EDUCATION

The Natural Laws of Children: Why Children Thrive When We Understand How Their Brains Are Wired

Shambhala. Aug. 2019. 368p. photos. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781611806731. pap. $19.95ebk. ISBN 9780834842298. ED
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Already a sensation in France and throughout Europe, researcher Alvarez’s book is a detailed report of an experimental preschool classroom in Gennevilliers, France, where, with three- and four-year-olds, she tested teaching practices developed by pioneers such as Dr. Maria Montessori. Alvarez’s goal? To liberate early education. Like those studying adult education, early educators are discovering that students are experts in their own learning. “Student-centered” education has become a buzzword, and titles such as Alvarez’s illustrate what such a classroom actually looks like. For example, “horizontal” instead of “vertical” arrangements allow students to play together and teach one another rather than depending solely on the teacher. Alvarez’s methods blend existing educational theories and neuroscientific research, taking into account young children’s physical and emotional development and fostering independence. She encourages freedom of movement throughout the classroom, the use of rich sensory materials, and the cultivation of pro-social behaviors in children.
VERDICT An indispensable resource for teachers and parents alike, this highly readable book offers strategies, anecdotes, and evidence without downplaying the complexity of the cognitive science that informs it.

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