Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Nature versus Nurture
My granddaughter, Rylie, is 14 ½ months old now. I spend as much time with her as possible. Of course, I think she is the cutest, smartest, sweetest, most perfectest little girl ever to walk the planet.

But watching her grow and learn makes me realize the many disadvantages students come to school with. Rylie has someone constantly at her beck and call, teaching her about her world, helping her grow and learn.
We chart Rylie's progress on those milestone charts you can find online or in any baby box, highlighting her accomplishments one by one, leap by leap. At 14 1/2 months, her milestone chart for babies 12-18 months is almost completely highlighted. While I would like to attribute that exceptional ability to the genes she inherited from me, I am quite certain these milestone are flying by quickly more because of the way she is being raised than by anything inherent in her DNA.
Granted, some children are born with some learning difficulty, something went wrong somewhere along the way. But for the average normal baby, if they were raised in a rich environment, I truly think they could all soar.
Today was just another Rylie day, but all the things she saw and learned today were soaked up in the magical sponge of her brain, stored there for the next learning experience she can tag with the same information.
All parents need to be made aware of the importance of experiences for their children. It isn't about money, or education, it is about time and effort.
The picture of Rylie above shows her at Tractor Supply Company this spring when the baby chicks arrived. She was mesmerized by the soft fluffy chirpy balls that had scratchy claws and sharp beaks. Letting her kneel there and see them, picking them up for her to touch, patiently waiting for her to be done soaking up all that experience, all that cost nothing.
Today, Rylie went to visit her newborn cousin for the first time. Rylie's mom and I went to visit, taking her along, like we do no matter where we go. Knowing a 14 month old would get bored in the hospital room quickly, first her mom went to visit the new baby on her own while Rylie and I wandered the hospital. Other than the yogurt I bought her in the cafeteria, the experience was completely free. But in the hour's time, we touch the rock and brick walls, rubbed the smooth paint, the textured wallpaper, played in the water cascading down the fountain, sniffed the fake flowers, the scented candles, looked at the myriad of paintings and photographs adorning the walls, discovered automatic doors, perused the gift shop through the windows, watched an electrician fixing the wiring, and learned that Rylie CAN open the bathroom door all by herself, regardless of what Grandma is doing at the moment.
Rylie goes for walks in the woods, touches trees, leaves and dirt, listens to birds sing in the trees, watches them fly above, tosses rocks into rivers and lakes, lays down to watch ants crawl by. She 'reads' labels in the grocery store, gazes longingly at fish in the aquariums at Walmart, tries in shoes in every store that has them. She walks in my yard and sniffs (and picks...) flowers. She reads books with everyone in her life, most of them bought at garage sales for 25 cents each. Just from books, she can identify an amazing amount of things she has never encountered in real life. She goes and does, and learns along the way.
When Rylie goes to school, she will be ready, her brain full of information to start her formal education, linking together all those little bits and pieces she's already stored to the new information.
Somehow, we need to educate parents better. We need to convince them the importance of early experiences for their children. Don't plop them in front of the television. Don't hand them a video game. Take them outside. Take them to the library. Take them to the grocery store. Don't strap them in the seat. Let them walk and explore, look and learn. Take the time to be patient, let them do things on their own time, talk to them, explaining everything everywhere.
Nature versus nurture?? Nature wins, hands down. Rylie's 18 month chart is nearly complete because she has a mom and dad and grandparents who take the time to let her learn, now, while her little brain is the most absorbent it will ever be. And.... I am sure a tiny tad is because of the DNA from grandma too :)

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