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Today begins a three-day post that deals with how children learn best during the different stages of development.  The information given is crucial to understand if you want to optimize the opportunities for each stage.  The ages listed are approximate, and vary with each child.  Exceptional children (those with learning challenges), and giftedness can also affect the timing for the later stages.  Watch your children and you will learn to recognize the clues for each.

Have fun learning together!

Discovery Learning

The Discovery level child is full of life and curiosity.  Absorption of facts and memorization are the main focus for this stage of learning.  Teach basic facts.  Children at this age are literal thinkers and should not be required to analyze or interpret information (ask, “What was Columbus looking for in America?”, not “Why did Columbus want to find America?”).  Their brain development has not yet prepared them to deal with abstract thought. If pushed to think abstractly, the most likely responses from the child will be frustration, confusion, or the child could simply shut down.  Save abstract thinking for later.  They will be ready to tackle more complicated thinking as they grow.  Save it for the next learning level.  Allow your child joy in what he excels at doing now.  Allow time for wonder and play. 

Limit the seat work assigned at this stage.  Small children were not designed to sit for long periods of time or focus intently on one thing for hours.  Use hands-on learning activities as much as possible. Much of what they study can be best accomplished with games or orally, rather than through written work. (Drill, file folder games, narration, Q/A, etc.)  Applaud their efforts and remember a short, productive study time is preferred over a long, discouraging battle of the wills.  Provide educational tools and activities for exploration so that “non-academic” time will be useful.  Limit TV watching, computer time, video gaming, etc.  All life around them should be an opportunity for discovery.

Remember- this level of learning is physically exhausting.  They will need Mom to be “tuned in” and ready to help if they need her.  Working independently is not a skill they will have perfected; be prepared to work along with them to help with focus, and to teach acceptable levels of work, both academically and with life skills.  Discovery learners need supervision as they establish habits, and a strong work ethic, as well.  Your example is one of their best teachers!

Be sure to spend time on character education!   Academic instruction without clear education in right and wrong opens the door for children to assume they are above the rules if they can see a way out of them. You could potentially raise a child that is centered on self to the point of disregarding all acceptable social or moral customs or laws. You could raise a “clever devil.”

Discovery level learning begins at birth and continues to approximately age eleven or through grade 4.

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