The Learning Tree compares a developing person to a tree with rugged roots capable of supporting a strong trunk that can blossom into one of natures beautiful green creations. All of which takes time, nurturing, and natural resources. This entire developmental process in a human, of course, begins at birth.
During the first few days out of the womb, what a caregiver does when responding to a newborn is critically important. Caregivers who not only cuddle and comfort an infant but who also respond attentively and with purpose during its waking hours, instill in that baby a genuine sense of stability. This is to say that even though helpless newborns appear incapable of taking in sensory experiences, they are not. It is critical when interacting with a newborn, long before it can truly see the outside world, that caregivers expose that infant to a host of meaningful sights, sounds, touches, and body movements.
This stimulating interaction, particularly at the verbal level, lays the foundation for a sense of self worth, a feeling of acceptance and love by others, and a growing sense of intellectual relatedness to the world. Such interfacing begins the transfer of intelligence and emotions from adults to the receptive minds of a tiny child. Engaging meaningfully cannot be overdone. It is the critical attribute for the development of a growing sense of intimacy and eventual independence.
As a child grows, it is important that interaction begins to develop between child and caregivers. The Learning Tree claims that this critical step occurs between four and ten months of age. Using my own granddaughter as an example, the day care center personnel has already taught her gesturing. She can state her needs such as eat, done eating, more, I love you, bye-bye, via gestures. Anxiously, we are awaiting the day when she begins to express herself more fully in understandable words.
As a child develops beginning language, it is more important than ever that a caregiver engages in shared problem solving. Verbal interaction leads a youngster to feel that s/he is capable of reasoning out logical answers. The child starts to feel confident in expressing feelings of dissatisfaction and then moving on to say what is needed to fix the problem. Once again, I watch my own granddaughter turn the pages of books she likes to find the page where a problem is solved.
There is a particular book she likes called, Where Is My Mommy? A baby penguin keeps asking other animals if they could be its mother. She knows from the book’s pictures that a tortoise, a lion, a porpoise, a hedgehog, and a peacock are not the baby penguin’s parent. Since my granddaughter knows the story’s ending because she has seen the penguin’s problem solved any number of times. She can’t wait to turn to the page to see the baby penguin reunited with its Mommy. Solving this simple problem again and again has real logical meaning for her.
The Learning Tree takes each developmental step from birth until a person is approximately nine years of age and explains the attributes a child would have in order to have mastered each step. Step nine is “The ability to evaluate and reflect on feelings, oneself, and events in the world.”
So what does a caregiver do if somewhere along the line, a child does not seem ready for the next leap? For these problem learners, The Learning Tree provides guidelines to 1) determine at which step the child is having problems, and 2) to provide ways to help that child get back on track. Typically, by the time a learning problem is uncovered, a child is already within a school system. Yet, in order to help eliminate a deficit in a child’s learning tree, regardless of age, it is often necessary to reinforce an earlier step where the child went astray.
This book I would highly recommend to ALL caregivers because it is always good to know beforehand the stages of intellectual growth to expect. For parents who feel they have diagnosed a learning problem such as inattentiveness, the inability to make generalizations, a problem with cause and effect in a story, a problem with word recognition, a problem remembering story facts in a logical order, The Learning Tree offers specific ways of addressing such deficits.
If you want to know more about your own development from childhood, this book is a good read. If you want to ensure a child in your care develops according to a normed schedule, this book can be helpful to you. If you want to help a youngster who has a frustrating learning deficit, The Learning Tree can help diagnose the problem and then give you guidelines to get that youngster back on track.