Disclaimer: I am not a neuroscientist nor do I claim to be an expert on neuroscience. The content in this blog post is what I have understood about the workings of the brain based on books that I have read and what I learned in neuroscience during my second year in University. Feel free to correct me if you think I have misinterpreted the text.
I have often been asked about Gavin’s development and what I feel he has gotten out of attending Heguru. Do I feel that the classes benefit him? It has been hard to say because I do a lot of other activities with him at home as well. How do you determine what is contributed by Heguru, by me, or by his playschool? Gavin is not a carefully controlled science experiment. He is a boy I love dearly and whom I am trying to raise to the best of my ability.
At the end of the day, I think what is key to his development is my attention and his exposure. Anything that we do to help stimulate his brain in a positive way is beneficial for him, especially in these early years of neural wiring. It can be doing things that are challenging or repeating things that he already knows for reinforcement. Doing new things that are challenging helps to create new connections between brain cells. Repeating the same things over encourages myelination of the pathways so that the action becomes faster and more automatic.
Think about when you first learned to drive a car… Initially, you had to think about everything and you spent a lot more concentration on the action of driving. After practice, the action of driving becomes more automatic and you can drive without having to consciously think about it. That’s the benefit of repetition. Actions that can be done “automatically” seemingly without requiring any thought are faster and more efficient. So that’s what we’re striving for – not just to create new neural pathways but to create myelinated neural pathways.
When Einstein passed away, scientists were curious to gain a better understanding of his brilliance. They opened his brain to study it. There are two parts to the brain – grey matter (the brain cells) and white matter (the myelinated pathways). They expected Einstein to have more grey matter than the average individual. What they discovered instead was that he had more white matter than the average individual – much, much more. So he didn’t have more brain cells. He had more neural pathways – myelinated pathways.
That has been my aim in the early development of my children – to stimulate the development of myelinated neural pathways through exposure. Based on what I have been observing in the boys recently, I think we are achieving that.
Right brain development philosophy states that specific abilities will begin to emerge in children receiving right brain education. One of these abilities is photographic memory. From what hubby and I have noticed, Gavin’s photographic memory ability appears to be emerging. The following is one of several instances we have observed:
After reading the book “Dinosaur Days” once, Gavin could recite the information he read from it to me. A few days after he read the book, we were looking at some other dinosaurs on the computer when he blurted out, “The duck dinosaur has 2000 teeth.” Surprised, I asked him, “Where did you learn that?” Even though I read the book with him, I confess that I could not remember having read that.
Gavin replied that it was from the book “Dinosaur Days”. Thinking he couldn’t possibly have remembered it, I asked him to show it to me. We took out the book and I started flipping through the pages to find the page on the duck-billed dinosaur. Gavin, who grew impatient, took the book from me and flipped to the exact page it was on and pointed out the words to me.
Recently, Gareth, too, has been demonstrating what he has learned. One morning, when he was playing the iPad, he started saying the word “Dog”. I looked at the iPad and saw the word “Dog” printed in the center without any accompanying pictures. Unfortunately, Gareth hasn’t been forthcoming with his demonstrations. They usually take me by surprise and when I try to probe further, he clams up. Nevertheless, these small windows he opens for me to look through have been a delight for me and further encouragement to continue these activities with him.