The political campaigns of 2008 are focusing a tremendous amount of attention on early childhood education in America. These politicians are filling their speeches with promise after promise of what the government can and should do to provide universal preschool for everyone. I am encouraged by these speeches, but feel like the emphasis on universal programs is financially impossible. Historically, our nation has only been able to fund preschool for the low-income sector, and even those programs (i.e., Head Start) haven’t produced the results promised.Who is the most enthusiastic stakeholder in a child’s life? Who has the single most potential to define the educational potential of a child? Who is a child’s favorite playmate? The parents!Parents want their child to walk into kindergarten confident and ready to be successful in school and life. So, parents need to be experts on their own child’s development. We must begin teaching our children from birth — ourselves.Not every parent in our nation has gone to school to be a teacher, but it is possible to define the what, when and how you teach a child before they enter kindergarten in a logical, fun and easy-to-manage way.As a national board-certified kindergarten teacher, I have seen first-hand the decline in abilities (social and academic) and level of understanding of students entering kindergarten over the past 15 years. You are probably thinking that, given technological advances we should be improving, right? Yes, we should be — but we are not! Several factors have led to the decline of student readiness and eagerness for learning in this new global society, including:1. More single parent homes. According to The United States Census, three out of every 10 American children are living in single-parent homes. The biggest investment necessary for a child’s success in school and life is time. Time to motivate, time to model, time to mentor, time to share in learning activities, time to appreciate one another’s strengths and work to improve weaknesses. When one adult pulls the weight of two, there is just never enough time!2. More moms working full-time outside of the home. In the United States, the labor force participation of mothers with preschool-age children tripled between 1960 and 1990, rising from 20 percent to 60 percent. According to Stanford researcher Paula England, the workforce participation of mothers continued to rise during the 1990s, but at a much slower rate, so that by 2000, 65 percent of mothers of preschoolers were working.Working moms often cope with chaos, tantrums, rushed dinners and fights over bedtime. Instead, this should be a time when working moms enjoy the precious few moments with their kids. These moms need an organized and quick resource to ensure their special time together is spent in a fun and meaningful way to relieve some of the guilt facing the working mother.3. Unaffordable Childcare options. Many American women who are full-time homemakers cannot afford to work. They do not have the education or job experience needed to earn a salary that would cover the costs of child care or transportation, even though the family could really use a second income. This often leads to children sitting in front of the television for the majority of the day because the mother isn’t armed with the tools and information necessary to build skills in the home environment. Many studies have clearly linked excessive television viewing (at an early developmental age) with ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder).4. Increase in battery-operated toys. Long gone are the days when toys allowed children the opportunity to use their imagination to build higher-order thinking skills, problem solving, and advanced concepts about cause and effect. Even baby swings, bouncy seats, and high chairs now come with lights, bells, whistles, moving toys ,and so much more to over-stimulate the little one. Children learn through play ,but the Energizer bunny doesn’t build dendrites in the brain.5. Children with schedules busier than their parents. We are a nation addicted to outsourcing responsibilities. We have created a culture that lacks a precious element – time. We seem to think that “more is better”, but when did we lose sight of the old idea of “less is more”? Why do our babies’ schedules have to be packed so tightly? And what effect does over-scheduling have on the child’s behavior, stress level, and self-concept?6. Passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. This law requires that each state create and test learner standards for each grade level beginning in kindergarten. By 2013, all students in America should score proficiently on the standardized test given at each grade level. So, what is the problem with expecting proficiency? The problem is that, today, students are only expected to have basic knowledge and a basic understanding of the concepts and skills. And the numbers aren’t good: Only 50 percent are performing at the basic level in many states. The law does not make any exceptions for students with special needs, and the standards are set very high — kids are expected to write a sentence or more by the time they leave kindergarten. As with anything, once you are behind, it is hard to get ahead!7. A culture of immediate gratification. When children want something today, they usually get it! Think about the implications this has once they’re in school. Many times, assignments and projects last for a week or more to develop a deep understanding of the topic being studied. Students are asked to maintain attention to the task, use reflection, and analyze what they have learned. For a child who has always received anything he wants immediately, the task is very difficult. We need to reverse the mindset! In the business world, adults work as teams more now than ever. Sound values and social norms like, responsibility, teamwork, perseverance, determination and a love for learning must be taught from birth.