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This book keeps popping up under dooyoo's books, but I was surprised to see it has no reviews. After noticing it has been without a review for some time - I decided I should write one. I've had this book for three years now, but re read it of course before writing a review. That wasn't difficult. It only took about 30 minutes to read the entire book.
I believe this is used as text book for some courses, and the majority of reviews are from people doing there NVQ's in childcare. The ratings on this are generally very high, and many people find it extremely helpful in their studies. The book begins with a note to students, saying it has made every effort to provide the needed information for citing in essays and this reads very much like a text book. It is perhaps for this reason that I disliked the book so much, as I was looking for books on early childhood learning for a very different reason. If you want to very quickly memorise a couple of brief facts for a multiple choice exam - this book will likely be very helpful. It would also be good for a student to browse through and get an idea of which theories sound interesting, so they could further research one for a paper. You might even be able to scrape together a quick paper from this alone, but I expect a great many teachers have read this book as well so I would resist any urges at plagiarism.
My interest in early childhood education was quite different from the average student. I recall my own student days very well, and the goal was usually to pass a test - which I always did with flying colours. But very rarely did I actually learn anything. You simply memorise the required information, spew it out at the appropriate time and then forget it. But I honestly do have an interest in early childhood education, and my goal in buying this book was to actually learn something. In this I was terribly disappointed.
'How Children Learn' is a fairly short book. It is 80 pages in total with a fair amount of space devoted to simple cartoon like drawings, which serve little purpose in the book, other than to make it look cute. There is also quite a lot of white space. This does make for easy and quick reading, but limits the amount of info for any specific theory or theorist. A total of 27 theorists and theories are presented here, beginning with Komensky in the early 17th century and concluding with a current theories of learning through play ( which although being talked about quite a lot now is really nothing new) and the theory of emotional intelligence. All of the most famous names in early childhood education will appear here, including Montessori, Steiner, Froebel, and of course Piaget. There are also Freud and the psychoanalysts, Bowlby and Skinner.
My favourite sections in this would be that on the Forest Schools and the section on Steiner. This gives a very brief explanation of Steiner's theories, and tells just a little bit about what Steiner schools are like. I do think the philosophy behind his schools is sound, and it has often been suggested that making state schools more like Steiner schools would benefit all children, but I also can see problems with being tied into one philosophy or dogma with education. Steiner believed in learning through play with for young children, and wanted schools to be warm, and friendly places, as much like a good home setting as possible. Keep in mind Steiner was developing his programmes for young children who must be in care during the day - or alone - while parents worked. His first school was paid for by the Waldorf factory. Rather than sit children down to rote lessons he advocated a more free and relaxed environment, where learning came slowly and only as a child was ready for it. Unfortunately, the background information is not included in this book, but then space is limited.
I also enjoyed the section on Forest Schools in this book. It is very short, and I can't say I learned a great deal from it, but it was enough to get me interested and I did research this quite a bit online after reading this. There are certainly some ideas of real merit behind the philosophy - but perhaps I am just to soft. I don't fancy a completely outdoor education in Denmark!
My least favourite part of the book was a section on Jean Jaques Rouseau, who was , in my opinion , a complete slime ball. His noble savages theory was quite popular at the time, as well as his idealised book up child rearing 'Emile'. He was in fact, a member of the idle rich with nothing better to do than spout off ideas, clap each other on the back and think how enlightened they were. He knew nothing at all of children, have ripped his own 5 infants from there mothers arms and condemned them to life in an asylum rather than support and care for them as a natural parent would. Apparently it was the done thing in his social circle to get poor women pregnant and then dump the unwanted infants in a local orphanage. The girl he took as mistress was an uneducated chambermaid with no means of support to raise the children alone, and real children didn't fit in with his noble ideas.
The real problem with this book though, is that whether you like or dislike any of the theories - there just really is not enough there to get a real grasp of anything. You get a profile for each theorist, stating where they were born and key events in their life, and summary so brief as to be nearly useless on their theories and ideas. I suppose this might be of some use if you have no knowledge at all of Montessori, Steiner, Malaguzzi, and so on, but I had already read far better works on all of these people. In all honesty, you would get far more information simply by reading a wikipedia article on each of these people. If dooyoo were to open a category for each theorist - I would give the entries in this book a Very Useful, as much to be nice if someone put that much effort into it as for really useful content. But none would be crown worthy in my opinion. Certainly we would get a few entries that were worse - but I would expect many that were much better. This was my birthday gift one year, and I believe at the time is was around £14. For that price, I expected a bit more.
The only thing I can really say that I took from this book, is that I noticed a fair number of the lesser known early educators were also primarily interested in working with the poor. Combined with what I know about the more famous ones, it does begin to paint a picture of education being intended to provide a storage place for children in the day. Someplace than can safely be kept, and learn while parents work - or in the worst cases while parents hold no interest, and a way to expose children to things they mightn't have at home. The best wanted to create a substitute for home - especially for those whose own homes were bleak. - That is of course, just my opinion. As this book is intended for childcare workers, I doubt many will take the same things from this book that I did. But I honestly think most of the ideas expressed in this book will be to vague to be of practical use in an actual childcare setting either, unless the reader takes a brief idea from here and researches the theory elsewhere.
Finally, I have to say that this book managed to take a subject I find very interesting and make it truly tedious and boring. I can remember some text books in school doing this. Many managed to make history a dull and miserable subject - but I love history. I can remember once saying how I hated science, which my Mother found amusing as once I finished the horribly dry science book I was meant to read, I relaxed by reading a university level biology book. Some text books are really horrid. Of course there are many wonderful textbooks as well, but this isn't one of them.
After reading this book again - I don't think I'll be keeping it. One for the Ebay pile. But as much I hate this book. I won't knock it all the way down to one star. I will admit it may have value in simply memorising a few facts for an exam, or perhaps skimming info for a paper. I have given this 2 stars, and admit perhaps for a student 3 would be better. But for the average reader, zero stars would be a better option, especially as this is a dear book. It is still £13 new and very close to that second hand.