The subject matter in school, even when taught well, isn’t necessarily what the child is ready to learn. The way it is presented tends to be indirect, inactive, removed from the fibers that connect it to everything else. It may cover material the child has no interest in, or be so remote from the child’s life that it has no relevance.
The emphasis on the correct answer squeezes out unconventional thinking. The fear of making mistakes squelches creativity and innovation. After years of being taught to avoid making mistakes, the child has also learned to steer clear of originality.
Children want to be involved in the fullness of life around them. That’s the way they naturally learn. As they imitate what they see, they gain greater understanding.
According to a report on BBC News, “One of the most intriguing statistics from international comparisons is the lack of relationship between hours in the classroom and educational achievement.” This turns conventional thinking upside-down. We assume that more time “hitting the books” translates to smarter students. But it turns out some pupils who spend a smaller amount of time in school end up achieving the highest educational standards.
When a person is performing a task or expressing an emotion, it activates certain areas in the brain. We now know that specific neurons in the brain of someone who is simply observing this individual are also activated. The cells responding in this way, called mirror neurons, are essentially duplicating the action or emotion being observed. This means there is a physical basis for feeling what others feel.
Every day in the United States about 8 percent of elementary school-aged children take a medication prescribed for a mental health problem such as attention deficit disorder, depression or anxiety. This is a much higher rate of medication than is seen in most other countries.
The desire to produce meaningful work, the longing to make contributions of value, the need to belong, and other complex interpersonal factors are diminished in importance by the child’s overriding obligation to complete assignments.
The growing brain hungers for stimulation. An estimated 100 billion neurons make trillions of connections. New neural pathways are developed constantly as information and perceptions are linked. Children literally rewire their brains while learning. The observations and insights made are unique to each learner.
Separating children from meaningful participation…doesn’t simply impair comprehension. It changes the way learning takes place. The child is made a passive recipient of education designed by others. Then the excitement of learning is transformed into a duty.
If learning is imposed by hours of worksheets or computer curricula, children are separated from rich stimuli that inspire them to connect ideas and to develop meaningful competence beyond test readiness.…Real experiences help them build understanding, incorporate new information, and make the “aha” connections that are the hallmark of insight.
Our nervous systems and emotional states appear to be set at nature’s wavelength. Research shows that people benefit enormously from exposure to natural settings, finding them physically and emotionally restorative. Children are less impulsive and aggressive, handle stress better, and are more able to concentrate when they are in contact with nature.
Children are busier than we imagine. They listen to conversations, look for patterns in random occurrences, search for meaning, and perpetually seek to understand their place in a larger context. It can be exhausting, confusing work. It takes imagination and energy. No wonder they need more sleep than adults.