I went to a conference recently, and came away with a severe case of information overload. I commented to my husband that, for a group devoted to improving learning environments for children, the conference organizers were not very good at creating learning environments for adults. Although there were some opportunities for interaction, we mostly sat and listened, for hours on end. There were precious few examples of “active learning” in the workshops I attended, and with only 20-30 minutes scheduled for getting a drink of water, visiting the bathroom and walking from one end of the conference center to the other to find the next workshop, practically no time was available for processing the information heard at the previous session.
The reason for this kind of tight scheduling was, of course, to make sure we got the most “bang for the buck”, providing the most information possible while requiring the least possible time away from home and work. While I understand this way of thinking, I wonder if it is the most effective strategy. It makes me think of what Piaget called “The American Question”. Piaget was a Swiss psychologist who devoted much of his life to the study of how children learn. He determined that children have different stages of development. His work showed that although they do not all go through these stages at exactly the same time; they will typically go through them sequentially and within an approximate age range.When he visited and lectured on his theories in the United States, in almost every audience someone would ask, “How can we help a child move through the developmental milestones more quickly?” Piaget was shocked. He could not understand why a parent or teacher would want a child to grow up more quickly.
Why are we in our country so obsessed with children doing things earlier and earlier? Is it because we think they will learn more easily at an early age? Actually, while we can sometimes teach children concepts beyond their developmental stage, doing so is time-consuming and frustrating for both teacher and student. Older children typically make more progress, more quickly, with less training and less frustration for all. Is it because we think that the earlier our child meets developmental milestones the more successful they will be in life? Albert Einstein was a late talker, Thomas Edison and Winston Churchill were unsuccessful in school, yet they all accomplished great things. Are there people in your own life who were “late bloomers”, yet did in fact bloom?
Education should not be a race. We should worry less about what a child will do in the future and enjoy more of what he/she is doing at this moment. What we CAN do, as parents, is “grow” our children’s brains, not by using flash cards or the latest educational software, but by sharing experiences such as those described in my post Growing Your Child’s Brain.
HAVE A GREAT SUMMER! Miss Barbara