Seasons of Learning

For everything there is a season, a time.

Many hear this and think of rites of passage or periods of life. Being a child, growing into adulthood, establishing one’s own family, watching your children leave home, retiring. Each of these are periods, seasons of life. They are unique with their own trials and more importantly, joys. I would suggest that education has the same cadence, though. With my little ones, I am constantly fluctuating between several seasons all at once.

Infancy

It is incredible how much a child can absorb in this season of her life! The brain develops more in this period than it will at any other “season of life”. Watch a baby or young child light up as they are exposed to some new event or activity. The wonder that is clearly visible is amazing to many.

As a mother and my infant’s primary educator, I work to share experiences with her. Providing stimulating toys (we enjoy many from FatBrain and Hape Products – which can be purchases from our partner – Baby Cotton Bottoms) is a fun way for us to play and her to learn. Letting her sit outside to feel and experience all of the wonder of nature is also important. Lastly, we read constantly. We like to use ASL as we read and incorporate our signs into the book. If she eats the book, it’s okay – we just call it “early literacy”.

Elementary Years

During these years a child learns so many facts. Facts about history, math facts, science information and the list goes on. Watching a child discover what he or she is interested in and will become passionate about, leaves me in awe. Dr. Terrence R. Redding’s research on “The First Moment of Lasting Excitement” suggests that a child in these years often experiecnes a spark. Some topic ignites a passion about learning that lasts a lifetime. These children are destined to become life long learners. For me, it was history – genealogy in particular.

My grandmother was ana mateur genealogist, studying our family tree. I would sit with her as she told me about the research she had done and the people she had found who we were related it. The caused me to crave information about many periods of time and many parts of the world. I sitll have a love of history and think about most world events from a historical context.

For my son, his spark was dinosaurs. He will spend hours pouring over encyclopedias, watching documentaries and moving through the Natural History Museum. It is nothing for him to recall the name of any number of dinosaurs and provides him with pride when he recognizes them! This excitement can last him through these years and onto the more difficult adolescent season of life.

Adolescent Years

At this point, a child has already established a love of learning hopefully. He or she may enjoy learning about any number of topics. As a parent, I already see where the excitement is as it directs my adolescent’s personal objectives.

Learning, experiencing and understanding knowledge is so important as an adolescent develops because it assists in learning about who she is as an individual. As One Planet, One People, we each have an idea of who we are as individuals and we come together on Earth, our One Planet. Education becomes a choice as an adolescent. Something that schools, at least in the US, begin to recognize as they put more responsibility on the individual and less on the parent. As a mother, my responsibility lies in helping my child learn how to handle this responsibility. Without guidance, many would flounder as managers of their work.

By the time my adolescent graduates high school and enters college, the rewards will be abundant. If I was successful, she will be able to manage her time and activities effectively. At this point, she will have transitioned into adulthood and my role will have become that of a bystander in many respects.

Just like that summer fades into fall, a parent’s role as educator changes too.

What role are you in with your children today? Have you Joined the Voyage? GlobalLearnDay 2017 is this weekend!

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When does learning begin?

Better Late Than Early?

We all want our children to be happy and healthy.  Additionally we want them to grow up to be successful adults.  Successful adults with good jobs and stable economic futures.  We want them to be highly educated and well rounded.  Parents want the best for their kids.  And education is the key to this happiness.  A great education gives our children the head start they need to leap into successful lives.  Education is an essential part of any good life plan.  So what is the best?  And why do many kids struggle and fail?  Most parents agree that private education is the way to go.  College prep is the key to college success.  Academic challenge is the only way to turn children into successful adults.  And in order to achieve this level of academia, children are starting earlier and earlier.

 

Most private schools promise academic excellence which translates into success in adult life.  Children in these systems start learning as early as two years old.  The expectations for these children include reading early and math skills by first grade.  This path seems to be the most effective way to give our children a prime opportunity for the educational needs required for lifelong success.  But what happens when our kids don’t respond to this system?  What do we do if our children are not meeting these expectations?  How do we raise babies that are labeled “late “or “slow” or “falling behind” to become successful?  As a parent hearing these terms can make us feel like we failed them.  Somehow having a lovely bright child marred by the label “slow” means they are cursed to life of fast food jobs or retail.  Having your child labeled as a “late developer” creates a great deal of fear and pressure on both parent and child.  This pressure is usually met with a litany of  intense tutors and educational programs in addition to traditional schooling.   The key is to push these late kids to catch up.

 

But what if the label is wrong?  What if the system is wrong?  What if your child is perfectly capable of that excellent education and that picture perfect life we all want for them?  What if the key isn’t a highly intense series of tutors and programs?  What if pushing harder is actually making everything worse?

 

Finland is consistently ranked the best educational systems in the world.  How? They teach all grades and abilities in one large room, rarely have homework, and usually test once later in the teen years.  Compared to US educational systems this is basically insane.  But it works.  These children have greater analytical and cognitive skills than most American students.  Finnish children are more capable of detailed critical thinking methods. Why?  What makes these students become better prepared adults with so much less education?

 

Dr. Raymond Moore has written many books about homeschooling and learning techniques.  The most well known of these books is Better Late Than Early.  Dr. Moore was a well respected expert in the home school movement.  Some claim Dr. Moore launched all home schooling movements and credit his lobbying for the existence of governmental acceptance to home school programs.

 

Dr. Moore found that 70 percent of all students presenting with behavioral problems that interfered with learning were subjected to early learning pressures.  Over 7,000 studies, including several headed by Stanford University, were conducted and showed that children that remained in happy homes out of the school system until age ten succeeded academically often far past children their own age.  These children had access to self directed learning until the ages of 8-10, then returned to a class environment with similarly aged peers.  Within a few months the stay-at-home children caught up and eventually surpassed their classmates on academic levels.

 

The significant difference is that these children achieved the same, and in most cases better, academic success as their peers but stay at home children did so with no anxiety or behavior issues.  Children that were allowed to develop longer at home in a happy environment became lifelong learners that love education and seek it out more than those that are enrolled in a traditional educational system.  These children seek to find the why and the how versus traditional education students which seek the correct answer based on testing standards and work from a memorize aspect rather than a learning aspect.

 

So how do you know when a child is ready for traditional classrooms?  What are the developmental signs to look for?  What needs to be on the checklist?  Well the first thing is that there is no checklist.  Children do not work on schedules or from bullet points.  They are kids with individual needs and personalized learning styles not programmable robots that can be fed data and respond on command.  If you know your child and know your ultimate educational goals then knowing when formal education is needed  becomes clear.

 

The most important aspect of learning is the ability to reason.  To think things out.  To see solutions and work the issue until they are reached.  Analysis, critical thinking, problem solving – all things that make for a good adult.  Previous generations called this common sense.  Before a child can be expected to learn the fundamentals of the three R’s they must be ready to think.  Most believe that a child needs to know how to follow directions, sit still, play well with others but what does any of that have to do with loving the art of learning?  So, is it better to allow a child to develop and revel in natural curiosity before teaching them the alphabet?  Children that can see the endless wonder of the world will continue to seek it.  Having a sense of what comes next, consequences, and results are not just for discipline.  These skills make for amazing learners.  Once a child can use logic and has a deep sense of logical thought they are ready to challenge that  aspect of learning.  After all,  literacy and math are basically finding and using logical patterns.

 

Parents all want their children to succeed.  Even if it is in fast food jobs or retail.  If my Suzy is a waitress, then I want her to be the best darn server that establishment has ever known.  And I will be proud.  But just in case Suzy is going to be a lawyer it is more important that she can reason and use logic than it is she start school at two years old and read by four.  This could give her the developmental edge over her peers she will need to carry her into the Supreme Court.

Do you agree with this philosophy? Have you experienced different?

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When does learning begin?

Learning Begins When?

When Does Learning Begin?

When did you learn to read?  How about learning to tell time?  How old were you when you learned your multiplication facts?  We measure learning in stages and many consider learning to begin when formal education does.  In fact, learning begins much sooner.

 

In a recent study, researchers discovered that significant language learning occurs 10 weeks before birth.  We have know for a long time that babies in utero are experiencing all that is around them, however they are also acquiring language skills that will fuel their development after birth.

 

The four arts of language–listening, speaking, reading, writing–are the building blocks of education.  The language arts are what allow us to study all the other disciplines and synthesize what we have learned.  They are also what fuels collaboration and the ability to problem solve.

 

Early learning happens rapidly and without formal instruction.  Children are soaking up all that is around them. Experiences, and the lack there of, greatly shape not only the amount of learning but the potential for learning in the future.  Likewise, we cannot wait for a classroom to educate our children.  Research has shown that the most significant indicator of future learning, is a child’s first five years. This is when the hardware of the brain is built and connects laid.  In addition, the child’s approach to learning and others is solidified.

 

A study by the National Center for Education Statistics showed that the gap in achievement existed from the beginning of kindergarten.

 

“Children’s brains and children’s attitudes are formed in the first five years of life, and children’s opportunity to learn is affected by the homes in which they grow, the communities in which they grow, their respect for learning, their respect for teachers,” says Ravitch. The makings of the achievement gap are already there on the first day of school, and it’s correlated with “different ethnic backgrounds, where poverty and affluence matter a great deal.” (source)

 

The conclusion, learning begins at home and within those first moments of life.  Education is not just a system or a progression through grade levels, it is the development of attitudes, knowledge, and brain connections that lead to a deeper understanding of the world, ability to evaluate data, and the desire to know more.

 

Education for all is not just an economic boon, it is an opportunity for a brighter future for all.  Through an appreciation for lifelong learning and access to educational resources and opportunities, the next generation will have the groundwork laid for their higher achievement.

 

Just as education does not begin in school, it does not end there either. This is why events like Global Learn Day are so vital to the improvement of every citizen of the world.  By lifting one, we lift them all.  We must each choose to never stop learning and pledge to bring the fortuity of educational enrichment to those who still lack this basic need.

 

As One Planet, One People, we have the opportunity and obligation to keep the tide of innovation going but never lose sight of the small steps that have huge impacts.  Exposing babies, still in the womb, to quality language that is free from violence, stress, and excessive volume. By supporting families, we are educating the future.

 

For as Diane Ravich points out, “There is a kind of a wiser understanding of how children grow and develop and learn that recognizes that children’s first educator is their family, and that nurturance really matters.”

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