As we approach the middle of the traditional academic school year, let’s take a moment and review some important concepts about learning. Make time to pause and reflect on your homeschool endeavors so far, and take a winter break to recuperate and prepare for the next semester.
As a speech-language pathologist, I worked with students who struggled with academics. In my experience, this was the time of year that many students typically began to “hit a wall” or plateau. I frequently reminded students and parents that learning takes place over time, through repeated exposure/reinforcement and across modalities to become permanent!
1.) Make sure that your teaching covers all the modalities that information enters the brain. I often tell my students that they need to “See…Say…Hear…Think…and/or Touch” the same thing at the same time to help their brain learn or remember concepts/facts. For example, when practicing spelling words, encourage your student to write the target word in the air (or trace it with their finger), then spell it out loud (so they hear themselves), and finally write the word on paper. The more senses you stimulate during learning will help reinforce the neural pathway that the brain is laying. I believe that experiential learning should be an important part of any curriculum. Don’t just read about something, get out there and do it, if possible! Make learning active, rather than passive.
2.) “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” – Ignacio Estrada. We each have our own learning strengths and styles. Are you teaching to your strength/style or your students'? Read more about this in Paul Suarez’s book, Homeschooling Methods: Seasoned Advice on Learning Styles. For younger students, check out The Complete Daily curriculum for Early Childhood: Over 1,200 Easy Activities to Support Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles by Pamela Byrne Schiller.
3.) It can take up to nine times of exposure through practice and repetition for concepts to be stored permanently in memory. Also, it typically takes 21 days to break a bad habit. (So, nip those problem behaviors in the bud as soon as possible!)
4.) There are stages to learning…just like with swimming lesson classes. When your child gets frustrated, discuss with them that they are on their way to becoming an expert. It takes several steps to get there. Remind them how persistent they were as a toddler learning to walk…they repeatedly got up after they fell and tried again. If discouragement and frustration have set in, take a moment to remind your child what they have accomplished so far.
For any subject or skill, ask your child what level they currently consider themselves to be at:
- Novice - I am just starting to learn this, and I don’t really understand it yet.
- Apprentice - I’m starting to get it, but I still need someone to coach me through it.
- Practitioner - I can mostly do it by myself, but I sometimes mess up or get stuck.
- Expert - I understand it well, and I could thoroughly teach it to someone else. I can also demonstrate mastery even after prolonged delay. I know it so well that I will remember it next year without prompting.
5.) Has your child reached a ceiling in their learning? This means that they cannot understand/comprehend a concept, no matter what you do to explain it. You may have reached the limit of their cognitive ability at this time. It may be best to temporarily shelf that difficult concept (for a few weeks or months) and return to it again when there has been some maturation and development. In the meantime, go back to reinforce and review foundational concepts needed to move on to the next level. You will often find they are ready when you return to that difficult material later.
6.) I like to use MCPL’s Research Databases to reinforce learning. My favorite resources this year have been BookFlix and TrueFlix. Did you know that Mid-Continent Public Library offers hundreds of FREE computer based learning resources, programs, and courses from preschool through retirement? Ask your local librarian for a copy of their Research Databases catalog and get out your library card! If you are searching for a specific resource, subject, or age appropriate course…ask Amy Fisher! She is MCPL’s Information and Reader Services Manager at the Administrative Headquarters. The MCPL Research Databases offer fantastic resources to reinforce skills during a busy holiday season or when traveling. Many of the programs are also available through a mobile app on iOS and/or Android.
7.) Finally, make sure to teach your children the importance of learning from mistakes.
- “A mistake is a crash-course in learning.” ~ Billy Anderson
- “Mistakes are proof that you are trying.” ~ Author Unknown
- “You have only failed if you have given up, until then it is learning.” ~ Author Unknown