Published here with permission from The MOORE REPORT INTERNATIONAL - November/December
The Moore Foundation,
Box 1, Camas,
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
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
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