Nov 2015

Jump-starting early childhood education at home: Early learning, parent motivation, and public policy.

10 (6): 727-732
E.A. Mahoney,
S.C. Levine
S.L. Beilock

By the time children begin formal schooling, their experiences at home have already contributed to large variations in their math and language development, and once school begins, academic achievement continues to depend strongly on influences outside of school. It is thus essential that educational reform strategies involve primary caregivers. Specifically, programs and policies should promote and support aspects of caregiver–child interaction that have been empirically demonstrated to boost early learning and should seek to impede “motivational sinkholes” that threaten to undermine caregivers’ desires to engage their children effectively. This article draws on cognitive and behavioral science to detail simple, low-cost, and effective tools caregivers can employ to prepare their children for educational success and then describes conditions that can protect and facilitate caregivers’ motivation to use those tools. Policy recommendations throughout focus on using existing infrastructure to more deeply engage caregivers in effective early childhood education at home.