I read an article by Dee Coulter recently. She pointed out that our society is convinced that it is always better to learn earlier and faster.
My thoughts on this idea -
A child who can read at three years old is brilliant?
Ten year olds who carry on conversations about politics are geniuses?
We all know that Einstein was considered learning disabled. Thomas Edison did not speak until he was four years old. Over and over we can find examples of the GREATEST THINKERS of our time being weaker students. What does this say about our expectations of children? In the almost twenty years that I have been intimately acquainted with elementary curriculum and child development, I have been agitated constantly by the people who want to see children hurry up and learn.
Dee Coulter finally put my thoughts into clear words when she stated (paraphrased) our habit of pushing children to mature cognitively, socially and emotionally is cutting their brain development short. Apparently when we become mature, our brain growth pretty much stops. And that "mature" seems to be pretty closely connected to sexual awareness and activity.
Why do we want to dress our little girls like women and our little boys like men? Why do we want them to learn to read and write and add and subtract younger and younger and younger? Why do we expect children to sit still and be silent for ridiculous lengths of time? Why do we let them watch movies and TV shows and cartoons that address adult themes and violence and sex?
Children should be moving, they should be talking, they should be dressed in play clothes so they can climb and run and jump and dig in the dirt. The longer they are allowed to be children, the more their brains will grow and develop and allow DEEP thinking - GREAT thinking.
I believe Dr. Maria Montessori and Steiner (Waldorf) really figured out the BEST ways to help children learn. Both of them insisted on allowing children to be empowered and in control of their own education. If we let them learn what interests them, eventually they will learn everything they need to know, but we insist on cramming our curriculum into their heads READY OR NOT! And we wonder why students are disenfranchised by the end of Elementary school.
THe wise words of Simon & Garfunkel come to mind..
Slow down, you move too fast.
You've got to make the morning last!
Childhood should be savored...