Sunday, September 13, 2009

Learning Basics

So, I'm glad you guys like the giggles. Charlie continues to be a joyful little boy--Walmart was hysterical, daddy is funny, life is good.

I'm back to answering questions, though. I just love talking about education and you guys asked some really good questions. My first post in this series is here if you missed it.

Today I'm going to finish answering Blogzilly's question, disappoint Elizabeth, and also answer Beth's question.

Blogzilly wanted resources--what's my go-to for working with my brain injured kid? Well, I swear by the Glenn Doman books--How to Teach Your Baby to Read, How to Teach Your Baby Math, and How to Give Your Baby Encylopedic Knowledge. Glenn Doman has worked extensively with brain injured children and I have met many, many parents who have used his programs to great success. For the record, neither Glenn Doman or Amazon give me any kind of kick back for those links--I'm just a big fan of the books.

I'm more laid back than Glenn, but his overall concepts are excellent because they rely on a couple of good basic educational concepts. These are repetition, enthusiasm, and multisensory presentation. Very simple stuff.

Repetition helps burn a concept into your brain--creates a firm, concrete neural pathway for that information. Ever notice how kids can watch the same boring video a million times? Or how they want you to read the same book over and over? Don't tell them, but they're learning.

Enthusiasm is kind of no-brainer. If you act excited about learning than your child will be excited about learning. If you make it seem like a trip to the dentist, than don't expect them to to show a lot of interest in math or science.

Multi-sensory sounds scary, but all it means is "more than one sense." Activating two senses at the same time helps burn that neural pathway all the better. Vision and hearing are the most common, but touch or smell could easily be incorporated as well. This probably best explains why you remember more when you take notes at a lecture--vision, hearing, and tactile senses are going.

Because I use the Doman method, we use big, giant flashcards--the size of a standard sheet of paper. I think this really helps with kids who have visual issues as well--it's easier to focus on a HUGE word than on a tiny one. Kids without vision issues would probably do great with regular flashcards or simple books. I know one little boy who learned a ton of new words from the Baby Bumblebee video series (again, no kick-back).

Now, there are some people who are going to argue this method. They think that it's inappropriate to show a child flashcards or they think that flashcards don't teach you how to think. They are mostly right. No one should lock their kids in the house to look at flashcards all day. Play is a fabulous form of learning as is helping around the house and other normal kid activities. The amount of time I spend showing Charlie flashcards probably amounts to about a half an hour a day and it's interspersed through-out the day. Also, we don't do them every day and I never, ever drill him. I'm just giving him a chance to see the information.

What about people who say that flashcards don't teach thinking? This is completely correct. Flashcards don't teach thinking, but they do aid in thinking. Functional MRI's have revealed that a person reads using two separate parts of the brain--one is a bank of known words, the other a processing area that reads the words phonetically. Better readers rely on the bank of words more often. In my opinion, flashcards help give your child a bank--a storehouse of readily available information. As a teacher I found it very difficult to teach something if my kids had no prior knowledge of the subject. It's hard to draw a conclusion or think about something when it's completely foreign to you. Flashcards or big books just give you a base of knowledge--the thinking will have to come from within.

So there you go. Long story short--show kids information often and be enthusiastic about it. If you're not feelin' the idea of flashcards then think of something that does work for you--watch a video with your child and repeat the interesting content in an excited voice, read a book together about farm animals, sing a particular song over and over. Learning really should be fun.

Beth wanted to know what we're working on at my house. We recently finished up colors, shapes, and insects. We're currently working on action words, musical instruments, sea creatures, and famous paintings. I accompany all my lessons with documentaries (which Charlie ignores), books, objects around the house, and anything else I can find.