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Einstein DID Use Flashcards

Every once in a while I come across "Einstein Never Used Flashcards" in a store or while browsing on-line.

Have you seen it?

The full title is: "Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn--and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less." It was written by: Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, and Diane Eyer.

Now, you may think that because Right Brain Education for little ones includes the technique of flashcards, that I would begin bashing this book. But, (1) I try not to bash and (2) I actually agree with a lot of what they've written.

The Truth about Flashcards

I agree that you need to play more and memorize less.

Traditional approaches to flashcards involve a lot of lessons throughout the day. If you've done this (I did!) then you soon discover how little time and energy you have left for other things... like enjoying your child and playfully just experiencing life together throughout the day.

I once worked at a Montessori school that used flashcards in their 0-3 program. After presenting educational cards regularly 2-3 times per day, with much updating from showing to showing, we stressed both children and the teachers alike. And the emotional climate in the nurseries was unhappy, to be polite. We soon learned that while we were seeing results with some children, there was such a thing as "over-stimulation" and we stepped back to re-evaluate what could be done.

The result was a gentler, kinder program where teachers checked out 15 sets of cards (or so) per week instead of updating and reorganizing that plan every day. So, no fancy schedule--just straight forward: 150 cards per week. We also presented the cards once a day, in the morning during "circle time."

To our surprise and great delight, instead of compromising results (as was feared according to what we had read), results were stronger and more consistent from child to child, classroom to classroom. Babies remembered using the joyful right side of the brain--not the repetitive, more conscious, left side of the brain.

IN SHORT: in less than 10 minutes a day, we could boost learning and increase time for free play and one-on-one bonding with the children. Memorization this way is unconscious fun, not conscious stress.

Albert Einstein's Childhood

But, I do not agree with the idea that: Einstein Never Used Flashcards. Because I believe that he did and it's what led to his brilliant discoveries later in life.

You see, when Albert Einstein was only one, in 1880, his family moved to Munich, where his father and his uncle founded a company, Elektrotechnische Fabrik J. Einstein & Cie. (This company manufactured electrical equipment, providing the first lighting for the Oktoberfest and cabling for the Munich suburb of Schwabing.) According to Einstein's mother, for as long as she could remember Albert would spend hours upon hours in his father's office looking through technical periodicals and magazines. He waited for the mail each day in order to be the first to devour the newest editions.

Each booklet, each leaflet, and every bit of information he heard bantered back and forth from uncle to father were recorded as pictorial or auditory images--much like flashcards.

The Real Baby Einstein

At the same time, little Albert's speech was seriously delayed. Some reports say that he could not speak coherently until age 9. While some believe that he was "developmentally delayed" to this point, our theory is that the left hemisphere (responsible for speech) was not yet effectively connected.

According to our theories, that put him in an absorbent "right brain state" for nine long years. In this state he was absorbing thousands of information bytes per second without the filter of the logical left. We would use this pre-language state as an opportunity to input as much information as possible.

You see, we focus upon flashcards during the first years of life while the right brain is wide open for input. We give flashcards and other types of visual, auditory and tactile information to a child before the left brain--the more conscious side which filters information--begins to develop. When we do, the child's mind creates a mental library that is immense. The connections made within the brain at that point determine the future learning capacity of the child.

And it's not what is consciously remembered.

It's the number of CONNECTIONS that have been made within the brain using data received during that key time of life.


Einstein was in the key absorbent time of life for NINE YEARS.

...and during that time he was exposed to the very latest in technological thought.

So, why are we so surprised that his many contributions to physics include: - special theory of relativity (mechanics and electromagnetism) - general theory of relativity (extended the principle of relativity) - relativistic cosmology - capillary action - critical opalescence - classical problems of statistical mechanics and their application to quantum theory - an explanation of the Brownian movement of molecules - atomic transition probabilities - the quantum theory of a monatomic gas - thermal properties of light with low radiation density - a theory of radiation including stimulated emission - the conception of a unified field theory - the geometrization of physics

If you were going to design a flashcard program for a future physics genius, what would YOU include?

Einstein's "flashcard program" couldn't have been more perfectly designed.


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