“Of Many Minds”–Brain Development and Education

Tonight, we are back with Chapter 7 of “The Well Balanced Child: Movement and Early Learning”, entitled “Of Many Minds”.  This is a fairly lengthy chapter and I want to focus on the parts of it related to education for you all to ponder.

This chapter makes the point that one of the most important things that happen in childhood is that connections are made within the brain, between higher and lower regions and also between the two hemispheres of the brain.  Piaget called this period the “sensory motor period” and I think with good reason! There is discussion about the important role about the cerebellum, which you can find on pages 93-94.

This is a great quote from page 94:  “Although learning can take place at any stage in development, it is more efficient if it coincides with the time of neurological ‘readiness.’”  This statement appears to be in stark contrast to the American school system today, where facts are stuffed into the child with little regard for what is happening physiologically, never mind holistically, with the child.

The right hemisphere develops slightly ahead of the left hemisphere up until about age 7.  The right hemisphere is associated with whole word recognition, maths, rhythm, spatial orientation, language (emotional), visual, intuitive, holistic kinds of things.  “The years of optimum right-hemisphere dominant development are years when learning is still strongly linked to sensory-motor activity.”

(My notes here is yes! At a course I just attended regarding the twelve senses it was stated that most small children, are in fact, kinesthetic learners. Yet, most adult teachers are visual learners. We must learn to LOOK at the child. What does this child need, and are we using rhyme, song, rhythm, movement in our teaching?)

Another interesting quote:  “This is the time for make-believe, dressing up, creating castles in the air, and searching for fairies at the bottom of the garden.”  Another interesting quote on page 99 points out the polarity to this hemisphere though: that the right side of the brain is more prone to fear, sadness, anxiety, pessimism.  I found this interesting as one often hears of truly creative and gifted artists, brilliant people, who are really melancholic or depressed and I wonder if this brain physiology as something to do with it all.

The left hemisphere is logic, analysis, phonetic decoding, language, speech, timing, writing… and how the cerebellum and the vestibular system prime these areas of the brain for usage through movement!

Obviously, it is not this simple really, as most activities require both hemispheres of the brain, but it is still an intriguing look at development.  Myelination of the connections between the cerebellum, the corpus callosum and the vestibular system usually strengthen between the ages of 6 1/2 and age 8 – the time when a dominant side of lateral preference (ie, right or left handed is fully established).

This chapter ends with a great list of  things to focus on for education by age (and what follows is not an inclusive list from the chapter but rather examples):

For ages 0-6 months (primitive reflexes) and ages birth through three and a half (postural reflexes):

  • Gentle rocking movements –hold your baby and rock in a rocking chair, being held and carried,
  • Giving the child space and time to play on the tummy to develop head control, weight bearing through the arms, kicking and reaching movements
  • Giving the child space and time to develop rolling, sitting, creeping, crawling on all fours, standing
  • Helping your child put gestures to sounds like waving bye-bye, pat a cake
  • Talking to your child, sing, recite nursery rhymes, (notice interestingly enough there is no mention here on reading books, but on ORAL singing, reciting, playing singing games, etc).

Helping to Develop The Cerebellum, ages 1 to 4 years of age:

  • Ages 1-3 years:  push toys, climbing, rocking horse, toys that move, shape sorting toys, walking, running, rough and tumble play
  • Ages 2-4 years:  toys the child can ride on and push with his or her feet, floor play with bricks, blocks, wooden trains, dolls, spinning tops, climbing equipment, slides, modeling with salt dough and sand, make believe and dressing up, talking, singing

Developing Both Sides of the Brain – ages 4-7

  • Simple songs
  • Movement games, chants, rhymes, songs
  • Games for spatial awareness
  • Trampoline, bouncy balls, riding a bike

An interesting chapter!

Many blessings,

Carrie

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