• How Your Child Learns Best


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  • It used to be optional for parents to augment their children's classroom education through museum classes, piano lessons, club sports, or formalized academic time together. That was before education became the political football that continues to be fumbled. Now, unless parents become active partners in their children's education, this generation of students could be the most tested and least educated produced by our public education system since its inception over a century ago. Unless parents work with children to augment their classroom learning experiences students will graduate high school remembering some random facts, but without the ability to think or the strategies to learn.



  • The First Bump in the Road
  • With all your great intentions to expand your children's learning, the first roadblock is time - not only yours, but theirs. As school is becoming more regimented and focused on rote memory repetitive activities, by the time your children come home with their packet of more homework worksheets to do, how can you motivate them to add more learning to their frustrating school day? Further limitations come from the extra curricular activities that you need to schedule for them after school, from soccer to scouts, because the arts and sports are being sacrificed as public schools scrounge for more time to devote to the academic material that will be assessed on the standardized tests that determine their funding.

  • Create Enthusiasm for Learning

  • One of the reasons the first day of school is exciting for most students is because there is novelty. It can be the new teacher, new classmates, different bulletin board, new textbook, or even a change of view out the classroom window. Enthusiasm is generated when children are presented with novelty and find creative ways to explore or connect with the new material and are inspired by it. Whenever you can generate this awe and sense of wonder, your children will be pulled into the school lessons they bring home and they will be motivated to connect with the information in a meaningful way.

  • In general, the goal of helping your children build better brains is achieved by bringing their classwork to life beyond the classroom walls. In that way home-work is not necessarily done in the home, nor is it considered work in any negative sense. Consider how surprise and novelty just described could light up your children's brains and illuminate the pathways to memory storage. Starting a study or homework session with an unanticipated demonstration, having something new/unusual in the study area, or going some place unexpected for the homework or review session will spark your children's attention and curiosity. It can be anything from playing a new song connected to the subject on the drive home to stopping at the museum, library, or used book store to browse through the subject area of a new unit of history or geography.

  • To take advantage of their heightened state of alertness following a novel experience, give your children opportunities to interact with the information connected to the surprise. The goal is for them to actively discover, interpret, analyze, process, practice, and/or discuss the material to go beyond the limited spoon-fed for rote memorization exposure they have to the information at school. You can help bring water to the dry sponges of their texts and worksheets so the information they study will move beyond short-term memory into the long-term relational memory centers of their brains.

  • Journals are Notebooks With Soul
  • Even though children may be required to keep notebooks (more often these are "rote" books) at school, your children can create and decorate historian journals, science detective casebooks, or ship captain's logs to add interest and depth to what they are studying at school. After a learning experience (at school, with you, from reading a school text or literature book) the information will be more emotionally significant and therefore form more permanent memory associations if it recorded in a personally meaningful way. You can ask your children's teachers if they can substitute these logs or journals for assigned notes. The idea is for them to log or journal the facts about new information they learned and include their personal responses, from poetry, sketches, Internet downloads, or pictures cut from magazines. This is much more fun, meaningful, and therefore memorable than regimented note taking. They can respond like a scientist, reporter, archeologist, detective, or historian and journal their notes to questions such as "What did I see/hear/smell? What did I learn? What surprised me? What do I want to know more about? What did this reminds me of?"
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  • New Ways to Use Available Material
  • When your children's units of study or homework are more passive, such as reading a section of a textbook, it makes the reading more active if you discuss the topic together. You can select some of the text's more thought-provoking end of the chapter questions, the more open-ended ones that prompt connections to things you know your children are interested in or things they have done, seen, places they've been, or people they know. You can use these questions as well as any pictures or timelines in the book to stimulate your children's personal connections to and promote curiosity and interest in the material they read.
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  • Visual Imagery
  • Suggest that your children visualize the information in a wildly exaggerated manner or visualize themselves in the action. They can visualize the historic event, scientific discovery, or literature book chapter with them in the scene playing a big role in the movie of their mind's eyes as the historical or scientific event occurs.

  • After giving imagination free rein, more of their brains can be engaged if they put their visualization into words, diagrams, or pictures. They can describe their images to you, write them in words, or draw sketches. Just as athletes may visualize a move before they execute it, children can be encouraged to visualize the biological process as it is explained in the textbook. When they draw diagrams, create models, and engage their sight, hearing, smell, touch or movement they are making connections between the new information and something they already know. They are engaging multiple brain pathways and increasing the likelihood of memory storage and effective retrieval.
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  • When memory and retention brain research-based strategies are applied to your children's learning, these strategies will not only drive the learning process, but also allow you to energize and enliven your children's minds. As the research continues to build, it will be up to education professionals to develop and utilize new strategies that bring the brain-based research to students. If the school system lags behind at this important task, more responsibility will fall to you as a parent to meet this fascinating and exciting challenge.







See previous musings for prior thoughts