Published here with permission from The MOORE REPORT INTERNATIONAL - November/December 1999

The Moore Foundation, Box 1, Camas, WA 98607

Readiness: More Vital Than You Think?

by Dr. Raymond Moore

The cover story of U.S. NEWS and WORLD REP0RT, September 13, 1999, entitled  How Kids Learn  with the subtitle,  Faster than you think - but don t push too hard,  the authors describe what they call  harmful myths.  They first cite several gadgets available to vulnerable parents who think that these are going to produce for them a better and brighter child. Fortunately, a warning is sounded by some researchers that  rather than preparing a child for a lifetime of high achievement, overstimulation can actually impede learning.  One of these, Arnold Sameroff, a psychologist at the University of Michigan says,  If you try to teach infants with too much stimulation, it takes them much longer to learn than if you pace it out. 

Of course, babies are very bright - just think what it takes to learn their parent s language from scratch as soon as they do. Yet Ross Thompson of the University of Nebraska states,  Whether you re using a megaphone to talk to your child in utero, or labeling everything in their little world with flashcards, you re not going to unleash some special brain potential.  He believes that this theory grew largely out of research conducted in the 1970's on rats which showed that rats who lived in  enriched  cages with wheels and other toys had more synapses in certain parts of the brain and performed simple learning tasks better than rats living in barren cages.

After citing some studies on rushing young children, the article ends with an evaluation by  John Bruer, head of the James S. McDonnell Foundation which funds research on neuroscience and cognition: Most people misinterpret what scientists have discovered about infants  rapid cognitive development. As a result, Bruer says, two myths have permeated society. One is that enrichment activities [preschool, etc.] allow the brain to grow more synapses than it would have otherwise. The second is that basic learning skills are hard-wired in the first three years, and that this process ends when the period of rapid synapse formation ends, forever closing these  critical periods of development. 

U.S. NEWS adds:  Neuroscientists and developmental psycologists applaud Bruer s stance. 

The bottom line, as the Smithsonian, Cornell, Wisconsin and Temple infer, is more warm responsive time with your children. Bruer adds,  Children get all the stimuli they need from things they encounter in the everyday world - crawling in grass, playing with pots, hearing you speak.  Columbia, Cornell, Cal-Berkeley and Stanford go well beyond our original minimal entry ages of 8 to 10. They agree that junior high ages or 10 to 14 are best for school entrance and would  save millions of students from failure. 

We are grateful for the rapid growth of the Homeschool Movement and for the records made. For example, the way homeschoolers win Geography and Spelling Bees nationally, and ace SATs from Florida to Washington State out of proportion to their overall numbers. Just this week the Vancouver, WA Columbian reported four Clark County students with perfect SAT scores of 1600 two of them home taught. Yet let s not be over-confident, but do all we can to make it a truly great professional movement. And the closer we get to the Master s education, the brighter and more balanced our children will be, and the earlier they will develop cognitive maturity (judgement, perception, reasonability) and discipline via the fine art of discipleship - following sound parental models.

Unfortunately, all homeschoolers do not accept or apply the research that is available. There is no replicated research anywhere on learning readiness which suggest that little kids should all learn to read by 4, 5, or even 6 or 7. Yet despite our research published around the world by article and book by READER S DIGEST, and which some were criticizing, many are abusing their children at home as well as at school by pressuring them too much too early in formal studies and ignoring the balance of work and service which most curricula do not provide.

The second common abuse of children relies on other groups and methods for their socialization instead of making sure, as in old homeschool America, that they work and serve others as much as they study. This is actually richer overall learning than any formal teaching, for it forms the best possible base for developing their creativity. Here again we note that parents who see that their children study and work and serve as Joseph and Mary did, do plant brilliance, cultivate sound character, and teach how to earn a living at least as well as shooting a basket.

Finally, judging from the many parents who come to us, or many students who are brought to us for help after burning out, some publishers and curriculum purveyors have peace to make. They who set stacks of workbooks, textbooks or videos before their kids year by year ad infinitum, and expect all to study exactly the same books regardless of their interests and abilities, as they do in mass education, destroy creativity, and are on a primrose path to ill health, failure, and loss of family values in their children. Let s help new homeschoolers learn the difference between custom-made programs and the mass-education methods we should avoid.