Limitless Power of the Mind

It is important to share some of the new educational theory that is always in evidence, with our parents , so they understand we remain current but that they also understand which trends we embrace and which trends, professionally, we have concerns about. Parents are often so well read on many education related subjects but they still need guidance from professional educators to help them sift through the mountain of news and media reports, on certain trends. When we hold open discussions and information sharing sessions with our parent groups we are able to give them information and strategies that compliment and support what we are suggesting for young people today. Sharing the information that the brain researchers have found with parents, especially young parents, is very important. We are beginning to understand that the child’s environment, the world we live in and our frenzied life dramatically affects the child’s ability to learn for the remainder of his or her life span. What parents do early in the child’s life affects the lives of every educator the child comes in contact with. How able we are to serve the child greatly depends on what the parents and community have done with the child, for the preschool years and as the child and teen’s develop.

Critical Windows of Opportunity ( adapted from Jensen, Bagley,Healy)
Skill Optimal Window
Age

Emotional Control 0 to 24 months, next best time 2 to 5 yrs

Second language 5 to 10 years

Reading Ability 0 to 25 months next best time 2 to 5 years

Math and logic 0 to 4 years

Language 0 to 10 years

Speech & Sounds 0 to 24 months

Motor Development 0 to 24 months, next best time 2 to 5 years

Vision 0 to 6 months, next best time 6 to 60 months

The Brain Researchers Say: “Within the framework of parent-directed free time, then, what exactly are grade school children doing? A group at the University of Illinois and Loyala University studied children in almost 1,000 households to answer that question, and what they found may surprise you. On weekdays, grade school children spend the listed average number of minutes on the following activities:

2 minutes on hobbies
4 minutes on art activities
8 out- of – doors
11 in miscellaneous passive leisure-time activities
18 engaged in sports (25 for boys, 12 for girls)
124 watching television
128 in general play

In this study, children spent about equal amounts of time playing and watching TV. TV alone gets 400 percent more time than hobbies, art, reading, sports, and all other leisure activities combined. On weekends, playing and TV move up to two and on-half hours each. ( Many studies suggest that television viewing takes up closer to four hours a day for the typical child, with the time coming from more active play).” (Diamond & Hopson p 212 )

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“Emanual Donchin, PhD at the Champaign-Urbana campus of the University of Illinois and colleagues has documented a profound statistic (Coles, Donchin, and Porges 1986) He says that more than 99 percent of all learning is nonconscious. this means that the majority of what you and your students are learning-a quantity of stimuli that far exceeds that derived from traditionally delivered content or what’s outlined in a lesson plan- was never consciously intended. From visual cues, sounds, experiences, aromas, and feelings, you are a walking, talking sponge.” (Jensen 2000 p102)

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“The first window of opportunity for a child’s learning begins in the womb… The most important things that can be done by the mother during pregnancy are to eat well, avoid drugs and keep the stress down. How sensitive is the embryo of stress and nutrition? Very sensitive. This early ‘school womb’ is busy! Between month five as a fetus and birth, infants have grown the maximum amount of brain cells, about 200 billion. those cells, called neurons, form a vast network, connecting to other cells. The newborn child is born with about one thousand billion ( a trillion!) connections in the brain” (Jensen p1 W L )

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“The emerging message is clear: The brain, with its complex architecture and limitless potential, is a highly plastic, constantly changing entity that is powerfully shaped by our experiences in childhood and throughout life… For when it comes to the brain, experience does it: Our collective actions, sensations, and memories are a powerful shaper of both function and anatomy. What’s left for the wise parent or teacher, hoping to promote their children’s healthiest mental development, is to pick the right experiences at the right time.” (Diamond & Hopson p3 Intro)

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“The brain doesn’t snap shut or fill up. And the suggestion that a potential linguist is washed up at eight or a would-be musician is a had-been at twelve is untrue, discouraging, and a waste of human resources. The late-bloomer may not become a United Nations translator or a concert violinist, but then neither do most of us who go on to enjoy knowing second languages, playing in a small instrumental group, or competing on a C-level tennis ladder. Isn’t the object an interesting, varied life and the realization of our fullest, broadest potential? (Diamond & Hopson p4 intro)

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“Childhood enrichment is not just the province of professionals… Our goal has been to show the way a child’s brain grows and matures, the consequences of stimulation and active involvement versus boredom and passivity, and the myriad ways of enhancing environmental input without overloading the child’s mind full of enchantment.” (Diamond & Hopson p305)

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“How the brain puts its early learning capacity to use to store words was discovered by psychologist, Janellen Huttenlocher of the University of Chicago. In a pioneering study that struck down the old notion that some children learn words faster than others because of an inborn capacity, Huttenlocher showed that when socioeconomic factors were equal, babies whose mothers talked to them more had a bigger vocabulary. A twenty months, babies of talkative mothers know 131 more words than infants of less talkative moms, and at twenty four months the difference was 295…The babies were listening. Although it may not seem obvious, the vocabulary they are exposed to makes an impression on their brains. They are learning words faster than previously thought.” (kotuluk p33)

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“Exercise many well be the best tool we have for helping children (and adults) work off anger and aggression. Overall, physical exercise is one of the best tonics you can take for your brain… It helps in many different ways. It increased the levels of blood the brain receives. With more blood comes more oxygen and many other good nutrients. Exercise produces increased levels of a class of chemicals know as catecholmines(epinephrine is one) that can help in focusing the mind. It produces endorphins, substances that bind to special receptors in the brain to create feelings of well-being. Exercise also produces ‘neurotrophins,’ a whole series of nutrients for the brain that the body puts together to supply the nerve cells with the precise substances they need to grow and stay healthy.”(Hallowell WYWACYL p142)

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“Use words. Read aloud. Play word games at dinner and while driving in the car. Role-play the resolution of conflicts by talking them out. Next to physical exercise, using language to express feelings may be the best antidote we have to destructive or violent behavior. If you can’t put what you feel into words, or if you can’t argue or debate coherently or ask for what you want articulately, you feel frustrated. Frustration leads to physical acting up, sometimes to violence. This point may sound obvious, but many children are growing up these days unable to find words for what they want to say. They don’t read, they don’t write, they don’t even talk coherently as much as they should. They watch and they listen: to TV, radio, video, CD’s and the like. But these are all passive activities. Watching and listening do not ‘work’ the imagination the way reading, writing, and talking do. Language, like all neurological tools, is not a permanent fixture; if you do not us it, you lose it.”(Hallowell WYWACYL p143)

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“Encourage negotiation and the making of contracts. This is what ‘working it out’ is all about. Hear both points of view. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. Make a deal. sing a contract. The more you can do this with your children, the better. When a dispute comes up, don’t impulsively bark out a response; instead, negotiate. Teaching your child to learn to negotiate, make deals, initiate agreements, and stick to contract provides him or her with a lifelong skill. Successful adults are usually the ones who have mastered these skills. It is never too early to start. Make deals with your three-year- old. Put together a contract with your six-year-old in the form of a chart or other daily monitoring device. Negotiate with your twelve-year-old regarding the rules of everyday life. If your family gets in the habit of reflexively negotiating, rather than fighting, demanding, or arguing, you will not only build a happier family but also give everyone skills that are of great value in the world outside home.Most of us parents react instead of ‘proact.’ We react to anger instead of planning in advance how to deal with what will come up.” (Hallowell WYWACYL p147)

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Numerous studies have shown “reading aloud to children builds knowledge about the world beyond the daily environment; expands vocabulary and understanding; stimulates imagination; fosters emotional growth and values through the messages in the stories; brings parents and children together; and is an advertisement for the pleasures of reading. Even for a tiny baby looking at wordless picture books, the experience helps to practice focusing the eyes, distinguishing colors, and parsing the rhythms of speech in his or her native language. Best of all, it’s time to be held, talked to, and given attention. (Diamond & Hopson p136)

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“Some action-oriented parents, for example, value language skills very little. some busy professionals rely on the nanny, who may or may not share the same native language. And many parents assume that television will fill in the language gaps for them. In fact, however, there is no evidence that television fails to help prelingual children learn to understand or speak because it’s almost never in ‘motherese’-the very slow, expressive ‘baby talk’ parents instinctively use for infants and that, according to Steven Pinker, infants instinctively like and need to hear”(Diamond & Hopson p137)

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“A child neuropsychologist at Harvard Medical School and children’s Hospital in Boston, Jane Holmes Bernstein, also has thought a great deal about hothousing in general and the Better Baby philosophy in particular. ‘To me…it’s a curiously narrow view of education. Children need the freedom to explore in order to maximize their brain power. It is not maximized by the social group putting stimuli in front of the child.’ Second, she says, ‘Brains learn not because they are told that A is A but because they are told that A is A and that B is not A. A child doesn’t learn,’ she explains, by a parent telling them ‘This is a cup. This is a cup. This is a cup. But if you say ‘This is a cup, but this is a dish,’ the brain goes click!…The benefits of drilling small children and infants, she concludes ‘is a belief system’ that is not supported by scientific data” (Diamond & Hopson p 166)
“The biggest critic of early academic training, whether at home or in preschool settings, is surely David Elkind, a professor of child studies at Tufts University. Elkind, in his books The Hurried Child and Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk, warns parents and educators about the dangers he sees in teaching academic subjects to young children. Over the short-term, he says, young children stressed by educational pressure tend to show fatigue, decreased appetite, lowered effectiveness at tasks, and psychosomatic ailments. Over the long term, says Elkind, the children can show less interest in learning, less ability to work independently to judge their own progress, and the tendency to worry and compare their intelligence with other children’s As Fervently as some parents believe that a child’s potential is wasted by letting her play until she reaches school age, David Elkind insists that exposing her to anything other than self-directed activities can be harmful and dangerous. (Diamond & Hopson p 167)

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“One thing to keep in mind is that every choice-even indecision or inaction- has an impact. The environment exerts a strong shaping influence on the young brain, and his or her sensations, mental stimulation, and experiences all become part of the preschool child.” (Diamond & Hopson p 170)

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“Regardless of a child’s kinesthetic intelligence, physical activity is an enrichment for the motor cortex and other parts of the brain ( not to mention the whole body), as long as the play is safe and fun…And that’s a big caveat. Pressure to excel and win not only help drive 75 percent of children who start any given sport to drop out by age fifteen, but they foster self-sabotage and the attitude that playing is not worth it if you can’t conquer an opponent.(Diamond & Hopson p208)

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See also the information from the introduction on how our world has changed. it is  especially important to include the information about TV and media influences.

 

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