Educational Success: What Age Should We Focus On?
When I first started working with kids in the after school program in Allendale County, I noticed that many were behind in their education level. As I wrote previously, education is one of the three basic problems in Allendale, and schoolwork is a struggle especially for boys.
At first I thought that we need to focus on elementary-age. After all, this is when children are receiving a foundation of educational knowledge and skills. It’s most serious with reading (if you can’t read, learning anything is difficult), but even math skills are key at an early age. After observing that many children are already far behind by 3rd or 4th grade, I started thinking that we need to focus on students when they are in kindergarten. But then (as I said in that post about the 3 Basic Problems), I started to see that even that can be a late.
Now, based on things I’ve read and observed, I believe that we need to target families when their children are toddlers, as young as 18 to 24 months old. Here are a few articles that support the need for early education. (Note that when I say “early education,” I do not necessarily mean formal school or daycare. It will always involved parents involvement at home, but it also could involve education in a more structured setting.)
- From Science: Large-Scale Early Education Linked to Higher Living Standards and Crime Prevention 25 Years Later. The most positive effects were seen among males and children of high school drop-outs. The authors discuss “a chain positive influences,” that is, that preschool is not the biggest factor, but a great start. Also, “since about half of the achievement gap between children from higher and lower economic statuses at age 10 already exists at age 5, education interventions need to start even earlier.”
- From Ohio State University: Infants Learn to Transfer Knowledge by 16 Months. “Some time between 8 and 16 months, infants begin learning how to learn.” We need to capitalize on this window of opportunity.
- From Child Development. Learning From Mom Boosts Low-Income Kids’ School Readiness. To go along with the research in #2, this study gives examples of what parents can do to even when their children are as young as 1 year old. Moms, who typically provide most of the home care for young children, can nurture them by reading to them, labeling objects in their environment, and provide engaging toys.
It’s amazing what can be done to prepare children for formal education. While we cannot think that we control every factor, we can provide a boost to future success.
Now the question on my mind — how can we translate this knowledge to something that will help families in Allendale?