Thursday, January 21, 2010

Internal Rhythm

I had to laugh as I read a section in the book Endangered Minds by Jane M. Healy. She was discussing the belief some scientists have that a child needs a sort of internal rhythm or beat to help them in all learning. I realize that doesn't make much sense, so let me quote the book here:

Dr. Weikart has recently become fascinated by the question of how physical movement helps children develop an internal sense of "beat" that seems to correlate with reading and math abilities. She acknowledges she can not yet explain, in terms of the brain, what "beat" has to do with academic learning, but when we were talking, I remembered that several elementary physical-education teachers had shared with me their puzzlement about why so many more children today seem to be lacking this basic sense of internal rhythm. Dr. Weikart suggests that the reason may be they have not gotten in touch with the internal beat of their own bodies.

"It's frightening! They need beat, but rock music doesn't give them that because it's heard, they don't create it out of their own bodies," she insists. "Feeling has to be independent for the child; you can't make it loud and you can't make it visual as in the videos; it has to be felt. Unless the child is rocked, patted, stroked, danced with at the same time; unless adults are creating the feel of the beat for the child who is hearing it, that feel of beat does not develop." *

The reason I had to laugh at this was because I thought of all those many--many--days and nights I spent bouncing my babies to the beat of whatever song I was singing, or patting their backs to the beat, or bouncing toddlers up and down on my knees to the beat, or twirling round the kitchen floor with my preschoolers to the beat, or drumming out rhythms on the kitchen table using pencils with my grade-schoolers.

My mom and I were talking the other day about things that should be common sense in the world of parenting. I just shook my head and said, "Mom, common sense isn't so common anymore." It would seem common sense, just instinct even, to rock or pat your baby to the beat of a song, to bounce and dance and twirl to the rhythm of songs with your kids, but I don't think it really is anymore. Maybe it's because so few adults these days have their own internal sense of rhythm and beat, I don't know.

But it was funny to me, that something that is--or at least should be--ingrained in a mother's instinctual, common-sense-ical brain, the simple and almost subconscious act of using rhythm in your young child's life, something so simple as patting out a beat on their little diaper-clad booties as you twirl round the floor, is now a subject of scientific research.

God gave us maternal instinct and common sense. He knew that this "internal sense of beat" would be needed for optimal learning in language and math, and He instilled in mothers the instinctual knowledge to do those little things that would help their children develop that sense.

Thank God that He knows what He's doing, even when we don't!

*Healy, Jane M. Endangered Minds: Why Children Don't Think--And What We Can Do About It. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 1999, pp 171-172

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