The Role of the Environment in Homeschool Learning

“Genes Change Slowly, Your Brain Changes Quickly”

Children Learn Through Selection, Not Instruction

If you are a parent struggling with the challenge of how to best serve you children’s needs for learning and education, fear not, there’s not only hope, but a real solution for you. 30 years of research has resulted in developing specific strategies for you and your children to begin learning joyfully, quickly, and effectively in a homeschoolers environment.

Science has determined that each of the 7.5 billion humans on Earth has a unique makeup of genes and brain tissue. The result is that each of us possess a unique Adaptability/Intelligence Factor which is incredibly important for the homeschooling parent to be aware of.

The Learning Institute helps parents. educators, business leaders, and students to clearly understand this critical concept of brain variation in applying their powerful learning strategies in relation to the homeschooling movement.

When choosing to homeschool, understanding the different Biological Preferences humankind possess is not to encourage breaking students into groups that are taught in what their primary preference might be, like visual, auditory, spatial, and kinesthetic, as some might suggest. This process is far too mechanistic and is the primary reason the psychometric research on teaching to a preference has had such disappointing results.

Ever since the 1980’s scholastic and corporate educational systems have been attempting to determine ways to imbed the theory of multiple intelligences into the learning process in order to accelerate it. While the anecdotal evidence was positive, the research proving that this theory works is very weak. In general, the researchers who study its effects with scientific rigor find the evidence does not support the rave reviews at all. Why this discrepancy?

The Learning Institute research shows why this discrepancy exists. The simple yet disruptive idea that each one of us has a unique way to learn is vital to understanding why our existing learning systems aren’t working and what to do about it. Those families who choose to homeschool, educators and trainers who gravitate to the Biological Preferences way of thinking see it as a simpler way to understand why the existing system cannot possibly account for our individual uniqueness. This alone makes a dramatic difference in how teachers and business leaders connect with learners. They no longer see people as similar machine parts, all to be molded in the same way, instead they begin to recognize them as unique souls that need unique treatment for them to thrive and prosper in the real world.

When compared to the relatively inflexible quality of genes, our nerve cells and their connections are extremely flexible learning devices. The quality of your nervous system allows it to reshape itself quickly and continually in response to changing environmental stimuli.  
Nature’s Way of Supporting Our Long-term Survival
In an interesting experiment, scientists covered pellets with a bitter substance, a taste that represented poison to a chicken’s taste buds and nervous system. They then mixed the pellets with the chicks’ customary food. After the chicks pecked at the bitter pellets—within a very short period of time—researchers found that the key neurons that identify bad food sprouted up to 60 percent more connections in their brains. These new “instant” connections ensured that the chicks rapidly learned to never peck at the seeming poison again. This is an example of how nerve and brain cells can change their structure within seconds, just as a child who burns his/her hand on a hot stove immediately learns to never touch it again.  This is a powerful example for parents to keep in mind when choosing to homeschool their child.
Between 100,000 and 35,000 years ago, the modern prefrontal lobe came into being, and learning, intelligence, adaptability, and environmental manipulation accelerated at unprecedented speeds. In a mere 5,000 years—only 25 percent of the time it took our ancestors to learn that one more strike with a rock would make a sharper cutting tool—humans learned how to create the wheel, the plow, the Agricultural Revolution, the Iron Age, the printing press, the Industrial Age, space travel, and the internet. In effect, what the highly complex human neocortex and expanded prefrontal lobes have allowed humans to do is make the leap from unconscious to conscious adaptation. This dramatic change has provided us the highest Individual Adaptability/Intelligence Factor of any species on Earth. It drives the extraordinary doubling rate of information in today’s world. For this reason developing the function of our prefrontal lobe is essential for our learning to keep pace with real world change and to successfully and safely manipulate our environment. New learning methods are essential to face the challenges of today’s environment.
Instruction versus Selection: A Disruptive Difference

There are substantial differences between the biological term selection and the academic term instruction used in traditional school systems. The academic term implies a method in which learning takes place through directives from a central authority.

Instructive methods view the brain as an empty container to be filled using the tools of force with which every learner is familiar: the reward and punishment of good and bad grades.

The biological term selection defines the natural process of physiological change that takes place within an organism when it selects new information that helps it more effectively adapt to its world. Your human brain can only learn through a selective process. Why? Because, as you will discover in great detail, all new information must, in some way, physically attach itself to knowledge that has been previously selected into your brain to be remembered.

It is important to understand that pre-existing information has been encoded into your neurological structures by your genetic program or previous experiences with the environment. The individual—not some authority such as a teacher or boss—who has the power, because it is the individual’s brain that is selecting information that resonates with previously acquired knowledge.

As a society we have universally failed to understand that learning occurs through the biological process of selection, not the academic instruction. In simplest terms, all new learning is dependent upon connections to what already exists in your brain.

Any learning or behavioral change system that profoundly impacts your biology must rely primarily on selective methods of knowledge acquisition. This is not a subtle difference! It is the key to understanding what we must do to transform our outdated learning systems. Once you grasp the science behind the difference between instruction and selective systems, you’ll more clearly see how to accelerate your own and others’ learning, motivation, and behavioral-change processes.

Selectionism Struggles to See the Light of Day

Somewhat remarkably, the evidence that we learn and change through selection has gone unnoticed or ignored by our corporate and educational systems. Scientists have been extremely slow in unveiling the truth about how learning and change take place through a selective process.

Few people realize that Darwin was also the first scientist to understand that human consciousness and mental capacities emerged from the process of selection.

Very soon after Darwin put forth his theory, a small band of psychologists interested in cognition began to look at selection as the basis for learning, motivation, and change in the mind. The followers of a selectionist representation of the mind were right in their appraisal, but these early selectionist models were seen as too radical and lacking in evidence to be credible, and they fell out of favor. We now have the scientific evidence.

Science Accepts Genetic Selection

In the early 1950s, biologists and geneticists conducted research that concluded that adaptation and evolution did indeed occur over hundreds to thousands of generations of a species through the process of selection of genes. They found that the structure and function of DNA were altered by a method that naturally selected gene variations that allowed organisms to better fit their environment.

Whole species selected beneficial survival information into its genetic makeup that included basic instincts such as bonding, nesting, hoarding, and territorial protection.

a childs brain and gene activity

By the middle of the 20th century, scientists could see how the incredibly slow genetic selection process was to increase a whole Species Intelligence/Adaptability Factor. What they couldn’t yet comprehend was how learning that occurred in short periods—seconds to days—could take place through a selective process. Up to this time, virtually all scientists believed that the fast learning and change that took place in organic systems, such as bacteria, enzymes, antibodies, and brains, was directed by an instructive process. In fact, whenever scientists were confronted with a problem of how a biological system learned over short periods, they relied on an instructionist’s model.

The most important principle of selectionism can’t be overemphasized; all new learning is dependent upon information that has already been laid down by your genes and previous environmental encounters.

Applying Selective Learning Theories

There are three common principles:

  • All new learning has its basis in the information that has previously encoded into your brain structures
  • Previously learned information can be enhanced and refined most effectually through real-world environmental interactions
  • Variations in our genes and in our experiences build unique neurological structures, which in turn ensure each of us will select and attach meaning to different elements from our environment. In other words, all 7.5 billion of us on the face of the earth will attach meaning to and learn in different ways.

Selection is Based on What You Find Personally Meaningful

Selectionists emphasize you can’t learn anything new without this new information in some way resonating with the knowledge you already possess. What this means is that all new learning is dependent upon internal referral—that is, on what you already know and hold meaningful. We cannot overemphasize the importance of how important a part “personal meaning” plays in effective learning.

This view is very disturbing to the instructionist/behaviorist model of learning, which has maintained that force, in the form of reward and punishment, is the primary motivator in producing behavioral change and long-term memory. Unfortunately, most motivational and behavioral programs have been unsuccessful because they are dependent on these reward-punishment models. By not understanding the biological process of selection based on personal meaning, we have depleted the joy, fulfilment, and efficiency from our learning and behavioral-change environments. We can change this trajectory by appropriately modifying the curriculum for homeschooling.  Homeschooled students will be forever grateful!

New Learning Cannot Exist in Thin Air

To accelerate your and/or your children’s’ speed of learning, all new information must, in some way, be physically associated with existing neural groups that represent past learning in order to be effectively selected into your brain structures. New learning arises from the addition and strengthening of connections between neurons called synapses. Each neuron has an average of 5,000 synaptic receptors on numerous dendritic branches that radiate from it, like spokes on a wheel. A dendrite’s primary job is to act as a structure to hold the synaptic receptor buds that represent long-term memory.

For new information to become part of long-term memory, new synaptic buds must attach themselves to these existing branches that represent past learning laid down by your genes and previous environmental encounters. This is why we say new learning cannot exist in thin air, but must attach itself to your neurological branches that hold past learning.

Your Brain’s Two-stage Learning Process: How It Works

Your brain has a two-stage selective learning process. The first stage, at the level of genes, took many centuries to acquire; the second, at the level of the neural tissue, takes only seconds to days.

Each of us comes into the world with genes that are packed full of relevant survival information that has been previously selected by our ancestors’ successful interactions with their world. (For detailed information and scientific research please see Chapter 9 of Cracking the Learning Code).

To improve on this previously selected information, the second stage of learning takes place as your environmental interactions help you to add more and more synapses and dendritic branches to these existing structures. Your personal experiences then allow refinement of the neural networks that have been prewired by your genes.

As an infant, you entered the world equipped to immediately recognize an abundance of auditory, visual, taste, smell, and touch stimuli. Environmental encounters then helped you select new information that resonated with the existing networks and, over time, through experience, refine this information, increasing your Individual Adaptability/ Intelligence Factor and making it easier for you to fit your world.

Harvard neuroscientist Jerome Kagan says: “No act, idea, image, or word is learned in isolation or ever becomes completely isolated. Every mind consists of nests of interconnected elements that are continually being reorganized with use.

Because instructionist methods approach the brain as an empty vessel to be filled by authorities’ directives, information that you’ve previously acquired and deemed personally meaningful is seen as having little relevance to the learning process. This view perpetuates the idea that if someone can just force you to memorize enough facts—even if they aren’t meaningful to you—you’ll remember them. Of course we know this isn’t true at all. We’ll dive much deeper into the value of personal meaning and why it is the “Holy Grail of learning motivation and behavioral change” in later chapters of the book.

To summarize, science has discovered your brain doesn’t learn through an instructive process, but a selective one. Therefore, new information must in some way resonate with information you’ve previously acquired, or it can’t be remembered.  The idea is to integrate this concept in your homeschool curriculum.

Remarkably, most learning organizations in the world are ignorant of this fact, which makes the whole process of creating memory formation more difficult than it needs to be. The good news is that there is now a proven methodology that provides the tools and strategies to create an environment for learning and behavior change to occur joyfully, effectively, and an at a remarkably accelerated pace. Please visit Here for more information.  

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