I was recently told of some interesting research in the BBC documentary ‘Child of Our Time‘. As they put it, the rate of learning in the first 5 years is phenomenal – far more than any time in the future. Children will learn more in that time that at any other time in their life.
So then, after this prime learning period, they then go to school. Hmmm. Doesn’t seem quite right. But then school is not really set up for that. However in the past (and in other cultures), society was set up for that – in the ‘village’ system, there would always be many other people around to learn from – younger, older and also much much older. In fact, recent theories state that living past out ability to bear young might be what gave us the (intellectual) edge, as grandparent could pass rear and pass knowledge to the young, rather than having the still learning parents do this.
The ‘village’ system also hold numerous benefits to the care givers, including education, assistance, socialisation and ‘efficiencies of volume’. For example, it is now widely thought that breastfeeding is much more difficult in isolation, because we cannot learn by observation, and have no immediate assistance when it is needed. It is also beneficial to the grand-caregivers. For example, the ‘Eden Alternative’ range of rest homes has in many cities, has joined with the local kindergarten to put both services under one roof. The elderly residents have the opportunity to help with the children, or simply watch the children, but even just having the noise and the energy of playing children nearby seems to make a positive difference. The staff notice an immediate improvement in the morale and liveliness of the elderly, who now have ‘something to live for’ (it could be argued, what they evolved to live for), and the children benefit from more individual care and attention.
There are systems and opportunities available in western societies to get our children (and caregivers) out of our sterile (both physically and socially) houses at a young age, but I think it is valuable to be aware of our past, and aware of the value and motivations behind our present actions.