is quite long. Those all are monetized. We can compute a rate of return, the dividend would be from the investment. You get about 13 percent per annum. Much higher than the annual return on equities in the U.S. stock market post-Second World War through the 2008 meltdown.

Yeah I’d like 13 percent on my 401(k) every year.

Exactly. This is a huge, huge investment return. It competes favorably with almost any other public program.

What was the (annual) per-pupil spending while these children were in the program?

Per-year it’s probably about $16,000 to $18,000. It depends on what (year) dollars you use. It’s expensive.

That is pretty high. You’re saying you get what you pay for?

Well, yes, it’s a lot. But what are you getting in return? You’re getting hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Seven to eight hundred thousand dollars back for what is essentially an $80,000 to $85,000 expenditure. Yes, it costs more but we can go back and think: In its time the transcontinental railroad that Abraham Lincoln launched, the Hoover Dam, the transcontinental highway system that Eisenhower launched. These all were very costly, but they also led to enormous social benefits.

These programs have enormous social benefit. They help to solve a lot of social problems. The way public policy is discussed frequently in this country is through silos. People say, “We want to reduce crime. We want to promote health.” We do what is, I think, a very limited kind of notion: looking at one problem at a time and one solution very closely linked to that problem. I would encourage people who see the price tag to also look at the benefit tag. They’re well-documented.

You followed these young people well into adulthood?

That’s the benefit of the study. The children in the study essentially are much healthier than their counterparts who did not participate in the study. That came as a surprise to some people, but it shouldn’t be a surprise. Not only did they get the health screening, but they also developed these social and emotional skills: self-control, the ability to monitor. They had more education, therefore they had more information. In a number of ways these children became more engaged, control their own lives better, and that shows up in their adult health.

What is turning out from this body of research is that promoting engagement of children, their cognitive and noncognitive skills, boosting their IQs, at the same time boosting their social engagement, their willingness to participate in society, monitoring their health from an early age, is having huge benefits downstream for the rest of their lives.

You mentioned the return on investment. But you’ve also documented health benefits, crime reduction and parental benefits including boosted income and lower obesity rates. Talk about that a little.

That’s folded into what we have for a measure of the rate of return. You can actually monetize the cost of the criminal justice system, the cost of incarcerating people and so forth. You can also talk about the benefits of reduced health care expenditures, higher-quality of life and so forth. All of that’s incorporated into our rates of return and benefit-cost ratio. Breaking out these components, one of the most surprising findings from a study that we did published in Science magazine a couple of years ago. We showed that children who are in this program were much less likely to be obese, to have hypertension, to have precursor environments that would promote diabetes.

You mentioned the poisonous effect of the silofication — if we could call it that — in combating poverty. Looking at social challenges largely in isolation. This is also a hyper-partisan age. What do you think policymakers and politicians are missing when it comes to looking at early childhood education?

Some leading politicians both Republicans and Democrats are not missing. They’re well aware of it. What’s really interesting is that if you go out to those red states that were called fly-over states in the last election, the ones in the Midwest and the ones that people frequently ignore. It’s states like Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, that have been some of the most vigorous in promoting early childhood development.

The reason is that it’s based on an economic efficiency argument and it also promotes what is an agenda that’s frequently very common in some of those states about family values. It’s really about helping bolster the American family, which I think is under attack, it’s under transformation. It’s simply that we have many more single-parent families. We have many more mothers who are working because they have to support their families.

You’ve said the ultimate risk factor in the complex poverty equation is lack of parental engagement. Talk about that and what these programs you studied did in terms of parental engagement?

It’s not about getting toys that rotate or getting a particular program online to stimulate the kid. That can’t hurt, but it’s not the story. It’s the engagement. It’s “Johnny or Sally, here let’s look at this together, let’s go to the zoo, let’s look at this book, let’s see what we’re doing.” It’s that engagement. When you engage the parent in that process, you help them bolster their arrangement, then I think you actually will keep in place over the life of the child a very strong very beneficial environment. The center core is engagement. That’s what good teaching’s about too when you think about it.

I don’t think I’m saying anything that’s revolutionary, but I do think I’m saying something that is frequently ignored in public policy. We think about a bricks-and-mortar approach to what education is about. That’s exactly the wrong way to think about it. It’s not a teacher lecturing to a student, it’s basically the teachers or child care workers engaging students or engaging these young children and making age-adapted, person-adjusted interventions. I think that’s the key.

What do these programs have that helps foster that engagement?

It turns out that many of the disadvantaged families have a mode of discouraging the child. Saying, “Don’t do this, don’t do that,” and on and on. The alternative is to actually have a family that encourages the child and supports the child in making mistakes and learning from mistakes, but also in engaging the child to explore the world. It’s this attachment and this support that really plays a fundamental role I think in the structure of essential programs. That’s an example where you would literally take the child, read to the child, engage the child, and then you would show the parent, bring the parent into the center. Show how successful the child has been and then send the child home. When the child goes home the child is more engaged and also therefore engaging the parent. We found that. We found that as a byproduct: much more parental engagement among those who got the treatment compared to those who were randomized out into the control group. And these were lifetime effects.

If you look at disadvantaged children you’ll find that they’re getting about a third or a fourth as many words per hour as more advantaged children. The environments are fundamentally different. Over the lifetime, their young childhood — a period of say 0 to 5 — you’re getting a millions of words deficit between those who are advantaged and those who aren’t advantaged. That essentially is one way to close the gap. By literally reading to the child, by encouraging the child.

As you know there’s been a big emphasis on what constitutes high-quality child care centers. What elements are vital to create these great early learning centers?

There’s this enormous body of evidence talking about parent-child interaction. The structure of a successful [center] would be one that encourages those interactions, that fostered those.

Are we talking about empathy?

Well, yes, we’re talking about empathy, and we’re talking about the structure of engagement with the child, and at the core of successful programs is parenting. It’s not so much having a pretty building. There’s a whole mentality out there that says, “We have a textbook notion about what constitutes a good school. The teachers must have a certain level of educational attainment.” There have been a lot of studies, serious studies, that show that many of these so-called guides to what makes a good teacher — in terms of things like number of degrees or number of teacher credits and on and on and on — are really worthless in terms of predicting who’s a good teacher. What is important is finding this empathy, this ability to work with people, the engagement.

By empathy all I really mean is, you work with a child, you stay with a child, a child asks questions, you answer the questions. You don’t discourage the questions and you promote them. At the same time you have a firm line where you say, “Yeah that’s a mistake. You could go do a little better,” and so forth.

We need a national empathy project, Professor Heckman.

Probably could use it across the board and not just in early childhood!

Find the original article here: 
http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/12/12/504867570/how-investing-in-preschool-beats-the-stock-market-hands-down

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national lampoons vacation

Traveling with Kids this Christmas?

Like so many families this Christmas season, you’ll be packing up the car and hitting the road or navigating the lines and crowds at the airport. We found the following tips and tricks from a post on Parents.com to be very helpful!

Road Trips: Packing

Long road trips with kids aren’t always fun fests. But they are doable, and at times even enjoyable. As Shelly Rivoli, author of the blog TravelsWithBaby.com, says, “The vacation begins the minute you leave the house.” Our tried-and-true tips:

  • Pack one small bag that contains clothes for the next day, an extra change of clothes (for spills), PJs, a toothbrush, and anything else you need for that day and night. It will be much easier to grab that than paw through the big suitcase.
  • Take your toddler’s blanket and pillow if there’s room. This is extra important if your road trip includes an overnight stay. Kids like their own stuff, particularly at bedtime in a strange place. If your child is out of his car seat, he may nod off more easily if he puts the pillow against the window and rests his head against it.
  • Babies and toddlers drop, spill, and spit up. Keep a roll of paper towels and a box of wipes in the front seat for easy cleanups. Keep a garbage bag handy too.

Road Trips: Surviving the Ride

  • Bring on the snacks. As adults know all too well, eating gives you something to do. Be careful, though — getting your kids sugared up may backfire. Pack some healthy fare, and don’t worry about them turning up their noses at it.
  • Beat the boredom. Be sure to load some kid favorites onto your iPod or take some of your child’s CDs. Portable DVD players can be a lifesaver, too. New DVDs they haven’t seen are a bonus. Kids often have a hard time with headphones, though, so make sure they’re comfortable before you go, and have at least one backup pair.
  • Get in the backseat. A little face-to-face contact, some patty-cake, and a few tickling games go a long way toward distracting a cranky baby or a bored toddler.
  • Try to tune out the tears. There may come a point where no amount of singing, snacking, or engaging will do — your child wants out of the car, now. How to deal? If your child isn’t hungry or wet, remind yourself that he’s safe in the car and won’t die from crying. Eventually, he’ll stop or fall asleep.
  • Choose travel toys wisely. Rivoli has had luck with magnetic and Aquadoodle boards. And she suggests that you find a local grocery store or pharmacy if your toy stash grows stale. “It’s likely they’ll have an inexpensive selection of things your toddler hasn’t seen before.”

Road Trips: Making Stops

  • Build in extra time. You know how hard it is getting out the door in the morning with a baby? The same laws of nature apply to trips in the car. You’ll have to stop for feedings, diaper changes, and stretching breaks. You’ll be much less stressed if you accept that it may take twice as long to get there as it did in your pre-kid days and plan accordingly.
  • Stop often — for little and big breaks. Yes, you want to get there, but letting your kids burn off some steam will make the time in the car more bearable. Rivoli suggests finding a local library. “You can read a book, let your child run around, and do a diaper change,” she says.
  • Be aware that 20 minutes after your longish lunch stop, your toddler will need to stop again for a bathroom break.
  • Book a motel that has an indoor pool. It may cost a little more, but it’s something to look forward to, and it will help your child sleep better.

Flying: Packing Tips

  • Overpack snacks, underpack toys. Kids get crankiest when they don’t have familiar things to eat. Also, food can double as toys; make mosaics out of colored Cheerios, for instance. And kids will play with anything (cups, napkins, sugar packets) and will also accumulate toys (from fast-food meals and souvenir stands) during the trip, so don’t take the whole toy bin along.
  • Put extra clothes in your carry-on — your baby may have a big diaper blowout on the plane.
  • Pack each day’s outfits in a one-gallon Ziploc bag: shirt/pants/socks. It makes packing easier because you can keep track of how many days of clothes you have; after an outfit is worn, use the bag for yucky laundry or dirty diapers.
  • Even with all those clothes, count on doing laundry while away. Dirty baby clothes stink.

Flying: Going Through Security

At security you’ll be expected to:

  • Keep your boarding pass in your hand at all times. But because you’re a mom, you’ll more likely wind up holding it in your teeth while you manage the baby.
  • Send everyone’s shoes through the scanning machine. Take baby’s shoes off while she’s still in the stroller and have your hands free because next you’ll need to…
  • Take baby out of the stroller (or carrier, or car seat), fold the stroller, and send it through the scanner.
  • Help older children put their loveys through the scanner. Promise that blanket or teddy will meet you on the other side.
  • Encourage a toddler to walk through the security gate ahead of or behind you.
  • Hold your baby without any carrier as you walk through the security gate.
  • Gather up everything on the other side; get shoes on and stroller unfolded as quickly as you can.

In preparation, we suggest you all wear slide-on shoes and little to no jewelry. To limit your juggling, try to use one big sack as your carry-on rather than a purse plus a diaper bag plus a bag of toys.

Flying: Feeding Baby on Board

The good news is that breast milk is considered a “liquid exemption,” which means you can bring more than 3 ounces on board as long as you are traveling with your child. (If your child isn’t with you, the 3-ounce rule applies.) This also applies to formula or juice, canned baby food, and teethers filled with gel or liquid. If you’re bringing these items on board, separate them from the cosmetics that you’re carrying in your quart-size plastic bag. Declare you have breast milk (or formula, etc.) at the security checkpoint. To print out the official rules to have in hand, log on to tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/children/formula.shtm.

Looking for a place to nurse in an airport? Find a quiet gate near your assigned one, or try one of those Internet booths. Some airports also have a kids’ play area where you’ll find a lot of understanding parents.

Flying: Managing Baby Gear

With baggage restrictions, how do you get baby gear to your destination? Options vary depending on where you’re going.

  • Best bet when it comes to diapers, wipes, and formula: buy and ship from places such as Amazon.com and Diapers.com. This is a cheap, easy way to get heavy staples there, and it will give you more room (and weight allowance) in your suitcase.
  • Staying with relatives? See if they have neighbors or friends with young kids who will let you borrow a high chair, Pack ‘n Play, or baby swing while you visit.
  • Staying at a popular family destination? You may be able to rent equipment, but you’ll have to dig around, and prices vary. Baby Beach Rentals, serving the Gulf Shores of Alabama and Florida, charges $25 a week for a high chair. Bear Baby Equipment Rentals, run by a mom on Martha’s Vineyard, rents high chairs for $30 a week. A high chair from Rockabye Baby Equipment Rentals, serving cities in Texas, costs $45 a week. Trust us: It’s easier to rent than to bring one or buy one.
  • There are some national baby-equipment rental chains, such as BabysAway.com. To get prices, e-mail them the specifics of your trip.
  • Staying at a hotel? Call the concierge or front desk. At the least, most provide a Pack ‘n Play. (Even if there is a crib available, it may not meet current safety standards.) Loews hotels can lend Fisher-Price toys and baby gear like a bouncer seat. The more high-end the hotel is, the more it will offer. You should see the baby toiletries given out by a Four Seasons!
  • Mail your own stuff to your destination. Expensive, yes, but it may be cheaper than an extra piece of luggage.
  • Buy secondhand after you arrive at your destination. This is time consuming but can be worth it. One American Baby editor, staying in Ohio for a weekend, took her 2-year-old to a Salvation Army and bought $20 worth of toys. Before they left, she donated them all back again.

Dear Parent: About THAT Kid…

Dear Parent:

I know. You’re worried. Every day, your child comes home with a story about THAT kid. The one who is always hitting shoving pinching scratching maybe even biting other children. The one who always has to hold my hand in the hallway. The one who has a special spot at the carpet, and sometimes sits on a chair rather than the floor. The one who had to leave the block centre because blocks are not for throwing. The one who climbed over the playground fence right exactly as I was telling her to stop. The one who poured his neighbor’s milk onto the floor in a fit of anger. On purpose. While I was watching. And then, when I asked him to clean it up, emptied the ENTIRE paper towel dispenser. On purpose. While I was watching. The one who dropped the REAL ACTUAL F-word in gym class.

You’re worried that THAT child is detracting from your child’s learning experience. You’re worried that he takes up too much of my time and energy, and that your child won’t get his fair share. You’re worried that she is really going to hurt someone some day. You’re worried that “someone” might be your child. You’re worried that your child is going to start using aggression to get what she wants. You’re worried your child is going to fall behind academically because I might not notice that he is struggling to hold a pencil. I know.

For the full article, read the entire post here…

Tracking Your Child’s Progress

Although most Montessori teachers do not assign grades, they closely observe each student’s progress and readiness to move on to new lessons. They may orally question a student about what she has learned, or ask her to teach the lesson to a fellow student. In some schools, students compile a portfolio of their work to demonstrate their competence in a variety of skills.

Most schools hold family conferences a few times a year so parents may see their child’s work and hear the teacher’s assessment. Teachers typically provide a written narrative that explains a student’s progress in relation to his own development and to developmental norms.

If your child attends a public Montessori school, you will probably be given information about her performance on standardized tests, which you can use to evaluate her progress against national norms. Some independent schools also administer standardized exams, particularly if they will be a requirement of schools into which their students will transition.

Some parents may wonder why Montessori doesn’t endorse grading, if only to motivate students to work hard. But grades, like other external rewards, have temporary effects at best. Instead, Montessori education nurtures a child’s intrinsic motivation to learn, create, and do satisfying work.

-From the American Montessori Society, https://amshq.org/Family-Resources/Montessori-Education-and-Your-Child

Montessori at Home

Have you marveled at the remarkable order of the Montessori classroom? Has your toddler told you that at school she pours her own juice? Does your teenager hang or put away all her clothes—without being asked?

Encouraging order, independence, and self-motivation are fundamental to the Montessori approach. Carefully designed classrooms allow students to develop competence in caring for themselves and their surroundings. And from the sense of pride that “I did it myself!” blooms the confidence to take on the world.

Bringing Montessori principles into your home can be a valuable bridge to what your child learns at school. Here are some ways to build that connection.

Create an Ordered Environment

Having a place for everything, on a child-friendly scale, encourages both independence and self-discipline. Children know where to find what they need, and where to put it when they’re done. An ordered environment also has fewer distractions, allowing children to focus on the task at hand.

To make things accessible to your young child:

  • Provide low shelves or drawers for clothing; lower the rod in the bedroom closet.
  • Keep a small step stool in the bathroom and kitchen so your child can reach the sink.
  • Arrange toys and games on low open shelves with a particular place for each. Sort smaller items into trays or baskets by category, such as puzzles, art supplies, and blocks.
  • Put healthy snacks and foods on a low pantry shelf so your child can help himself.
  • Pour drinks into small, manageable pitchers placed on a low refrigerator shelf. Keep cups within your child’s reach—along with a sponge to clean up spills.

Teach Real-Life Skills

Montessori students are taught to take care of themselves and their classroom and to be helpful to others. They wash tables, organize shelves, prepare their own meals, and assist younger children. In addition to mastering real-life skills, they come to see themselves as valued members of the community.

Having your child help at home can bring similar rewards. Take the time to teach each skill separately and to repeat the lesson as needed. Each task your child masters adds to his confidence and self-esteem.

Young children, for example, can peel vegetables, fold their clothes, match their socks, and care for pets. “Tweens” can sort the mail and take out the recycling. And adolescents can prepare the family dinner, read to their younger siblings, help with computer maintenance and home repair, and manage their own bank account.

Promote Concentration

The ability to focus and concentrate is an important skill for learning. You can help develop your child’s concentration by observing what sparks her interest. Set her up with the means and materials to explore it, and let her work without interruption.

While your child’s work environment should be free of distraction, it doesn’t have to be away from family activity. Some children prefer working at the kitchen table or reading in a cozy corner of the living room to holing up in a bedroom or study. Observe your child’s response to various environments, ask questions, and make adjustments as needed.

Nurture Inner Motivation

Children are most willing to apply themselves when they feel there’s intrinsic value to their work. Some parents use external rewards as motivation, but only pride and pleasure from within has lasting, and meaningful, effects.

Montessori teachers refrain from using traditional classroom rewards such as gold stars and merit-based privileges. Instead, they focus on nurturing each child’s personal sense of accomplishment. Even praise is given sparingly—saved to acknowledge a child’s effort, rather than the outcome of her work.

By expressing encouragement and appreciation for your child’s efforts, you—like her teachers—help nurture an inner motivation that will serve her for life.

-Excerpt from the American Montessori Society, https://amshq.org/Family-Resources/Montessori-Education-and-Your-Child

Transitioning to a Traditional School

Many children spend only their preschool years in a Montessori classroom. Others complete the elementary grades before transferring to another—usually traditional—school. A smaller—but growing—group of students stay with Montessori through secondary school.

A child who transfers out of a Montessori school is likely to notice some differences. For example, instead of choosing his own work to investigate and master, he might have to learn what’s on the teacher’s lesson plan. Instead of moving freely around the classroom, there’s a chance she’ll sit in an assigned seat. Instead of learning in a classroom with a mixed-aged grouping, it’s probable that she’ll be placed just with students her own age.

Fortunately, children are adaptable. Poised, self-reliant, and used to working harmoniously as part of a classroom community, students who transition from Montessori typically adjust quickly to the ways of their new school.

-Excerpt from the American Montessori Society, https://amshq.org/Family-Resources/Montessori-Education-and-Your-Child