Frisbees, Burt’s Bees, and Schemata

Caroline encountered a new object this week: a frisbee. She heard it called a frisbee and then asked me to throw the Burt’s Bees with her. Her little brain was trying to fit this new object, a frisbee, as she has heard us call it, into an existing schema. She didn’t have a reference point for it, though, so she mistakenly fit it in with a term she knows — Burt’s Bees.

This brought home to me the importance of reading broadly with and talking normally to a child. According to Maria Montessori, age 1 to 3 is the sensitive period for language acquisition — Caroline is absorbing terms she is exposed to. The more she is read to, the more words and ideas she is exposed to, the greater her language skills will become. This will not only help her verbally, it will help her reading comprehension (and general life skills comprehension, as well, I venture). The Schema Theory of Learning explains that our brains work to make sense of new things we encounter by fitting them into our existing schemata. Misunderstanding happen, like with the frisbee, when we misapply or can’t find the correct schema.

We have our favorite books at home in our regular reading rotation, but to expose Caroline to other ideas, I try to get a couple of books at the library every other week to add in some new material and expand her schemata.