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Rethinking Preschool: What the Science Tells Us about Non-maternal Care in Early Childhood

Updated: May 17

Rethinking Preschool: What the Science Tells Us about Non-maternal Care

By Dr. Lisa Dunne

An article in Money Magazine this week says that child care now costs more than the typical family’s mortgage bill. In a recent analysis by Zillow, researchers found that in 31 of the 50 biggest US cities, parent would need to devote more than 60% of their household income to mortgage and child care, which both ranked nationally at about $2000 a month each. 

It seems that childcare outside the home is now just as expensive as the home itself!

I’ve talked a lot about preschool childcare studies in my book Outsourced and on my radio show Mindset Matters. Child care is costly, but it’s not just the monetary loss that’s a concern. 

Many parents have been conditioned to think that if we just outsource our kids to an expert, somehow everything will be okay. The rise of the expert culture is all around us in every sphere.

Modern culture says that kids are a curse, an accident, a drain on the pocketbook—couples complete “financial feasibility reports” to see if kids are worth the cost. The Bible, however, presents a different worldview. Psalm 127:5 tells us that children are a blessing, a heritage from the Lord, a reward from him, arrows in the hand of a warrior. 

I am personally very concerned with the systems that are derailing the mental and emotional health of our youngest citizens, and one of these systems is preschool, non-maternal care of children in early childhood, ages 0 to 6—which is the key developmental period where attachments are formed.  

I don’t know if you follow Dr. Josh Axe (highly recommended), but he posted something on his instagram page recently about the damaging effects of preschool, and wow, parents were absolutely up in arms in the comments. Dr. Axe is right. Preschool is harmful. Parents have been socioculturally conditioned to believe the lie of the expert culture. But the high rate of defensiveness and offense speaks volumes. 

Maybe moms are aware and awake and wrestling with this question. Maybe they feel trapped, fearful, and powerless to change the situation. As one of my friends says in her book No Ordinary Child, maybe they are looking at that picture on their desk of the miracle baby they prayed for and wishing they were home with that baby instead of grinding it out at the office. 

In my doctoral program for my Ph.D. in human development, I did a great deal of research on the factors that influence healthy versus unhealthy development. One of the studies I came across was a compelling research project at Stanford. 

The study assessed 14,000 PK students and found that non-maternal preschool care has a number of deleterious effects. Though it temporarily raises math and reading scores (which even out by 4th grade), it also increases the likelihood of behavioral problems including fighting, cruelty, and destruction of property. And, sadly, the earlier the care age-wise, the more the negative effects. Kids who attended non-maternal PK environments for 3 hours a day experienced negative effects, and kids who attended 6 hours a day saw a doubling of effects.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found in a longitudinal study that the more time kids under 4.5 years old spend in non-maternal care, “the more behavioral problems they developed.” Problems included defiance, talking back, tantrums, and refusing to cooperate. Another important finding was that cortisol levels (the stress hormone) rise when PK kids are in centers outside the home in non-maternal care. 

Perhaps the most compelling finding was that kids who spent more time in childcare were rated as “less socially competent by both their mothers and their kindergarten teachers.” In other words, what parents have been taught all along—that their preschoolers will develop better socio-academic skills with mom out of the picture—is fake news. 

Kids’ developmental immaturity makes them unreliable as social peer teachers. We become like the company we keep. Clearly, for many reasons, non-maternal preschool care is simply not a good return on investment.

What can you do, mom and dad, grandmother and grandfather? I have good news for you. This is a solvable problem! We are combatting the Outsourced Kid issue at CVCU, and you can too!

We have all witnessed the fallout of a generation whose parents invested more time, energy, and devotion into their business or ministry instead of their family. At the end of the day, as the saying goes, we don’t wish we had spent more time at our desks. 

I love walking out across the CVCU campus and seeing parents joining together in community to educate their kids. As the longitudinal data shows, the number one predictor of socio-academic success from kindergarten to college is an involved parent! 

Friend, God has given you everything you need for life and godliness. And that includes a spiritual legacy to hand down to your children and your grandchildren. You are the leader and teacher your child needs! 

Maybe you’re focused on your weaknesses. God is made strong there, right where you are. Maybe you’re thinking you don’t have the time, money, energy, intelligence, or capacity to help your children or grandchildren. Do you remember that old saying, where there’s a will, there’s a way? I have seen the will to change triumph over seemingly daunting circumstances over and over again. 

God has a treasure trove ahead of you as you step out in faith to rescue the next generation! There is a great gain when we step out in courage to God’s call on our lives, no matter how scary, for the great gain of godliness with contentment, for the blessings of peace and joy and hope for ourselves and for the legacy we will leave behind in our children.

We are seeing it happening our church-based homeschool support academies across America. We are seeing it happen in our mentor-driven, Bible-based, debt-free model here at Chula Vista Christian University. 

What is the mission of your family? If you’ve never written out your mission statement, think about it right now. If your mission is to train up children in the way they should go, then the question is will that be the way of the word or the way of the world? Each of those mission has different pathways and very different outcomes. 

Think about it for a minute: what fruit are you seeking in your home? If it’s righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, that harvest is not going to come through a sanitized, secularized, soulless childcare system. Modern culture normalizes the outsourcing of children. May we not conform to the patterns of this world.

We are here to help you! Join one of our existing academy support programs to give and receive wisdom and encouragement. Or start your own academy with our AcademicRescueMission. We can have your campus up and running in four weeks anywhere in the US! 

Parents and grandparents, let’s put first things first. Let’s seek first his kingdom and his righteousness so that the things that really matter will be added to our lives. We must protect the worldview of our children and grandchildren. 

If we don’t make disciples of the next generation, someone else will.

Dr. Lisa Dunne is a lifelong homeschooler, author, speaker, founder of the Academic Rescue Mission, and president of Chula Vista Christian University. Catch her radio show on KPraise ( every Saturday at 10:30 pm or her podcast The Communication Architect on Spotify. Learn more about her books, blogs, and resources at, or join her rescue mission for the next generation at

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