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The magic at the beginning: Nurturing the magic all children are born with (Part 2)

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It is universally agreed upon that children see the world very differently from adults.

As a matter of fact, children literally see the world differently. Up until the age of twelve they do not combine different sensory information to make sense of the world as adults do. This is according to a study by scientists of UCL(University College London) and Birbeck, University of London. The study looked at how children deal with perspective and binocular depth. Test results showed adults are fundamentally better at certain visual tasks than children. This, however, doesn’t mean adults are always better equipped to judge a visual test. Specially designed 3D discs with contradicting perspective and binocular depth information were presented to adults and children.

Adults had a difficult time combining the information to judge whether one disc had the same slant as another. Children that lacked this sensory fusion were able to distinguish which disc had greater slant.

One of the researchers of the project explained that this sensory separation could be an advantage to children. He says that this is because “Babies have to learn how different senses relate to each other and to the outside world. While children are still developing, the brain must determine the relationship between different kinds of sensory information to know which kinds go together and how. It may be adaptive for children not to integrate information while they are still learning such relationships- those between vision and sound or between perspective and binocular visual cues.”

I find it quite interesting that this sensory separation can also apply to how children figuratively see the world. Children have a unique ability to direct all their focus on a task at hand or an experience. They explore the world with a dedicated sense of wonder, almost with the aim to make every waking moment count. They appreciate the world with a sense of humility, aware that there is something to be grateful for in everything around us. This is a concept used to educate adults on how to combat stress and lead happier lives. Health and wellness advocates champion gratitude as especially vital for the age we live in.

The question then presents itself, how do children loose this very essential trait?I believe the social integration process holds a key factor in the matter. While adults are responsible for life decisions that hinder their personal freedom, there are certain dynamics that set things in motion. Schools are major mediums of social integration. They are undisputed a very vital part of society without which major advancements in medicine and technology would have been impossible. However, schools have also been known to facilitate damage to the developmental process of children.

The education system is, arguably, not especially concern with celebrating the individuality and uniqueness of each child. The aim is to educate and to instill knowledge. The end goal is uniform results. Very seldom are children taught with an understanding of their individuality. In fact, very seldom are educators well equipped to do so. The learning process is not entirely about having knowledge instilled in the mind. It is a process that has a very delicate emotional aspect to it. Having experienced learning environments where a student’s emotional development is constantly violated in the name of educating, I am convinced that change is due. This responsibility falls to institutions and individual educators alike.

Efforts have been made by individual educators and institutions to address this. Marie-Christine, a teacher from Germany uses action orientated learning methods such as her ‘Sportpatenproject’ mentoring program, to increase the self-esteem, motivation and empathy of her students. The participatory and collaborative nature of her sports project has helped refugee children in Germany (from countries like Iran) integrate more readily into German society.

Tracy-Ann, from Jamaica went through her own school years with undiagnosed dyslexia. She left school to train as an automotive technician. Her lifelong love of teaching began as she trained other mechanics. She enrolled at the vocational teachers’ college in Jamaica and after three years graduated top of her class. In her first teaching role she took a group of boys who had been written off educationally. Tracy-Ann transformed their performance and ambitions. One went on to become head boy, others joined the school choir. She also started and oversaw a program for her class to feed street people, launch a junior automotive club and work on the school magazine. These are just a few of educators who priorities the emotional development of children and value their individuality. They should be the rule and not the exception.

As children grow they are bound to encounter individuals who will not nurture their value in various social integration mediums. Often times in their own homes. And when their value is disregarded they are bound to do the same to themselves. Ultimately, the guiding principle in nurturing children is compassion. In the corporate world efforts are also being made to bring back the ‘magic’ of childhood. Companies like Google and 3M found fashioning offices like kindergarten classrooms yielded creative energetic environments where innovative ideas are born every day.

Carl Jung eloquently says “In every adult there lurks a child— an eternal child, something that is always becoming, is never completed, and calls for unceasing care, attention, and education. That is the part of the personality which wants to develop and become whole.” Tania Lombrozo of UC-Berkeley suspects that the strong childhood preference for purposeful design might actually be a lifelong default position, one that is eclipsed but doesn’t actually disappear as we gain experience and learn nature’s laws—gravity and plate tectonics and natural selection.

Perhaps this is what Carl Jung was referring to, a lifelong impulse to see the world as ordered and purposeful. Not just the world but themselves as well.

 

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Articles, Uncategorized

“The magic at the beginning.” Nurturing the magic all children are born with. (Part 1)

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Photo by Nathaniel Tetteh on Unsplash

There is fearlessness I remember having as a child that feels distinctly absent now. Growing up meant learning. Oftentimes learning to forget a very essential part of ourselves.

 

Lucy and I were good friends.

Our conversations were deep, insightful and enriching. My mother was hesitant to accept this friendship, however. I suppose she couldn’t see what I saw in Lucy. Or perhaps it was because she clearly saw my lack of vision for the friendship. Her concerns, however, were completely warranted. Lucy was, after all, an imaginary friend. One of my imaginary friends.

While to this day I have no recollection of having any imaginary friends as a child, I do remember being significantly different from what I am now. And now more than ever I find myself reaching for something essential to being an adult that I seem to have lost in childhood.

Make belief was a huge part of my childhood. I distinctly remember applying due diligence in creating elaborate story lines for my dolls. My younger sister, perhaps not as invested as I was, was my trusted playmate. I’ll be first to admit my interest bordered obsession. We would fish random items from all household departments and scout a suitable spot. I remember fantasizing about building the grandest dollhouse.

One time, I found a small piece of ceramic tile and decided it would be perfect for the main entrance to the dollhouse. I treated that piece of tile like gold. Whenever I would go to the shops with my mother I would always make sure to visit the toy isle. Along with having the perfect dollhouse I also wanted a Barbie or a Bratz doll. I would stare at the dolls, imagining them into my elaborate story lines…

My imagination was the closest I would ever be with them. I never did get the Barbie or Bratz doll. I never got around to building that dollhouse either.

I did get Suzy and Joe, however. Suzy for me and Joe for my sister. They were the most adorable rag dolls. I loved them dearly but couldn’t quite get over how they only had hair sewn to the edges of their scalp leaving a humongous bald patch at the center. They did have hats, sewn to their heads to cover the bald patch. The Bratz and Barbie dolls had full heads of hair.

To make up for the occasional short supply of dolls improvising was necessary. This included combs, unopened fabric softener refill bags (they had openings at their tips that looked like mouths) and just about anything vertical with reasonable appendages.

I can’t clearly recall exactly how and when I outgrew my obsession with dolls. Looking back now I believe that obsession migrated to a similar form. Writing. The concepts are quite similar though I do have to admit that writing is the more economical option. It is not just nostalgic wistfulness that I feel whenever I think about my childhood. It is a longing for more than just childhood fun. I was a different person. Not in the obvious sense. There is fearlessness I remember having as a child that feels distinctly absent now. Growing up meant learning. Oftentimes learning to forget a very essential part of ourselves.

Old age is synonymous with wisdom and deep understanding of life. By virtue of the saying ‘Experience is the best teacher’ the old have accumulated a fair share of knowledge throughout their years. The same, however, can be said of children. Granted, they have very little to offer in terms of experience they do have a special and unique wisdom that seems to be innate.  While the old hold magic found at the end of life children hold the magic at the beginning. Writers, philosophers, poets and scientists have testified to the magic children possess.

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And he chose to forgive…

He called to memory the past.
The dark and bitter past. It came easily, never having lingered too far away in his mind. They gathered like storm clouds. Rumbling eagerly, and then as a crack of lightning and in a torrent of rain they unleashed themselves.

But unlike countless times before, he wasn’t going to unpack the memories from their neat Little boxes to dust and examine them. He wasn’t going to re-live the pain again. This time he would finally lay them to rest. He would follow each of their stringed trail and where it ended he would cut each one loose. And with that, the memory of the way back to those memories would be forever lost to his mind.

A fire had already been prepared. He gathered all the clutter that he once nurtured affectionately and bitterly at the same time, and flung them into the hungry flames. He then took a step back and watched. Smoke ascended into the sky as if to offer a sacrifice of relentless surrender to heaven.

He waited until the fire had died out completely before leaving. Midway through the first step he paused and slowly turned to face the mass of ash that remained from the fire.

“I forgive…everything…everything.” He mumbled. The last syllable uttered seemed to carry the weight of the clutter that had refused to disappear into the fire. But the wind that blew against his cheek also carried away his words, and followed the smoke to wherever it went.

 

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Taking inventory…

Sufficient oxygen supply – check

Food – check

Companionship (My family) – check

Clothing – check

Pen and paper – check

Roof over my head – check

And I can’t possibly forget my prime time entertainment, our cats, Pegasus and Soo.

I think that’s a good number of things to enjoy and be grateful for. My wish list can wait…