Friday, July 18, 2014

"Every Child is A Genius, all you gotta do is awake the genius in him!" A sharing session with Dr Thomas Armstrong.

As part of a Rise and Shine blogger, I was privileged enough to be invited to a Hi-Tea Session with Dr Thomas Armstrong during the SmartKids Asia Event at the Singapore Expo, Hall 5. This event was kindly brought together by S26, a milk formula brand that highly promotes nutritional values for a growing child.

Being in the early childhood field, I was very excited to meet and share with someone who had strong perspectives on multiple intelligences in Children. Multiple Intelligence is a theory brought about by Howard Gardner, an American developmental psychologist who believes very strongly that every child has eight intelligences that he is born to be equipped with. I personally am an advocate for every child being naturally smart in his own way, hence I was nodding in agreement to everything Dr Thomas Armstrong mentioned in his seminar yesterday.

Picture extracted from:
As you can see, children are born an all-rounder. They may excel in one area, but it is never exclusive to just one area of learning for them. "Every child is born a genius, but as he grows, this genius in him may be shut off due to many factors". - Dr Armstrong said at the seminar yesterday. How and why are children born a genius? Because all of them have the innate ability to learn without conforming, to explore and observe freely, and to express creatively. Think about it, each time a parent learns of a baby's milestone, we celebrate it yet when they reach a certain age, all this celebrating just ceases.

Each time a baby flips or rolls over, we celebrate it because he demonstrates physical ability! Now that's Body Smart (Kinethetic), yet when our child is older, we don't even batt an eyelid when he dances to music or learns certain physical moves from a book or the television on his own. Why? 

Each time a baby demonstrates being word smart and holds a book , we celebrate his eagerness to read. Yet as he grows older, we shove aside this WANT to read and drastically changes it into a NEED to read instead. And we do not even celebrate this moment, because it is "required" of him, a growing preschooler. Why?

Each time during meal time, we would gladly allow our baby to feel textures around us and eagerly share  the experience with him, "How does the grass feel?" We would even allow them to splash during their bath in the tub and gladly add bubbles to it. We would let them crawl under tables, and climb the table legs while we dine. But as he grows, we would scream at them to get off the mud, as their shoes will get dirty. Don't even dream of stepping on those rain puddles! No climbing that tree! Why?

Most parents should really dig deep down our conscience, as we start to see that the genius in our child is really shut off by our expectations of a child. How a preschooler should conform to behavioral and societal expectations, and ultimately ditch his desiring need to observe, explore and learn at his own capability.

Shared during Dr Armstrong's seminar session, he mentioned a couple of points that naturally kills the genius in our children, and possibly in ourselves during our growing years too.

  • Home Miliation: Children born to this unfortunate circumstance are naturally born to stress, and vices that they may be exposed to (like drugs, alcohol etc). Also, included are children born with poverty. These creates a negative impact to their growing, and may hinder their learning purposes as they grow.
  • Dystechia (School): You know how the world is fast growing into one that is competitive and academically inclined. You need to be book smart to survive kind of thing? Yeah, all that kills the genius in the child. How the child is brought up with the pressure to learn, provided with worksheets and tests at even a young age of five/six in Singapore! If a child is slower at grasping the idea of something and cannot catch up with his peers, then he shall be labelled as one with special needs when really, he is just learning at HIS own pace. 
  • Medio-crity: Technology. That about sums up how children conform to things they are exposed to on the media - violence, stereotypical images, insipid language. Technology kills the creativity that children are born with. The media feeds them with idealogies that they should not be exposed to. Technology hinders children from being in a naturalistic environment, which leads to the underdevelopment of certain skills required of a growing child. 
While most Singaporeans generally do not fall into the Home miliation category, we should be most ashamed that  a high percentage of our children do fall into the harmfulness of dystechia and medio-crity. A typical Singaporean child enters school at 3, starts doing worksheets by 4 (some even at 3!), and gets tested by 6 just as they enter primary school. I am in the field, I know that this is still happening in preschools around us and I will not deny that some parents are fond of it. In fact, there are children being sent for tuition at six years old just so that they can secure a good place in a good primary school. 

These grading and testings, this need to comply to educational needs in Singapore has got to stop. Because it is slowly and surely killing the child in being the child that he is born to be. I feel very strongly about this because without the understanding of parents, and the society, there is just so much that a preschool educator can do to help maintain a child's right to live in a free and expressive environment. Yes, a child does have his rights, just as all of us adults do. Give them their childhood back, it is irreversible this thing called time. How do we do we present our children with this immeasurable gift of growing? Dr Thomas Armstrong shares some very valid and easy ways to do our part:

Let Them Play!
  • Let children have the freedom to choose. Grant them choices, and let them make decisions. 
  • Provide for open-ended exploration. We should all increase the guiding, and lessen the instructing. 
  • Let children be free from judgement. 
  • Honoring every child's experiences and abilities.
  • Believing in every child's genius. 
  • Supporting children's nutrition.
That sounds relatively easy, yes? I am sure, as parents, all we want is for the best outcome for our children. And while this may not produce genius instincts instantly, we may just see how our child will grow up to be an individual that is confident, respectful and intellectual with years of encouragement and support coming from us. Every child is a genius, believe that and Believe in your child!

All this was shared in a very interesting and insightful sharing session with Dr Thomas Armstrong over at Table Manners, where bloggers were invited to have discussions and questions over a casual Hi-Tea. The place was cozy and casual enough for us to open up to Dr Armstrong our concerns over our children's learning requirements in a hurried city like Singapore and we definitely were reassured that letting our children purposefully play through their childhood is the right thing to do.

This event was very kindly brought together by S-26, which is a leading milk formula brand in Singapore. It contains up to 5 times more DHA, 40% more Lutein and 20% more Choline.

*Based on S-26 Promise GOLD and compared to previous formula. Children learn in multiple ways – seeing, thinking and doing and good nutrition helps support overall growth and development in these 3 key areas. Nutrition plays a huge role in our young children's development, even more so when we advocate higher thinking skills and multiple intelligence learning.

Dr Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of the American Institute for Learning and Human Development, and an award-winning author and speaker who has been an educator for the past forty years. He is the author of fifteen books including Multiple Intelligences in the ClassroomIn Their Own Way, Awakening Your Child’s Natural Genius7 Kinds of Smart,The Myth of the A.D.D. Child and Awakening Genius in the Classroom. He has appeared on several national and international television and radio programs, including NBC’s ”The Today Show”, “CBS This Morning”“CNN”, the “BBC” and “The Voice of America”. Articles featuring his work have appeared in The New York Timesthe Washington PostUSA TodayInvestor’s Business DailyGood Housekeeping, and hundreds of other newspapers and magazines around the country.Dr. Armstrong has given over 800 keynotes, workshop presentations, and lectures in 43 states in US and 20 countries in the past 26 years.

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