Friday, August 5, 2011

Monkey see, monkey do

    I’ve spent a lot of time this summer reading about educational theories and philosophies.  I have spent a lot of time learning about how kids learn and thinking about how kids think.  I have discovered, in my extensive reading, that most of the popular and not-so-popular educational philosophies out there start from the same point.  Every “expert” acknowledges that lots and lots of learning happens way before the traditional school age of 4 or 5 years old.  They all seem to agree that children learn naturally in the early years, that children are curious beings capable of taking in and processing enormous amounts of information and stimulus from their very first days on the planet.  From there, the experts go in a million different directions.  But in the beginning of life, most experts admit that children learn an awful lot by observation and imitation. 
    Now, as I read all this this summer, the truth of it was blossoming right before my eyes.  My youngest child, at nearly two years old, is displaying a learning phenomenon my mother always referred to as “monkey see, monkey do”.  I’m sure the experts have a much more clinical term for it.  My mom’s terminology fits well though.  My adorable little genius has been watching all the “big people” around her and has become a perfect little mimic of it all.  When I talk on the phone, she has to talk on the phone.  When I cook dinner, she climbs up on a chair next to the counter and stirs and chops with her little plastic spoons and forks.  When her 6 year old brother plays with his action figures, staging elaborate battles between the “good guys” and the “bad guys”, she grabs a “man-man” (her name for any plastic man toy) and makes him yell and pounce on the enemy.  When her 8 year old sister plays baby dolls, she will run to get a doll of her own, wrap it up in a blanket, and feed it with a plastic baby bottle.  When her 10 year old brother goes outside to ride his bike, she wants to follow.  She knows to put a helmet on and buckle it under her chin, then she will sit on her little push along bike and head off down the sidewalk after big brother.  When her 12 ½ year old sister curls up with a good book, she will find a comfy pillow, pull a board book off the shelf, and bury her nose in it.  She tries jumping when they jump, she sings all the silly little songs I sing to her, she repeats everything she hears.
    It is all so cute, and so frightening.  Watching my little one copy everything she sees reminds me, over and over again, of how impressionable our children are.  How observant they are- they don’t miss a thing, and how, at least, in the early years, they look to us as the experts.  The beauty of it is we are able to pass along our values, modeling a Christian life and imparting beliefs and virtues we want our children to have.  The fear-inducing reality is, of course, that we also pass on our areas of weakness and our vices. 
    While the youngest is just now picking up all sorts of fun new skills.  Her siblings have already learned a lot in life.  Unfortunately some of the things they have practically perfected are a tendency towards minimalism, negativity, and impatience.  I can’t help but recognize my own struggles in them.  They learned many of their bad habits the same way their little sister is picking up her ever-growing vocabulary and her ability to quote movie lines so well.  They watched the “big people” around them, and I, the most prominent “big person” in their lives, tend to be a little minimalist, a little negative, and at times, a little impatient.
    Now, I may not be an expert with my own educational philosophy but I can’t help but wonder if God is using my children to teach me (again!).  It seems He has been sending me a message this summer, a little reminder, of how important it is to strive each day to walk closer to Him and to fight the temptation to sin because little eyes are always watching…..watching and learning. 

1 comment:

  1. Well written!

    And that is why the Church teaches that parents are their children's first teachers...not the preschool or kindergarten teacher 4 to 5 years down the road.

    I also think that regardless of all the "educational" philosophies out there that PLAY is the very best philosophy and teacher of them all. When your daughter "cooks" dinner beside you or straps on that bike helmet to ride her trike she has learned so much from those she loves the most...and who love her the most.

    And yes, we do make mistakes as parents...and model "inappropriate" behavior at times. But I Love being able to use those as teachable moments too!




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...