So learning all this stuff about neuroscience, cognitive science, and functional brain theory is fun, right? But the thing is, it is only useful if we can see how all this knowledge should be affecting our daily lives. With that in mind, I am dedicating my weekly blog posts in November to addressing some of the nitty-gritty day-to-day of how to implement this knowledge of how the brain learns and what the brain needs into our daily lives.
These posts may not be full of shiny, new, innovative ideas. After all, humans have innate instinctual wisdom about what we need, at least, when we are quiet enough to listen to those instincts. What I hope to give you are practical simple tips, an overall vision of what it looks like to take care of your kid’s brains, and some encouragement that it is not hard, and you are probably already doing more good things for them than you are aware of.
I hope to simplify your vision of what your homeschool looks like on a daily basis. Focusing on the brain lends incredible power because it gives us clarity and confidence. The confidence that we know what our kid’s brains need and that we are checking all those boxes on a daily basis. The clarity that this matters more than which curriculum we choose this year, or whether or not we manage to work all the way through it.
This week we explore how to avoid boring eduction in our homeschools.
Boring Education Hurts Children
(Reread the link above if you don’t know why boring education is bad.)
The post I linked to above covers the science of why kids can’t learn when they are bored. What does this mean in your daily life? It means you ditch boring curriculum, or you figure out how to get your kids excited about learning the subject. It doesn’t mean you can’t drill, but it does mean drilling needs to be interesting in some way. Your child has to want the knowledge or it isn’t going to stick.
- You can add interest by asking questions and not giving your kids the answers. Let their curiosity fester and grow.
- Find Great video’s to awaken curiosity.
- Go where the child leads you, at least some of the time and in some subjects. This is especially important in content subjects. Skill subjects may need to be studied in a certain order, but content subjects do not. Your child will learn and retain much more if they are learning something they want to learn. So sometimes, instead of trying to manipulate them into wanting to learn something, just ask what they want to learn, and study that. For more about content subjects vs. skills read, You Don’t Have to Teach Everything to Have Smart, Competent Kids.
- Realize that skills repetition does not need to take long. It demands frequent repetition but cramming in long periods of skills practice is not going to help unless your child wants to do it. If they are cringing and staring out the window, that extra-practice you are trying to squeeze out of them is not going up into higher part of the brain where you want it. Whatever skill they are working towards, do it for 10 minutes a day, and then move on.
- Perfect practice makes perfect. Kids brains and fingers get tired fast. The longer you make them practice something like handwriting, the lower the quality you are going to see at the end of the lesson. You need to stop before the quality of their practice degrades. This takes attention from you, and acceptance of your child’s limitations. This will vary dramatically from child to child and change as they grow. This is why teaching is an art. It is your job as the artist to be in tune with your child and know what they can do and demand that they do it well, without asking them to do more than they can. This will help them learn what they are capable of. Seeing that when you push, they do more than they thought possible will increase their confidence. But it doesn’t work if we demand more than they can deliver.
- Dive deep, shallow learning is boring. The repetition set up by standardized learning is boring. It is boring to learn about the same historical people over and over again every year. What is interesting is to learn a lot about a historical figure once, and then to move onto another person. What is interesting is to learn all the details about an animal they love. What is boring is to learn the same biology vocab as last year, except with three new words added to it.
- Start where they are. Kids are so curious about the world around them. We should start right where they are, with what they know, and gradually ask questions and stir the pot of their curiosity so that it bubbles up and overflows in all directions. Often our teaching is based on what grown-ups in a boardroom (or should we call it a boredroom?) have decided is important for kids that age to know. Sometimes adults have more wisdom than kids. But sometimes we are just trying to be puppet masters. Kids need to learn about the world around them. This requires things that interest them. Rock collections. Fairy tales (these teach many moral and social lessons). They need to know that yesterday was history before they can understand what labeling something as history means and that history is different than fairy tales.
One of my favorite things about how the brain works is that when you shift your teaching methods/styles/or curriculum to fit with one aspect of how the brain learns, you usually fix other problems. The techniques above will all help with Turning On the Attention Switch, another important daily practice.
Subscribe to my monthly newsletter to make sure you don’t miss the tips coming up in November. I will be diving into exactly why we need to get kids moving more, what foods we need to add to our diet, and how love nurtures the brain.