How do we learn?

Watching your child’s brain develop is one of the most rewarding things any human being will ever experience.

It may seem obvious, but all learning takes place inside the brain. What we are concerned with now is the different types of learning, ranging from simple repetitive skills to complex thinking, driven by natural curiosity. Different types of learning and memory are stored in different parts of the brain. There are several; important principles involved in the development of the young brain.

The first, Piagetian idea, is that the young brain develops in a fairly set sequence. For example auditory learning starts in the womb, whereas high level thinking is only truly developed from the mid-teens onwards.

Secondly, these steps can’t be rushed (For example trying to teach a baby to distinguish between colours before the brain is ready is a waste of time), nor delayed. For example the best time to learn languages is before the age of ten.  Out of sequence or omitted learning can also be damaging.  Learning to walk without learning to crawl, leads to midline problems later, impacting on reading and fine motor skills and providing employment for therapists.

Thirdly, certain types of thinking will never develop if they are ignored. The suppression of curiosity that seems to happen after about the age 10 may lead to that child never developing curiosity. Adults imposing routine, who don’t have time, give inadequate answers all contribute to this suppression.

This is what Freerange is all about – encouraging, meeting and satisfying curiosity as it happens.

Conventional schooling in particular is failing in this regard from about grade six upwards, because the type of curiosity shifts from ‘What is that?’ to‘Why is that?’ to ‘Why is it important to me?’ to ‘Why am I important?’ which the Teach-Learn-Test model does simply not accommodate.

This is the model that is developed around the cave campfire, the modern dinner table or sitting on top of the mountain admiring the view: activities which are on the decline in our frenetic, media-driven society. It is therefore incumbent upon us as facilitators to ensure that the preteen and teen children in our care are not only offered the opportunities for this “metacognitive thinking”, but also to actively teach them metacognitive skills of self-reflection and thinking about their learning. Along with this goes creating opportunities for those discussions which the teen brain so loves around the meaning of life, who we are and our place in the universe.

In the coming weeks, our Freerange team will engage with the members to actively promote this process. In the light of the above we would ask parents to think about how they respond to their child’s natural curiosity.

Dave