In August 1997, at the Home Education Conference in Sacramento, California, I had the pleasure of listening to Joseph Chilton Pearce speak on the topic "The Heart-Brain Factor: Revolutionizing Education". Dr. Pearce got my attention right away when he suggested that public education had become such a hostile learning situation, someone should burn down the whole institution using piles of ditto sheets as fuel! Then we should restructure education with what we're learned recently in the field of neuroscience about the heart / mind connection. There has been a disturbing breakdown of the natural instinct to nurture the young in this world. Thomas Hartman, founder of Prophets' Way, which provides homes for homeless children, points out that:
- In eastern Brazil, 9,000,000 children between the ages of four and eleven are living underground.
- In Thailand the schools are in total disrepair.
- Even in "civilized" Austria there are 400,000 abandoned children.
- The United States is one of the biggest exporter of children for adoption by foreign nationals.
Another disturbing trend is premature sexuality. For generations, genital sexuality was not expressed in those younger than 14-15 years old. Now sexual activity is common in 11-12 year olds. Eight year old girls experience the onset of menarche and some are pregnant at age nine. Twenty percent of second grade girls have noticeable breast development! All this indicates a genetic breakdown, Pearce says. Rudolf Steiner's studies point to a correlation between the lowering of the age of puberty to pushing academics too early. Research in neuro-cardiology has pointed out that the heart is the major governor of intelligence. It is the heart that has the ability to respond in a way that is "most intelligent" for the well-being of the body. The brain has a way of "intellectualizing" and getting us in trouble, you may have noticed.
How does the heart think? It actually has brain cells! Shortly after conception, it is supposed that the mother's heart sends a "spark" to certain cells of the developing fetus, and they, in turn, start a rhythmic beating, too. Eventually, these cells become the heart muscle. The pulsing creates an electrical field, much like a miniature version of the polar field surrounding the earth, with north and south poles. The other cells, which until given this "orientation" could have become any part of the body, now "know" that they are to differentiate according to their distance and direction from the pulsing heart. Thus toes become toes, and ears become ears, and so on. Out of this young heart, the neural tube forms, and the brain forms at one end, it's growth being determined by the strength of the heart cells.
In the first trimester, the "reptilian" part of the brain forms. It will control the sensory-motor skills, and have the instincts for basic survival. In the second trimester, the "old mammalian" part of the brain forms. Here resides the emotional, cognitive and relational of our brain. Last to develop is the neo-cortex, where the capacities for creativity and intellect reside. Once the child is born, these three brain segments unfold in the same order. Each part can be nurtured to its fullest, but cannot be hurried or rushed without doing damage. Piaget noticed that this unfolding of the intellect roughly follows the teeth. Until the emergence of the first teeth, your child is in the "reptilian" stage. This isn't as bad as it sounds. With nurturing, this brain part will hold the higher, kinder, virtues that ensure the survival of our species.
Between the time the baby teeth arrive and then are lost, to be replaced by adult teeth around age eight, a child is in this emotional / cognitive stage. While they may learn the fundamentals of reading during this stage, they really aren't capable of the interpretation they will be later on. About age 8-9 the prefrontal lobes undergo a growth spurt that will not be completed until age 21. True intellectual growth occurs at this time, interestingly enough, whether or not the child is in school! Schools, however, love to take credit for the things learned during this phase. Quite late in this phase, from ages 11-15, the child develops the capacity to operate on what they have learned. This means, don't worry if your child isn't a marvelous reader, writer, or mathematician until this age range.
What is the point, you are asking, of all this scientific information you are giving us? and what does it have to do with home schooling? It has been observed that in nurturing families, children with larger than normal frontal lobes are being born. It is as if these children with the capacity of greater intelligence are being deliberately given to families that will nurture them more and for a longer time. Hopefully, these children will counterbalance the disturbing trends mentioned earlier. Call it God's will or natural selection, it is most interesting. Ask your home schooling friends if they had problems finding T-shirts with necks large enough to go over their infant's head. Did they have to buy T-shirts far larger than needed for their child's body in order to get shirts over the infant's head?
Pearce concluded his talk with a discussion about emotional intelligence, or "EQ" as it is being nicknamed. EQ is both a critical factor in learning as well as strengthening the immune system. It is fostered through nurturing care, love, and acceptance. Give a child time to learn from his heart about the world around him. Give her time for imaginative play and exploration. Premature book-learning, imposed "adult" facts, only teach a child to ignore the intelligence of the heart. And the heart is the source of all true intelligence. Joseph Chilton Pearce is the author of The Magical Child, The Magical Child Returns, The Bond of Power, The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, and Evolution's End. He lectures worldwide on human intelligence, creativity, and learning. He is also involved with the Institute of HeartMath in Boulder Creek, California. For a lot more information about HeartMath, visit the website.