She is a trained early childhood and primary teacher and has worked in a range of educational settings including primary schools, kindergartens, and long-day care. Through this she has gained valuable insights into the strengths and complexities of each learning environment. In this MOOC, which Helen copresents with Caitlin O’Connell via Open2Study, you will learn more about how children from the age of 0 to 5 develop and learn.
To whom is your course addressed?
The course was designed for existing parents, future parents, people who wish to become early childhood educators and in fact anyone who has an interest in early childhood development and learning.
What do you think is the main difference between learning and development between early childhood and children after the age of 5?
Interesting question, it is in early childhood that the majority of our neural or brain connections are formed. After 6-7 it then becomes a matter of which connections we use and therefore strengthen and which we don’t use as much. The brain works and degenerates on a ‘use it or lose it’ principle. Early childhood is also the time when we lay the foundation for all of our future emotional, social, cognitive and communication development. Essentially if we get things right in the early years it allows children beyond 5 to become all they potentially can be and to demonstrate their own particular forms of intelligence, be that musical, mathematical, verbal, interpersonal etc.
Parents and society in general seem to have become more and more protective; why do you think taking risks is an essential part of children’s learning and development?
It is through calculated risk taking that children face challenge and overcome it, building resilience, self-esteem and confidence. As adults we understand that when things come easily to us we do not always appreciate them. However, if we recall a time when we felt most pride in ourselves it was generally when we overcame a challenge and felt that punch the air “Yes!” moment.
What is the one thing that you hope students will take away from your course?
I hope that people will understand children’s uniqueness and their right to be children. Society has put many pressures on children to learn quickly, to value commercialism, to be sexualized and often to feel pressured into becoming ‘mini adults’. Childhood is however a time for adventure and laughter, to love and be loved and for children to explore the world through their own lens, not a lens imposed upon them.
Do you have any advice or additional resources to recommend for people interested in learning more about early childhood education?
Funnily enough, I think we all need to take time to simply watch children playing and seek to understand their world. Yes, we can study early childhood and there are many books and online courses that inform us. However, in my opinion there is no better way than watching a baby mouthing a rattle and attempting to shake it, roll it and babble to a person close by. There is no better way than watching a toddler race from one adventure to another believing they are ‘top of the world’. There is also no better way than spending time with a preschooler who is persistently learning a new skill and who seeks the encouragement and recognition of the people in their lives.
I would also encourage people to find some good role models, families who seem to be doing a good job raising their children, where you hear respectful and positively guided behavioral strategies. Listen to the language these families use and try to integrate their phrases into your own parenting style. Raising and educating children can be challenging but it is also intensely rewarding… Above all raising and/or educating happy, healthy children who contribute positively to their world is a remarkable achievement!
This blog post was originally presented by Mooctivity. Mooctivity is a leading search and sharing platform to help online learners find their favorite courses (MOOCs).