Many people do not realize the significance of early learning when it comes to broadening a person’s intellectual abilities. Even an infant’s experiences can deeply change his or her development. The fact of the matter is that a child’s future academic success is strongly based upon early learning that takes place before the age of 3.
The public education system in the United States clearly leaves a lot to be desired. In Clayton Christensen’s book “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns,” he discusses the way that ideally integrating customized learning into schools could contribute to far greater levels of academic success. Currently, most schools tend to teach in a standardized manner. All students are taught the same subject on the same day. Further, students are expected to learn at a similar pace to one another.
However, different types of intelligence are innate to different people. Some people best learn visually, while others tend to learn through sound or tactile behavior. Of course, people also learn at a variety of different speeds. Unfortunately, the current school system doesn’t tend to take these factors into account.
Christensen refers to Harvard professor Howard Gardner’s research on intelligence. Gardner advocates a much broader definition of intelligence. In fact, he promotes “the theory of multiple intelligences.” Gardner’s studies show that people have different strengths, which include “linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist.” A person can learn most optimally when the curriculum is customized to his or her strengths. Christiansen writes,
“When an educational approach is well aligned with one’s stronger intelligences or aptitudes, understanding can come more easily and with greater enthusiasm.”
In the classroom, a teacher will typically cater to only one type of intelligence. As a result, some students will thrive while others will quickly fall behind. Christensen is an advocate of integrating computer learning into the classroom. While past incentives have effectively brought to computers into schools, they are not necessarily used in an optimal manner. Different computer programs could be designed to assist children who fall into different learning groups. The end product of these changes could be progression towards a learning model that actually encompasses all children and doesn’t leave anyone behind due to his or her learning style.
In “Disrupting Class,” Christensen also points out that some researchers estimate that 98 percent of educational spending occurs after the “basic intellectual capacities of children have mostly been determined.” These determinations are made during the first 3 years. Unfortunately, many parents do not realize this fact and, as a result, they don’t capitalize on this important time of a child’s development. Instead, they over rely on a child’s formal academic education.
In a fascinating study discussed in Christensen’s book, researchers Todd Risley and Betty Hart closely monitored how much parents talked and physically interacted with their babies. According to their findings, average parents talked to their children 1500 words per hour. More talkative parents spoke about 2100 words per hour to their children. In families that Risley and Hart coined “welfare families,” parents talked to their children only about 600 words per hour.
Risley and Hart found that the babies whose parents spoke to them only approximately 600 words per hour turned out to be less intellectually capable. In contrast, they found that the children who had been talked to the most performed significantly better on tests. Based on this research, a child’s early learning experiences do indeed impact his or her future academic performance.
Further, the amount of time that parents spend talking to children is highly influential even before the child can understand the parent. This means that the amount of talking a baby receives in the first year of his or her life makes a huge difference as far as intellectual capacity down the line. By the time a child is 3 years old, his or her capacity for creativity and discipline learning has already been established.
It is important to note that there are two types of talking that Todd Risley and Betty Hart monitored in their studies. They categorized talking into two categories, namely, “business talk,” and “language dancing.” Business talk is when parents tell children what to do and speak to them in a very formal, straightforward manner. An example of business talk would be to tell a child “do this” or “do that.” As it turns out, business talk is not particularly useful in getting a child to expand his or her learning potential.
On the other hand, language dancing encourages a child’s potential. It is more of a “personal adult conversation.” Language dancing invites babies to think about what is happening in the world around them. It stimulates intellectual curiosity and imagination. As a result, it builds neurological connections and creates more synaptic pathways. Even before a baby can understand language and meanings, language dancing can have a significant impact on his or her intelligence. Children become wired to think in more sophisticated ways. Unfortunately, children with less developed pathways are at a disadvantage when it comes to future learning and academic achievement.
It is important to realize that putting your child in front of a television set will not encourage intellectual development like speaking face to face. However, while television isn’t particularly helpful, reading to children can be highly beneficial. Christensen writes in his book, “Other scholars have shown that the most powerful factor influencing reading skills is auditory processing skill- the very skill that is honed as infants listen to parents speak to them in sophisticated adult language.”
One of the greatest gifts that you can offer your children is to read and explore with them. This behavior should begin with newborns and even continue into a child’s teenage years. Further, new technology offers easy-to-use tools such as the iPad, which now bring books, music, video and images together in a format that is very efficient and convenient for parents.
It is also important to teach children good learning habits at an early age. They should not only be taught to learn disciplines like reading, science, and math, but passion for these subjects should also be encouraged.
If parents want their children to excel in school, they need to focus on the early years. If children do not experience a stimulating environment before the age of 3, than they will be unlikely to excel in school. As long as parents are interacting with their children and encouraging neural development, the type of social or economic background from which children originate is actually not highly relevant.
Parents who are lucky enough to get this information in the early years of their children’s lives need to create as many exploration opportunities at home as possible. Parents and children should engage in these activities together. Additionally, parents need to try to always embrace their children’s interests and personalized learning styles. New technology like iPad learning apps can be extremely helpful in achieving these goals. Though taking these steps, parents can guide their children towards future scholastic success.