5 May 2016

The cheap way to get brainy children

There's been a bit of monopoly in this house recently (guiltily, I rarely play... it just takes too long!). Anna decided a New Zealand version was needed. It's very much an Anna version, too.

We love having no TV!

Which gets me wondering... there has been a lot of publicity in recent days about children not meeting national standards in school, and a whole lot of blame doled out to teachers. I wonder what the graph comparing screen time with school marks would look like? I reckon there would be a strong correlation.

Sadly, what I see at my daughter's primary school is a push for e-learning. The stuff I've been learning recently about neuroplasticity (how the brain remodels itself according to what we demand of it) makes me just as concerned as my own gut reaction to it does.

So, while other children diligently do their 'homework' on the computer and iPad, my daughter creates a monopoly set. Who do you think gets top of the class?

That is not to blame teachers: they need good evidence-based, objective research they can rely on when it comes to new technologies, and my questioning of various people tells me they are not getting that. In fact, they are getting some disturbingly subjective advice. And the cost of it all - the devices, the training, the maintenance....

I also think that a whole lot of the brain development underpinning school learning is already done by the time teachers get involved. I think little preschool brains - which have the most immense capacity for learning - need to be saturated and delighted with books, stories, dances, walks, and talk talk talking! Tell them about things you think they can't understand. Name and explain everything. It costs nothing (libraries are free), and it is enormous fun. In the meantime, neurons are growing and connecting by the millions.

Apparently the difference in the number of words children have heard by the time they get to school differs by many millions depending on how educated their parents are. Depressingly, those who hear millions fewer almost never catch up (they do learn, it's just that the others start so much further ahead, and they keep learning too). In the US - or is it the UK? - there are programmes to teach parents how to 'teach'*  their preschoolers (hopefully without formal lessons). Perhaps that is a better way to spend money than on e-learning and more teacher training.

* It should only feel like pleasurable play for both parties, not formal lessons.

I forgot to teach her how to spell castle! Or where $ signs go.
Sometimes I let these things go for a few years, because they
are so very cute.

(ps: if anyone is truly looking for a cheap way to get brainy children, I'd also learn everything you can about breastfeeding before the birth, breastfeed for as long as possible, take fish oil during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and exercise during pregnancy - although that's almost impossible while you're nauseous. There is controversy about the link between breastfeeding and the child's IQ, but it's definitely the cheaper option.)

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