by Angie Copetillo
I heard a story this weekend that some guy in New York actually flew to South America and back to buy the new iPhone 6s just so he could be the first one in New York to own it. I don’t know if this story is true, but it certainly sounds plausible.
The story speaks to the furious pace, the insatiable nature of instant gratification, and the compulsive comparison to others that infiltrates today’s culture. These attributes stand in stark contrast to Habersham’s principles of teaching.
Make haste slowly. Form more than inform. Develop habits of mind and character.
These principles all inherently speak of the need for time and reflection and careful thought. So how do principles of “slow down” prepare us for a world in “hyper-speed?” Increasingly, scientific research should cause us to think about just that.
In fact, research shows habits of mind are disappearing in the lives of children today. Two notable books, Endangered Minds: Why Children Don’t Think and What We Can Do About It by Jane Healy and Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman challenge us, among other things, to understand how important it is to the learning process to develop a flourishing environment where strong habits are created.
Let’s consider just one of the ideas in Healy’s book – the hazards of forced early learning. According to Healy, if children are forced to learn something that their brains aren’t mature enough to handle, the brain is forced to re-route synapses to compensate, and a part of the brain not suited for a task has to do it anyway, forming connections that become well-worn paths that are difficult to change even when the part of the brain suited for the task is mature.
Sound like scientific gobbledy-gook? We have always believed children in the youngest years develop at their own perfect pace. Much like some toddlers may learn to walk at 9 months and some at 18 months, children first learn to read and write at their own developmental pace. In understanding each child as an image bearer of God, as individuals uniquely created and gifted, we understand that in early childhood development there is no perfect mass standard. The same is true for other critical stages of development. There are certainly standards, but they are standards that fit the natural development of children and consider children as people rather than numbers.
In early childhood and even beyond, it is simpler to produce quantifiable measures that make students look smart and help parents feel better than it is to truly teach cognitive development. As Healy states, “…what is taught in school today is not what is important, but what is easy to measure.” We can start programmatic learning earlier and earlier, but in her chapter Can Self Control Be Taught, Bronson discusses at length the idea of executive order thinking and what scientific evidence shows actually produces higher order thinking. Further, in the chapter, The Starving Executive, Healy explains that skills such as matching games and letter recognition are not high-level skills and do not build significant neural connections.
“Human brains are not only capable of acquiring knowledge; they also hold the potential for wisdom. But wisdom has its own curriculum: conversation, thought, imagination, empathy, reflection. Youths who lack those ‘basics,’ who cannot ponder what they have learned, are poorly equipped to become managers of the human enterprise in any era.” (Endangered Minds, p125)
So how do children become thinkers? It is a long journey. The first step is the formation of habits of thinking and living – habits such as attention, thinking, imagination, and remembering – habits that renowned British educator Charlotte Mason espoused more than a century ago. The testing and lights and infotainment and bells and whistles can never replace the process. We may want the quick fix, but the slow journey – the joy of discovery, the habits built for a life-time, and the cultivation of wisdom and virtue – is not only so much more fruitful in the end; it is also so much more enjoyable.
This time, it’s not a race.
We will focus this year on expounding upon the formation of habits, what you can do at home to foster these habits, and what they look like at different ages and stages. For a sneak peek at the glossary of habits, visit our Family Updates page on the Website.