A Letter to the BC Minister of Education

BC is yet again plugging a push for early literacy fluency.  As an educator, this concerns me.  Feel free to post your own comments on this site:

http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2012/07/a-new-focus-on-reading

I thought I’d post my letter:

I have been an educator for over a decade now. I’ve worked in a variety of environments including public schools, alternative schools, and with homeschooling families. I’ve worked with children from a wide variety of cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. I’ve done a lot of studying on child development and neuroscience. I’ve also had opportunities to observe children learning to read in all these different environments. When a child is allowed to learn to read naturally- meaning, at his/her own pace and in his/her own way- reading tends to unfold for him/her at different times. These learners grow up in a rich literacy environment and are not pressured in any way to learn to read. Many are simply immersed in literacy and love being read to, discussing books read aloud, and creating oral stories. In addition, children tend not to display the decreased confidence and self-esteem that comes from the pressure to learn to read at a young age when they are not developmentally ready to do so. As a classroom teacher, I found that these children were stigmatized by adults and other children. When they were finally ready physiologically to learn to read, their confidence was just crushed and they believed they could not learn to read and that there was something wrong with their intelligence. When I tell kids that the human brain does not develop the myelin sheath around the neurons until about age 7, which helps them decode abstract symbols, most children are relieved. In Denmark, for instance, children only start school at age 7 to accommodate what we now know about children’s brains at that age. We simply insist that children learn to read too early in North America. If we really want to support children in learning to read, we can begin as adults in education to read up on cross-cultural neuroscience studies and adjust our curriculums to reflect what we now know about how the human brain and how a child develops. Expecting a child to know their alphabet before entering kindergarten is but one example of how our expectations do not match the data. Although some children are ready to read at age 5, many are not. Using the natural learning approach, many children learn to read independently between ages 8-10. The learning tends to happen in leaps and bounds and they can be fluent in a matter of 6 months. This does not happen in a forced environment. It happens in an environment where educators and parents trust the natural intelligence of the child and support the child according to the child’s own natural learning style. My intent in writing this is to share my experience, research and view in the hopes that the BC Government re-consider their insistence on learning to read so early and re-write the curriculum to reflect this. While I agree that a rich literacy environment is important for kids growing up, that is different than forcing kids to learn before they are ready and then treating them as if there is something wrong with them because they did not meet the expectations. If we really want to support kids in reading, we will create safe learning environments for them free from pressure to meet unreasonable expectations.

Jen

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Hike in Kananaskis

Friends and I did a beautiful Yoga Hike today in the Kananaskis Mountains here in Alberta.  I thought I’d post some photos from the day…

Me in my new cowgirl hat.

Alberta wild flowers and other goings on….

Butterfly landing on my friend, Carell’s hand…

 

Arnica

 

Cow parsnip

 

 

Doesn’t this piece of wood look like a deer?!

 

Taking a picture of my feet against the clouds while in Yoga pose named “baby”

 

Lichen shaped like a heart on a rock. I am lovin’ nature!

 

 

 

 

 

Choose JOY- Just for One Day

The challenge, dear reader:  choosing joy more often.  Why would you want to do this?

Read/view on…

Start with this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lXh2n0aPyw

And then this one and notice what happens to your internal joy meter:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQ3d3KigPQM

I watched a Swainson’s hawk at Nose Hill yesterday.  When I asked the hawk why it rode the currents like that, the hawk told me that it spends little of its day hunting.  It told me that it rides the air currents for pleasure and enjoyment.  It revels in simply being alive; it does not ponder whether or not it deserves the pleasure or enjoyment as humans seem to.  It reminded me that play is essential and pleasure is our birthright as children of Spirit.  Play is what trains creative responses into our beings.

I believe we are suffering as a species from terminal seriousness and lack of imagination.  We’ve forgotten how to play.  When I watch many adults play with children, many of them try to control the play and kids look at them in a perplexed way like “Um.  You don’t get it, do you?” LOL  We’ve forgotten how to go with the flow and include all possibilities available for response to a situation.  Clowns, I’ve found, are the best examples of this in contemporary culture.  They utilize all pathways to get a response from the audience.  They play with social norms in order to shake people out of their habituated ways of being.  I sense that that is why many children love clowns and are natural clowns themselves.

I read the other day that they are now able to measure emotional vibrations.  Joy has the highest vibration of any emotion.  This means it raises the vibration of the human body the most out of all emotions.  From an energy medicine perspective, the higher the vibration of the body’s molecules, the greater health and wellness we experience because lower vibrating energies of disease are shaken loose and released out of the energy field and physical body.

Made me think…..why are we wasting so much time on seriousness?  Why is joy so hard to receive and accept for many of us?  Are we that afraid to feel alive and well?  Are we that tied to our beliefs and our stories that we will simply not accept joy in the present?  What does this mean for the evolution and survival of our species?  And what if,  just for today, we decided to choose joy over the painful stories of our past?  How could joy heal us in the present?  How could it shift our perspectives?

What brings you joy?  Can you commit to doing one of those things even for 5 minutes today?  If you can’t remember the last time you felt joy, you are not alone.  Think back to things that brought you joy as a child: colouring in a book, being out in nature exploring, laughing with friends or at jokes, playing games, singing along to your favourite tunes on the radio, slip ‘n slides, swimming, sitting in a tree, lying on the grass, walking with no shoes on, and dancing.  Those were some of my favourite things as a kid.  What are yours?  Maybe you can make a list to remind you of what brings you joy when you are feeling a bit doomsdayish.  What of value do you really have to lose from trying this experiment?  Would it be OK with you if your life became easier?  Would it be OK for you to lose some of that control and seriousness?  How would it feel to trust your inner wisdom of play?  If you need help, ask your inner kid- s/he knows how to get back to this place without becoming an irresponsible adult.   It is possible to be childlike without being childish.

I am not sure we can come up with creative solutions to the things that ail us without play and imagination of something different…….

 Another great video by cellular biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton (author of BIOLOGY OF BELIEF):

http://www.viewspot.com/brucelipton

If you decide to take on this mission, I’d love to hear how it went for you.  Feel free to post a comment on my blog.

“A creature who plays is more adaptable to changing contexts. Play as improvisation sharpens our capacity to deal with a changing world. Humanity, playing through phenomenal cultural adaptations, has spread over the globe, survived several ice ages, and created stupendous artifacts.”
Stephen Nachmanovitch – author, performer, & teacher