“The teacher pretended that algebra was a perfectly natural affair, to be taken for granted, whereas I didn’t even know what numbers were. Mathematics classes became sheer terror and torture to me. I was so intimidated by my non-comprehension that I did not dare to ask any questions.”
One of the greatest psychologists who ever lived,
recalls the trauma of his algebra lesson
Does your child resist sitting at a desk or table to do his homework?
At the mere mention of “homework,” does your kitchen table become Ground Zero as pencils, worksheets, and books are thrown on the floor and tears flow, doors slam, and tempers rise? Are we having FUN yet?
Learning is the act of getting new information into the brain.
Sitting to learn is a relatively new concept in human history. And a growing number of psychologists believe that the decline in ACTIVE learning diminishes modern kids’ ability to attend, learn, and remember. In fact, research now demonstrates that the optimum learning state is PLAY.
When the human brain enjoys an activity, hormones are released in the brain that improve
- JOY of learning
Since the dawn of time, the young brain longs to play with things, to discover how the world works, and how their body works within the world. Playing with water, sand, dirt, and mud, building with blocks and cardboard boxes, discovering words, bouncing balls, and how it feels when you swing so high or slide so fast, all such PLAY-BASED activities stimulate brain growth and just as importantly, your child’s love of learning.
PLAY builds your child’s imagination and curiosity, the foundation of intelligence. And, within your child’s biology…..yes, biology…… again, since the dawn of time, the human survival instinct yearns to play with you, the parent, as family play assures your child that he is safe, protected, and valued by the people who mean the most to him or her.
So, if your current “drill & kill” approach results in homework meltdown, perhaps the following PLAY-BASED, family-friendly homework strategies will help.
In other words, when children play, learning happens
HAPPY HOMEWORK KEY: Movement, Music, and Play
- Soft Background/Classical
- Child’s preferred music
- Educational-Musical CDs
- Board Games
- Nature Discovery
- Pretend Play
- “Hands On” Games
- Role-Play Games
Trust your child to let you know what works and doesn’t work for them. If they are engaged in a task, learning is happening. If they are resisting, try another strategy.
Click here to understand more about your child’s: Preferred Learning Style.
Stand UP Learning
For many students, sitting down turns the brain off. If this is typical of your child, just the simple act of standing up turns the brain on.
Example: For spelling, phonics, math, and short answer questions, let your child stand, walk, or march as she write answers with a felt-tip marker on a small white board, write with chalk on outdoor surfaces, or finger-write in the air, in shaving cream, in bath bubbles. Answers can then be transferred onto the homework sheet.
After a full day of school, the last thing kids want to do is more school work. So, sending them off to their rooms with a “Don’t come out until your homework’s done” is probably not going to be successful. You might as well tell them to go climb Mt. Everest and don’t come back until they have.
“Chunking” breaks down their homework into short timed increments, kind of like baby steps, with “brain breaks” in between.
Example: “If you do the next five problems correctly in five minutes, you can take a 2 minute break.”
Optional: Increase the “fun” aspect with a stop watch and time chart.
Example: Using the white board and markers, have your child complete one math problem, spelling word, or short answer in, for instance, 60 seconds. If correct, ask your child to try to solve his next answer in 58 seconds, etc. After each correct answer, your child marks his time chart, and then transfers his answer to his work sheet. This simple exercise can transform the boredom of homework into the Olympic Games!
For many children, writing spelling words ad nauseum on paper often proves tedious and boring. In other words, ineffective for learning.
Try the Stand UP Learning approach, having your child stand up to write spelling words on a small white board.
Here are some other ideas:
As you bounce, roll, or toss a ball, Frisbee or beanbag towards your child, say a spelling word. Each time your child catches or returns the ball, he says the next letter.
At bedtime, write a spelling word on your child’s back, one letter at a time. After each letter, have the child identify the letter, then say the sound of that letter. After correctly identifying the final letter, he says the spelling word.
Hopscotch/ Jump-Rope Spelling:
With each hop or jump, your child says the next letter in their spelling word.
Have your child finger-write spelling words in shaving cream, on sand-paper, on their arm, or in the air. Also, have them spell by arranging words using magnetic or foam letters.
Create a rhythmic clapping pattern to improve spelling and phonetic concepts.
Example: As child spells word out loud, he claps once on a letter, but twice on the “silent E,” or “ing” endings.
Card & Board Games:
Reading is KEY to your child’s education. However, for years parents and educators have assumed that children who struggle to read are seeing what we think they are seeing. We have assumed that 20/20 visual acuity means that there are no vision problems. Such children are often called “lazy,” “day dreamers,” or “stupid.” The majority of the time, these children are actually working harder than their classmates. Why? Because vision requires several vision skills that rely on eye movement control, including “convergence” – the ability for the eyes to focus on the same letter or word on the page so that the brain receives one picture from two eyes. 80% of children with reading difficulties have “convergence insufficiency.”
If your child resists near work, such as reading and writing, have his acuity AND vision skills assessed by an eye doctor qualified to assess the full range of developmental vision skills. Click here to link to more on this topic.
For your child with reading difficulties, provide books that have larger font and “white space” around the words so that reading is at a level where you child does not struggle over decoding each word, allowing the brain to practice fluency, ie. the ease of reading.
Building language arts skills is fundamental for students to succeed and develop their lifelong love for learning. Speaking, reading, writing, and understanding language use numerous areas of the brain involved with hearing, motor control, grammar, word meanings, logic, sequencing – both letters and thoughts, self-regulation, and social awareness.
Examples of play-based skill building activities:
Primary skill level / Simple 3 to 5 word sentences:
- With your child, act out what is happening in the sentence.
- Have your child draw a picture of what is happening in the sentence.
- Arrange small toys to “act out” what is happening in the sentence.
- Cut pictures from magazines that match what is happening in the sentence.
Secondary skill level:
- Have your child cut words from magazines, and then put them into the correct order.
- Have your child and a partner write ten each of various nouns, verbs, prepositions, adjectives, adverbs as single words on index cards. Then, write single punctuation marks on ten additional cards. Have players decide how many words their sentence needs to win the game. Have each child alternate picking cards to form a complete sentence with correct punctuation. Note: This game can be modified for differing skill levels.
- Password – player reads a secret word, then gives their partner hints – single word clues –to help them to guess the secret word.
There is a wide variety of language arts board and card games, and language / phonics related learning CD’s available at educational stores and online.
Board games include Spelling All Stars, Word Pond, Grammar Mania, and Language Launch.
Parent Award Winning Educational CD’s include One Little Sound, Two Little Sounds by Hap Palmer.
NOTE: If your child struggles in any of these areas beyond normal developmental stages, seek out professionals who can assess and prescribe for specific skill deficits.
- As you bounce, roll, or toss a ball, Frisbee or beanbag, ask your child a math question, such as 2 + 5, or 7 x 8. As your child returns the ball, he says his answer.
- Use real life objects for counting, sorting, fractions, and addition and subtraction concepts. Example: small cars, plastic animals, buttons, beans, coins, crayons.
- Play dice and domino games that require such skills as counting, numeric and pattern recognition, and geometry.
- Cooking teaches:
- Board games can get the whole family or a group of friends involved in learning, and are available in every academic subject. Board games also improve executive functioning and socialization skills.
- Math – counting, sorting
- Focus / attention
Executive Function Activities
~ improve imagination, socialization, sequencing, logical thinking because they require your child to stop, think, predict, and imagine before acting:
When watching a video or reading a story, stop the action and ask your child:
- “What do you think might happen next?”
- “What do you think (name a character in the story) is feeling, or thinking, or planning to do now?”
- “How do you want to see this story end?”
Family time questions:
- “What is your favorite game?”
- “What is it about that game that you like?”
- “Who is your best friend? What does that friend do that you chose them?”
- “Why do we have ______
Examples: schools, firemen, hospitals, mayors, parents, families?
Act out REVERSED Social Roles ~ The “How does it feel to be _____ game:
Example: Trade places with your child as he plays you, and you play him in a scenario around family issues.
Options: child plays “teacher,” and parent plays “child” in the classroom.
Empower your child with parent-designated choices:
- “Here are three shirts to choose from. Which one do you want to wear today?”
- “Do you want to take your shower before or after you watch your TV show?”
- “For doing your chores this week, here are three activities we can do together this weekend. Which one would you like to do?”
To improve Concentration:
- Count backwards
- Spell a word backwards
- Find “Waldo”
- Play “Simon Says” – self-control, memory, coordination
- Play “Pick UP Sticks”
Plant a family or community garden. Planning, purchasing, and planting a garden teaches
- Math skills – measurement, budgeting, organization
- Patience – while waiting for those carrot seeds to grow into real carrots!
- Responsibility – watering, fertilizing, protecting the up and coming crop!
- Appreciation for the miracle of nature
PICTURE MEMORY SEQUENCING MATCH GAMES:
Do not train children to learn by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the GENIUS of each.