Nurture vs Nature…Does Heredity or Environment Affect Learning More? - No, really, I love that you never talk to your child about the importance of learning so that he hated school before he even met me on day one, but now it's my fault he won't work.

With over six million people in the world, have you ever wondered how each one could be an original? Unique? One-of-a-kind?

Well, according to neuroscientist, Michael Merzenich, our individual skills and abilities are very much shaped by our environments, including our contemporary culture. The uniqueness of each individual is derived from the plasticity (adaptability) of the brain.

The combined skills and abilities of each person is built up in a way that is specific to each one’s history. That’s why no two individuals are alike. As the child grows, the brain is constructed from a wealth of experience and knowledge.

So mom, when you send Susie to school tomorrow, she is taking your home environment with her. If it is positive and supportive, she has skills and abilities that will enhance her learning. If you read to her, engage in family discussions, and praise and encourage her in her small efforts, you are preparing her for a great learning experience.

On the other hand, if you are frequently moving, your home environment is negative and in a dangerous neighborhood, her skill-set and abilities will actually reduce her learning capacity. Learning never takes place in the presence of anxiety and fear.

Getting back to the question I asked in the title, does heredity or environment affect learning more? Share your thinking on this.

Florence is the mother of an amazing teenager; an educational consultant, author, speaker, speech-language pathologist, encourager and perpetual optimist. She shares tips, tools and resources with mothers (and other caregivers) of struggling and/or failing children. She is fiercely committed to helping them develop and enhance their children's foundational skills for learning, to grow them to success in school and life. A believer in the unique learning abilities of all children, she is an advocate for those who learn differently.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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8 thoughts on “Nurture vs Nature…Does Heredity or Environment Affect Learning More?

  1. I love this post! We definitely try to foster a positive home life where they can explore. I believe that children are a product of their environment. I never thought about the moving a lot though, that is great to know!

    • When you were a child and were anticipating some unknown event or circumstance, can you remember the level of anxiety and/or fear that gripped you? I can. In my childhood, I was afraid of many people and lots of things. Today, I have vacant spaces in my memory of time and people, which I begun to notice at family gatherings and reunions. Learning does not take place amid anxiety and fear.

      Frequent moving bring constant loss into a child’s life – loss of dear friends, loss of favorite teachers, loss of comforting spaces, etc. And with those losses come the uncertainty of the unknown future. How does a child learn new “unimportant” information in the midst of his emotional tornado?

      You know, Shay, conscious awareness brings with it a level of responsibility and the obligation to “spread the news” and “save” our children.

  2. I think a bit of both helps for learning – Nature and Nurture. Loved the post. 🙂

    I truly believe in creating a positive environment at home for the kid to build interest in their learning experiences.

  3. This is the age old Nature vs Nurture with a twist! I absolutely LOVE it! I’m majoring in a branch of Psychology, so I take this a bit deeper than just school. If we do not teach our children the skills that they need to navigate in the world, problem solving, confidence, empathy, critical thinking, etc then they will fail in school because we as parents failed them. A teacher cannot teach our children these things when we are teaching the opposite at home.

    • You are so right, Traci. This is an age-old debate. I remember writing a psychology paper in college, more than 30 years ago, with that phrase as part of the title.

      Did you know that most students today have very poor critical thinking skills? Higher level mental abilities and emotional intelligence are severely lacking in the majority of the children who end up in the penal system.

  4. I like that comment, that nurturing never takes place in an environment of fear and anxiety. Thanks for the reminder. We try to foster a positive learning environment at home with a mixture of fun time, chores and homework that is positive. Thanks for sharing…

    (Stopped by from UBC)