Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Neurons That Fire Together—Wire Together

Developing Young Minds: From Conception To Kindergarten


Dr. Rebecca Shore’s landmark book, Developing Young Minds: From Conception to Kindergarten, introduces an essential paradigm shift in perspective that is needed on educating children. 

Introduction: The Scientist In The Crib  

Everything we do with and say to babies alters their brain biologically and neurologically—ultimately changing their lives. Cognitive stimulation is occurring naturally around babies because, literally, everything is new to them. In educational terms, the baby is born a student ready to learn. Their very existence is focused around learning to adapt to their new world. This is an enormous responsibility, not just for parents but also for society as a whole.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Baby Brains Love Bach—Later Mozart

Music Matters: The Bach Effect*

Music helps electrical activity in newborn children’s brains to resonate—laying the neural pathways that create a better foundation for learning a variety of cerebral skills. The relationship between music and brain development is significant at many levels. Dr. Rebecca Shore's Developing Young Minds: From Conception to Kindergarten devotes almost one third of her book to this theme. 

Bonding at its best!

Dancing to music with your baby before they begin to crawl is a natural inclination for parents, and they couldn’t be more right. By being exposed to a variety of pitch, tempo and rhythm, the baby will absorb variations in cadence—layers of complexity in pattern recognition—through the 
adult’s body movements in conjunction to what they hear. As the baby sways, swings, rocks, and turns to music, spatial-temporal perception development is enhanced—as is joy and laughter. 

Hey, Mr. Bach—could you play this in D major?

The Universal Language: Music

Music is often referred to as the universal language. In fact, most likely, musical expression preceded speech. Regardless of what language we speak or culture we were raised in, music can make us feel elated, depressed, calm, and can reduce us to tears. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Conception–K Schooling: An Investment with Rich Rewards and Returns

Developing Young Minds From Conception to Kindergarten*

My schooling begins at birth, people!
Huge sums of federal and foundation funds have been injected into the education system—school reform efforts— over the last half-century in an attempt to bridge the learning gap. No silver bullet has surfaced. How can so much hard work, so much money, and the best intentions fail to produce some kind of “best practices” that work for educating our children?

Perhaps the critical question is not “How do children learn best” but “When do children learn best?” 

We cannot go back and rewire—remediate—a brain that has suffered an impoverished, or overly stressful early childhood in a K–12 setting. A dysfunctional home life can derail a child’s learning capacity altogether before the child even enters formal schooling.

But, to believe that children of poverty or children from particular races are genetically incapable of developing performance levels equal to those of higher-socioeconomic peers is racist and wrong. Clearly, babies learn, and teaching them in developmental appropriate manners changes their brains and ultimately their lives. The formation of the brain is critical to the success of intelligence and personality. It is the major factor in determining each person’s ultimate life experiences as an adult—their positive contribution, or not, to society.

If increasing student learning is the goal, funneling more billions into our schools is not money well spent. 

  • When a free and appropriate education begins in our maternity wards we will begin to see the learning gap bridged—and the need for welfare and prisons would be greatly reduced. 
  • Our society deserves high-quality home-assistance programs and free universal preschool for all. 
  • Preschool teachers should be respected as a vital part of "the system"—not the least-educated, least-paid, and least-recognized of educators.  
  • Parents and early caregivers need the information to do what they can to increase neural networking in infant brains from conception. No child should go unfed—not their stomachs, not their brains.

It is time to see the light—a vision of a moral, just, and enlightened society should become reality. The K–12 system learning problem does not lie between kindergarten and high school graduation at all but between the maternity ward and the kindergarten door.

*Developing Young Minds: from conception to kindergarten is the excellent book—buy it!—recently released by Dr. Rebecca Shore. She is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership in the college of Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. 

*All of my 'editorial' rant herein is directly pulled from and completely attributed to the main thesis of Shore's book. She is a renewed inspiration for me, and a "kindred spirit". I will write more detailed of Shore's vision and 'salient points' in coming posts. 

To quote Shore's last line of her important book:

 "The infant brain needs more attention, more nurturing, more complexity, and we are all responsible for developing young minds.. Pass it on."

Happy New Year, in advance, to all the newborns of 2016!

Papa Green Bean

Monday, December 21, 2015

Going Beyond A Present

Gifts of Creative Love Take a Bit Extra—So Worthwhile!

My father would write a short poem on my birthday card or on a present at Christmas time—in the form of a clue to the mysterious gift inside. It became a family tradition that I have carried on with much pleasure. Today, I often write a longer poem onto an anniversary card for my wife or a graduation or birthday for a relative. My wife and daughter have caught onto the ritual, with gratification, often returning the favor. 

It makes all the difference. In fact, this thoughtful act is a present in itself—the time and effort is so much appreciated by the receiver.

role model
Thanks, Shel Silverstein

 Acts Of Kindness Only Take Moments

Monday, November 16, 2015

Creating Future Foodies

 Go Ahead and Give Your Toddler a Kitchen Knife*

A child in the Amazon rain forest "was playing with a sharp kitchen knife, about 9 inches in length. He was swinging the knife blade around him, often coming close to his eyes, his chest, his arm and other body parts. When he dropped the knife, his mother—talking to someone else—reached backward nonchalantly without interrupting her conversation, picked up the knife and handed it back to the toddler."

Gupta explains that there's an evolutionary argument for allowing children to learn how to work with dangerous food implements. David Lancy, an Anthropologist and author of The Anthropology of Childhood, says childhood used to be filled with tools, such as hammers, mortars, pestles and machetes to break open foods like coconuts. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Discovering (and Building On) Your Child's Natural Strengths

Each Human Being Learns Differently

There really isn't a definitive "difficult" child. The child who is most challenging is the one who doesn't think like we do. Much of what we perceive as our children's deliberate efforts to frustrate us are actually a difference in perception. If we can learn to recognize and appreciate their learning sensitivities, as opposed to true disobedience, we will become more knowledgeable and happier parents—and the child will be too.

parenting, learning styles
My strength is painting the walls, hahahaha!

As I read Cynthia Ulrich Tobias's excellent book, The Way They Learn, I began to understand the truth about each newborn’s uniqueness in a deeper manner. Many parents expect their children to learn the way they did. And many children will grow up loving their parents' teaching models. As Tobias declares, "Parents rarely intentionally frustrate their children".

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Parenting Styles: Authoritarian vs Egalitarian

Raising Children with Anxiety versus Trust 

A libertarian egalitarian is surely 
a utilitarian humanitarian and quite possibly 
a fun-loving person—
maybe even a librarian with plenty of free books

A strict disciplinarian may be 
an unyielding totalitarian, a rigid authoritarian
and perhaps a bit dogmatic—
maybe even giving unsolicited harsh looks

This is going to taste so yummy!

Now Let’s Peak Into An Authoritarian Household:

Dad (while watching TV): Son … SON! Come here when I call for you!
Son (Roy): Yes, dad?
Dad: Did you finish all your homework?
Son: I couldn’t because
Dad: What? No excuses. I guess you’ll have to skip dinner and do it.
Son: But dad, I have a good excuse.
Dad: I’ll give you the back of my hand as an excuse. Now, I’m missing the news so get out of here.
Mom: Honey, why don’t we have TV dinners since Roy won’t be joining us.
Roy: Mom, can I tell you why my homework isn’t done.
Dad: Son, don’t make me get up!
Mom: Not now, Roy. I’ve got to call Betty about my card game tomorrow. I do wish you’d behave yourself and listen to us better.

The Same Scenario In An Egalitarian Household:

Son (Roy): Excuse me dad. I’ve got something to tell you.
Dad (putting his newspaper down): Yes, Roy. What is it?
Roy: Well, I couldn’t do my homework today.
Dad: Okay, why not?
Roy: I was playing with Kevin in the playground and he cut his hand on a nail. So, I went home with him and rode into the doctor with his mom to get it cleaned out and wrapped up.
Dad: Oh, that was nice of you to stay with your friend.
Mom: How is Kevin doing now, Roy? Did he have stitches?
Roy: No. He’s doing okay, but he may miss school tomorrow.
Mom: Maybe you can call him after dinner.
Roy: That’s a good idea, mom. And then I’ll stay up a little late and get my homework done.
Dad: Sure, Roy. Whatever you think is best.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Youth Library Cards

Common Sense is the New Wisdom 

Hop on down to the local library
with toddler in tow
Scoot on over to the librarian
with toddler on toe
Order a library card in toddler's name
Then dance and hoot 
until you get the boot!


early learning
Papa, please put my library card on our refrigerator with a really good magnet

It came as rather a surprise when I read an article in The University of Washington's Columns magazine about "The New Mindset, Turning Research Into Better Living." The first example of UW's "innovation imperative" was a nursing professor who "discovered" that premature babies gained weight and developed faster if they were rocked and could hear the sound of a heartbeat.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Hands Free Life

After reading Hands Free Life: 9 Habits for overcoming Distraction, Living Better, and Loving More by Rachel Macy Stafford, I began to understand myself better. Her poetic, philosophical, spiritual, and above all, inspirational writing reminds me of Kahil Gibran's masterpiece, The Prophet. But Stafford is also a contemporary Maria Montessori. Perhaps, a beautiful blend of the two.

Overcoming distraction, inspirational
Compassion is contagious!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Lighthearted Fathering

Playfulness with Purpose 

The approach I took with my daughter, Anna, when she was a baby, toddler, infant, K12, college... has always been playful with purpose. I consider myself a happy person so it was natural for me to transfer this to everything I did with my daughter from the first zurburt on her baby belly 28 years ago, to the rhyming silliness I shout during a rousing game of Bannagrams today.

Anna and her pops

Here are five areas that were a part of Anna's daily life with her Papa: