Magical children: Give 'em more than shelter

His 1977 best seller Magical Child launched Joseph Chilton Pearce into the spotlight as one of the granddaddies of modern child development theory. Along with The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, Magical Child Matures, and Evolution’s End, Publishers Weekly calls his work, “an innovative, philosophical restructuring of modern child psychology by an experienced observer and lover of children at play.”
Pearce, who happens to live in Nelson County, argues that the unfolding of human potential in children takes place through the development of certain age-sensitive neural processes in the brain. This genetic blueprint depends entirely on the child’s receiving the proper stimuli from its environment.
“Without appropriate nurturing on the part of parents, society, and schools,” he says, “the genetic system is impaired. It doesn’t unfold as it should.”
And if a neural pathway goes undeveloped in an early stage, it impairs development at later stages. Quoting renowned Harvard psychologist Jerome Bruner, Pearce says, “If you leave out some developmental aspect of a three-year-old, it might not be apparent until they’re 15, but all of a sudden that one little piece that was missing becomes a great gaping hole in their development. Then it’s too late.”
Getting this message across to parents and others who work with children has been the substance of Pearce’s life work. Citing numerous studies in neural development done over the last 10-20 years, his approach is to remove the discussion of child rearing from any moral, ethical, or self-righteous arena and ground it in empiric biological research.
Pearce will present his argument at a two-day workshop entitled “Ways to Raise Healthy Children: Cultivating the Heart–Developing the Mind” on January 10-11. Sponsored by the Charlottesville Waldorf School (formerly Crossroads Waldorf School), he aims to explain “the critical importance of honoring age-appropriate schooling for the child.”
Although not directly a member of the Waldorf movement, Pearce sees this educational philosophy and approach as most appropriate for fostering the development of a whole, healthy child.
“[Waldorf’s] entire program is based on honoring the neural levels that are ready to undergo development at each stage of [a child’s] life,” Pearce asserts. “Waldorf education acknowledges the way the brain unfolds and develops and what is necessary to foster it.”
This is a unique opportunity to hear first-hand the advice of a writer Colin Turnbull calls “a man who not only cares, but knows.”

Joseph Chilton Pearce presents a seminar at PVCC on January 10 from 7-9pm. An all-day workshop will follow at the Charlottesville Waldorf School in Crozet on January 11 from 9am-4pm. Tickets are $15 ($10 in advance) for the Friday night lecture, $30 ($25 in advance) for the Saturday workshop, $40 ($30 in advance) for both. 1408 Crozet Ave. 823-6805.