Tag Archives: children

 

Teach love.

 

It begins with the children:

 

Heartbreaking Video Of Father Explaining Paris Attack To …

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“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Little Prince

 

ADD For ALL

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“She’s flighty.” “He’s a dreamer.”

Should these children be diagnosed, labeled and medicated to make them conform? Are they abnormal, or just marching to the beat of a different drummer? Perhaps she’s flying somewhere and he’s dreaming of something far more interesting than the worksheet of the day. Are we creating standardized children to excel on our standardized tests? Our culture values achievers. Does enduring the weariness night after night that many children feel at finishing their homework count as an accomplishment? How does a child who continually fails, who is labeled as a troublemaker, who never gets the shiny sticker awards, or the stellar grades, develop belief in himself?

When, in the United States, approximately six and a half million of all school age children, one in five of every high school boy, and over ten thousand toddlers are taking powerful medications after being diagnosed with ADHD, it’s time to change the system, not the children. How do we teach both the child and the teacher the difference between bouts of creative distraction, when one thought is allowed to pinwheel into a beautiful display of many thoughts, and distractions that are indications that the child is not connecting, for any number of reasons, to the subject being taught?

It is not likely that the educational system will soon change to accommodate different types of learners, but individual teachers can. It is a teacher who often is the one to bring up the possibility of ADHD to the unsuspecting parent at the first parent/teacher conference. Although the diagnosis is purely subjective, there being no definitive test, either psychological or physical, for this condition, parents assume that the teacher must be right. Of course there are teachers who may be right, who with much serious forethought have made the difficult decision to approach this sensitive issue. But, more often than not, the teacher is wrong and herself a victim of the aggressive pharmaceutical marketing campaigns that are truly shameful considering the grave side effects and the unknown impact on brain chemistry that can afflict a child taking Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, or any of the other potent psychotropic drugs. In the last 20 years the number of narcotized children skyrocketed from approximately six hundred thousand to over 3.5 million:

Psychologist Dr. Keith Conners, Professor Emeritus at Duke University, who was one of the first researches to bring ADHD to the public’s attention as a neurobiological disorder, states in a 2013 NY Times article, “The numbers make it look like an epidemic. Well, it’s not. It’s preposterous. This is a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.” In the same article Roger Griggs, the pharmaceutical executive and entrepreneur who coined the term “Adderall” after his Orwellian idea of combining “A.D.D.” and “for all”, calls these drugs, “nuclear bombs that should be prescribed only in extreme circumstances.”

Teachers, as first responders, must begin to see that celebrating diversity in the classroom means more than creating an environment that respects those of all cultures and colors.   It means creating an equal opportunity classroom in which differences of all kinds are not labeled as deficits. Mastery of a subject often requires perseverance and repetition, but must it appear to the child as boring and without purpose? Most children, even those with diagnoses of ADHD, are able to concentrate with surprising tenacity if a subject interests them. Watch a child build a tower over and over in order to get it to balance, or fathom out a complicated puzzle. What motivates a child to work at these high levels of concentration? This is the subject that we should be exploring, and that all teachers should be striving to understand. How can we spark curiosity and create stimulating lessons that inspire creative and attentive students? Has our society gone so far wrong as to believe that a child not sitting quietly over schoolwork is a deviant who must be drugged into submission? It is time to stop ostracizing the atypical and eradicate the illusion that our childrens’ learning problems can be alleviated with meds. Instead, let parents and teachers unite to do the hard work of examining our current educational system and find solutions that do not label our children as the problem.

Learning to Listen

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A child must learn to listen before he can listen to learn. Experts agree that the conditions which most affect  literacy take place in the home, long before a child enters school. Children listen, understand, and speak before they read, write, and spell. Without the former, the latter is impossible. It follows that the more developed a very young child’s language skills, the easier time he will have learning the academics of literacy. Reading to your child from the very beginning will help develop listening skills that are invaluable later in life. At first your active baby won’t have the attention span to allow you to read all the words of a book to her, but just sitting together enjoying books, talking about the illustrations, is enough to start. As time goes by, a young child who has access to a bookshelf will soon be seeking out books and sitting quietly pretending to read. This activity is not, simply, adorable. For a child, the act of pretending is a major step in learning a new skill.

In order to help a child learn to listen, keep the home environment as free of unnecessary distraction as possible. Turn off the background noise. This simple act will help to create a more peaceful atmosphere conducive to contemplation…and to reading. Music is not usually a distraction, but the news and commercials that accompany radio and television certainly are. Children are sensitive and their hearing is acute, try to shield them from the constant advertising and, more importantly, the disturbing violent events that are, sadly, so often in the news.

Another aspect in teaching children to learn to listen is to listen to them! The respect that you show when you pay careful attention to a child’s stories and questions teaches him the importance of listening. Ask interactive, open-ended questions that offer the child not only an opportunity to express himself but to develop cognitive skills. Avoid “baby talk” or talking down to a child. Children love “big” words; adults often underestimate their insatiable curiosity and innate ability to learn them. Books add a multitude of new words not used in daily life that enrich and enlarge your child’s vocabulary exponentially. The art of thoughtful listening is fast becoming obsolete. Help your child become attentive in a culture rife with sound bites, twitter, and the abbreviated language of texting. It is only in listening closely that we truly learn.

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To teach is to share knowledge joyfully; to learn is to listen with equal joy.  Teachers are all around us:

The Power of Poetry

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Poetry is often looked upon as irrelevant, a part of another era, when people had more leisure time, less distractions; when conversation was an art, and life wasn’t so frenetic. Yet, it is well documented by linguists that children who have early exposure to poetic verse and the phonemic and syllabic sensitivity it brings, have an easier time recognizing individual sounds and learning to read.

Poetry is the heartbeat of literature. Begin a rhyme in a room full of children and watch what happens…a sudden attentive stillness. Even babies, who can’t yet understand the meaning of the words, are entranced by the patterns, repetitions, and rhythms:

I am Sam

Sam I am

That Sam-I-am That Sam-I-am!

I do not like that Sam-I-am

Do you like 
green eggs and ham?

I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

I do not like 
green eggs and ham.

Dr. Seuss – Green Eggs and Ham

Rhyme draws attention to the ending sounds of individual words – alliteration to the beginning. The musical language of poetry rings and reverberates, creating in the child a fundamental joy in literature.

But should the reading of poetry end with nursery rhymes? The emotions that poetry evokes are universal. As children grow older, the reading and writing of poetry can help them to cope with vulnerable truths that are too fragile to share in other ways…love, pain, death, transcendence…feelings not likely to be discussed on Facebook:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wvnQcm3SZE&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Reading aloud one’s own poetry creates a forum for individual expression that inspires confidence and pride. To communicate profound feelings and see that others share them is a transporting experience. In a school system that stresses the head – test taking, memorization, grades, and competition – poetry celebrates the heart. In this increasingly homogenized culture, poetry’s power lies in its originality-whether wild with rage as in Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, or soft with the tenderness of e.e.cummings’ somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond, poetry connects us intimately and immediately to our deepest feelings.

The language of poetry encourages inventiveness with words. Hope is “the thing with feathers” (Emily Dickenson). Eyes are “the window to the soul”(Shakespeare). Poetry conjures images that broaden and enlighten the mind. Metaphor and simile invite the reader to look at life in different ways, using unexpected correlations that inspire creative thinking:

The fog comes

on little cat feet

It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on

Carl Sandburg – Fog

From the rocking rhythm of early lullabies to the healing strength of dirges, the simple truths of poetry cross all cultures, all boundaries. Introduce poetry early to share the wonder of words with your child, but don’t lose track of how poetry’s elegant, eloquent elucidation can inspire us throughout our life

Literacy – How it Begins

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“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Oral language is the foundation of literacy. Within a few short months an infant’s cries become babbles, then, suddenly, talking! Soon, the young child understands the meaning of thousands of words. The acquisition of language happens at a remarkable speed. Every time a child learns something new, it becomes a part of his knowledge base. Since words are simply articulations of concepts and feelings, it is evident that a child’s vocabulary should be measured not by how many words he knows, but by what he knows about each word.

The more ideas that the child is exposed to, the deeper her understanding of certain terms: A child whose favorite book is Goodnight Moon understands the conception of the moon in a more visceral way once she has seen a bright full moonrise, or watched the moon disappear behind a cloud lined with silver. Thereafter, whenever the book is read to her, these images flood her mind allowing a richer appreciation of both the word moon and the familiar bedtime story.

One of the most giving words in the English language is the word, “Look!” When you invite a child to look, you give him the gift of your time, attention, and awareness. You joyfully invite him to join in a shared experience and with this simple word illustrate how communication bonds us. “Look! A dragonfly!” Fills the child’s mind with dragons, butterflies, fairies… “Can it breathe fire?” I have been asked. These opportunities to enlarge your child’s perspective happen daily, and books are a wonderful way to extend this rapid accumulation of knowledge. While the opportunity to see a rainbow doesn’t happen everyday, books, both fiction and non-fiction, can share the beautiful imagery of a rainbow with your child, reinforcing such basics as color recognition, but more importantly, encouraging him to see the wonder and glory of the natural world…and to look for rainbows everywhere.

Children are born scientists – curious and eager to explore. Knowledge is not a mere collection of facts, it is alive, pulsing-a process of discovery. Books provide an access to worlds that we cannot, otherwise, enter. From the bioluminescent depths of the sea to the mystical outer edges of the known universe, books satisfy the need and the love for communication that begins with the infant’s first cries.

Why Doing Absolutely Nothing is Important

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“Not all those who wander are lost.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

The modern world is a hectic one. Between school, sports, dance, music lessons, karate class, and other extra-curricular activities that fill our children’s days, there is precious little time for them to be alone with their thoughts. To be alone with one’s thoughts is to let the mind wander…to imagine. When the brain is free of distractions thoughts become reflective, and unexpected connections are made that expand consciousness.

Daydreaming enables us to revisit our memories. Allowing time to process these intricate emotions leads to deeper understanding of ourselves and others. When children are given the time to ponder they begin to take leaps from what they know to what they don’t know. Often, these original ideas are sweet, innocent, or funny…but they are, unmistakably, inventive, and show the developing mind at work.

When a child daydreams, no one can intrude on his fanciful imaginings. He is free to explore, to make unique, whimsical associations that are the seeds of creative thinking. We live in a culture that values productivity, but, ironically, frowns upon the very dreamers who are the gateways to inspiration and invention. Einstein said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift; the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

It is not only composers or poets who benefit from daydreaming, but scientists, mathematicians, and engineers as well. MRI research has revealed that, during a daydream, areas in the brain associated with complex problem solving are activated. Scientists now believe that daydreaming is as important as the dreaming we do at night – a time when the brain works hard to coalesce and consolidate learning. Neuroscientist and human development psychologist, Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, in an article in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, states that daydreaming is vital to learning, ultimately strengthening cognitive abilities such as reading comprehension:

http://pps.sagepub.com/content/7/4/352

Daydreams can reveal truths that are not visible in the too bright light of everyday activities. Like a candle, or a star, they can help to lead us in the right direction. Let daydreams inspire your children. In a world that shouts for their attention, encourage and respect these quiet, thoughtful moments. Let’s teach our children to value the beauty of silence and their own fantastical inner worlds.

Is an E-Book as Good for Your Child as a Traditional Book?

Mother and Child Reading Frederick Warren Freer 1849-1908
Mother and Child Reading
Frederick Warren Freer
1849-1908

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There are many delightful depictions of stories available electronically.But are they as worthwhile to your child as reading a traditional book? Childhood Development experts have not yet determined the answer to this question due to the fact that e-books have not been around long enough to collect the data necessary to come to a decision. The topic is of high interest to educators worldwide, and numerous studies have been conducted.

At best, reading to a child is not a static activity. Children feel warm, secure, and loved sitting next to a parent or grandparent with a book. They receive a not so subliminal message that books are valuable, and that so are they. This feeling can last a lifetime, conjuring pleasant and joyful memories associated with books.

Even very young children learn quickly how a book works; front to back, page to page, top to bottom. They see as they follow the story, that those strange shapes called letters have something to do with spoken words. More importantly, they are not distracted by the bells and whistles designed to enhance the e-book experience, they are free to comment, to ask questions, to ponder new ideas and make connections. The adult reader can extend these connections and make them personal. “Remember when we went to the zoo like Curious George?” “Was the lion scary?” “How many monkeys are in the tree?” “What colors are the flowers?” There are countless ways to extend even the simplest of books.

Only the parent knows the child’s most passionate interests. If your child is fascinated by anything from the solar system to insects, you can use this knowledge to make the book that you are reading a more interesting and individual experience….an illustration of a butterfly can lead to a conversation about metamorphosis, and, more importantly, it can lead you outside…to look for butterflies, to talk about what butterflies like…”Do they like snow or sunshine?” “Do they like gardens or city streets?” “Do you think that they would like to be caught and put in a box?” “Why?” Fiction leads naturally to non-fiction. There are a multitude of beautifully photographed scientific books for children. I like the ACORN series, published by Capstone Global Library, because it works equally well for toddlers as early readers.

E-books have their place, but use them sparingly. I see so many children sitting in shopping carts or at restaurants with their brightly colored devices. I’m sure that these children are mostly watching high quality applications. But, they are missing the grocery store! They are missing the myriad opportunities for language that present themselves outside of the home, starting with, simply, conversation.

Reading is not only about being entertained. A child can learn much about nutrition from seeing you read the ingredients of a cereal box. He can learn about choices, and how you used reading to make them. Most importantly, your child is present in the real world rather than a virtual one, absorbing, as children so readily do, the connections between the words they see everywhere, from street signs to menus, and how they are used to communicate important information.

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“I immediately felt a sense of nostalgia that I haven’t felt in a long time. The scent of physical books—the paper, the ink, the glue—can conjure up memories of a summer day spent reading on a beach, a fall afternoon in a coffee shop, or an overstuffed chair by a fireplace as rain patters on a windowsill.”

New York Times Tech Blogger – Nick Bilton-on wandering into a West Village bookstore.