Maren Schmidt: Understanding learning |

Maren Schmidt: Understanding learning

In our model of exponential education, our methods of teaching and learning will be scientific in approach and execution.

We’ll understand how children learn and we will teach using principles, methods and techniques based on observable ways that children and adults learn best. Our schools will focus on helping children and adults have the tools to lead meaningful lives in their families, communities and beyond.

Running a place for successful learning is not a “fast food” business.

We can’t gulp down facts and have them form a foundation for a life well lived. Preparing a healthy meal takes time — from planting seeds, weeding, pruning, harvesting, storing, preparing food and finally putting it on the table.

Learning requires energy fueled by healthy foods with appropriate amounts of sleep and exercise.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Learning requires an environment that is safe and peaceful and nourishes a love of learning. It is a place where experimentation, questioning and risk are encouraged and accepted. All students want to do well — they need time, and a place with the right people, to attain excellence.

Optimum learning requires that the abstract be made concrete and that big tasks be broken into manageable projects. Difficulties in learning need to be isolated, and related skills mastered, then added back into the overall picture.

For example, if a student is having trouble with place value in addition, lessons and exercises in understanding place value are given until that concept is understood, then multi-digit addition is reintroduced.

Learning requires loving adult guidance.

Adults — teachers and parents — guide and direct the children’s learning based on each child’s strengths and interests. The sports loving student might learn multiplication by kicking six soccer balls three times to figure out 18 kicks, and do so much more quickly than writing 6 x 3 = 18 repeatedly. It is the enlightened adult that kindly directs the child’s activities so learning occurs easily yet profoundly.

Learning requires repetition. For the child under seven, doing exactly the same thing over and over aids learning. For the child over seven (about the time the first teeth fall out) repetition must be done with variety.

For example, the 4 year old loves to hear the same stories over and over for months. The 7 year old loves to hear stories, but demands a different one every day and professes boredom when hearing a tale twice.

Learning requires being friendly with error. We learn best from our mistakes, so it is best to be friendly when learning experiments go astray.

The human brain is an amazing machine that comes without an operation manual, or a warranty for that matter.

We do know, through years of observations, that when certain conditions are present — good nutrition, adequate rest, safe learning environments, concrete and meaningful experiences, loving adult guidance, repetition, and friendliness to errors — human beings survive and thrive.

Our ongoing research and understanding of how learning occurs makes all the difference in how our children will be able to create a successful life.

Kids Talk TM deals with childhood development issues. Maren Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland. She has over twenty-five years experience working with children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is author of Building Cathedrals Not Walls: Essays for Parents and Teachers. Contact her at or visit Copyright 2010.

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