Friday, September 16, 2016

Windows of Opportunity: The Golden Periods

A child's talents may be hidden, waiting to be discovered. The fortunate ones will get the opportunities they deserve and with the right formula, success awaits.

For the majority of mankind, there will always be many talents that will remain buried for ever. Sad but true. Who knows, maybe I could have been a world class musician or ballet dancer too, if I was given the opportunity when I had a keen interest.

To a certain extent, it is the same with the academic development or the overall development of the child. One thing is definitely true:

The Sensitive Periods, also known as Windows of Opportunity is NOT a myth.

All these years, whether it was with my own children or students whom I had the fortune to coach for consecutive months, and especially those who were with my Bright Minds Lapbooking classes for over a year, I 'saw' their sensitive periods in many areas of development. Once I observed these windows, I worked closely with the parents so they could reinforce at home and support what I tried to do in class.

When we can accurately observe a child's sensitive periods, let's say in the areas of language, reading, writing, spatial awareness and Math, we should focus our efforts on guiding the development of the skills.

A sensitive period is simply a brief, but heightened period of learning. It is a really precious window of opportunity that can remain open for just weeks (or months if we guide them right).

And with appropriate guidance, this is the GOLDEN period when the child will be more willing than ever to overcome any obstacles in learning.

Hence, a sensitive period is also the window for accelerated learning. 

Let's take the example of reading skill.

Why is it that some 6-year-old kids cannot read simple sentences whereas some who are barely 4 years old can read passages fluently?

I do not believe it is because the latter are more talented or that they are just geniuses, unless they are self-taught to read (again, another topic I wrote passionately about years ago).

Instead, I believe the young ones were simply fortunate enough that when their sensitive periods were presented, these precious windows of opportunities were not ignored and wasted. With the kids' heightened interests captured, and through effective coaching methods, it will not take long to hone the skills.

Once a child has acquired a sufficient level of skill, whatever that skill may be, his self-motivation will take care of the rest. This is when we stretch that capability to help the child develop his full potential.

As parents, we must remember this:

These windows of opportunities will close. Once they close, we lose the opportunity to help the child hone the skills optimally

I do not mean that a child whose 'sensitive periods' were missed will not be able to read or learn in future. Of course he can still learn to read or learn that skill after age 6 or even 10, but it will require a lot more effort than if he had learnt during the sensitive periods. Let's not forget the advantages accumulated over the years if he had acquired the skills earlier too.

Does this mean we should pack our kids to phonics or reading classes the moment they can sit upright? No. I do not believe phonics is the only or the best way to learn to read.  

This is why my kids have never attended any of such classes and still learn to read words before 3 and passages by age 4 because I believe the optimal approach is to learn in a language-rich environment, with a whole-word approach.

Read my post Reading 800 words without phonics. 

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