“I just don’t get this!” is a cry for help from a student of any age. Here is the first thing about the learning process – if you don’t get it you won’t remember it and you won’t learn it. A student must understand a concept, in their own words, to be able to learn it.
So, the first step to learning something effectively is to understand it and if you don’t understand it then ask your teacher or instructor to explain it another way. You will not be the only person not understanding and it is your teacher’s job to see that you do understand.
Once you think you understand it then write it out in your own words, this will help to put it into short term memory. This is where most students stop and then wonder why they can’t remember material. Short term is good for a few minutes, hours or days, after that it is gone. You must take the next step to move it into long term memory.
Recitation (saying something repeatedly) has been proved to be the most effective way of placing information into long term memory. And by long term I am talking about a lifetime. Reading something quietly repeatedly to yourself or writing it down several times is not as effective as reading the material, in your own words, repeatedly ALOUD.
“A man who limits his interest limits his life.” – Vincent Price
We all want our children to do well in school and in life, but how do you ignite that spark that fuels a need for knowledge. How does your child develop an interest in the world around them?
For starters, let’s look at your environment. After all, we shouldn’t put the responsibility for learning and growth upon the school system alone. Children’s exposure to teachers and schools is small compared to their exposure to parents and home life. So, let’s take stock of the most influential environment upon your child’s growth – you and your home.
Talk with your child, not at your child
Talking with your child encourages conversation and participation while talking at your child is more about giving instruction: “Don’t do that”, “Sit and be quiet”, “Go outside and play”. Which type of parent are you? Is most of your communication one directional, or do you urge a more open form of communication? Do you talk with your child about the things you are interested in, such as books, movies, and gardening?
Talk with your child about your interests
Your growth and learning don’t stop when you become an adult. Your child is likely to become the adult you are because you are the major role model in their life. Your continued growth doesn’t have to be purely academic. Your interests, hobbies and activities continue to develop you as a person. As an adult, have you continued to grow, or do you come home at night and sit in front of the computer surfing YouTube or watching television?
Involve your child with books
Look around your house and count the books on your bookcase. What? You don’t have a bookcase. Reading is still the best source of gaining knowledge. It is a sad fact that today many households don’t have a library. Their interests and knowledge are not on display. I enjoy visiting people and scanning the titles on their shelves as it immediately lets me see the interests of the people who live there and gives a basis for conversation. Many people will have a display case for their sports trophies and I consider bookcases as display cases for your knowledge. Now, before you go thinking I am some sort of nerd, as well has having several hundred books, our household also has a movie library with several hundred movies. Display your interests and talk about your interests.
Do things and show your child how you do things
Involve your child in your interests, within reason. If your hobby is your garden, then have them help with the weeding. If you love live theatre, then take them to some live shows to expose them to the experience. Just keep the experience relative to their developmental level. Let your children see you reading at night instead of squatting in front of the television. Being entertained by books offers a different intellectual experience to being entertained by X-Box. If you are an X-Box kind of dad, you may just have to try a little harder. Try playing board games that offer challenges and choices while playing to help with the thinking process. Become involved with your children in thinking games and not just reaction games.
Become your child’s best teacher
From the day they are born your number one priority is to protect then and to prepare them. The adult they become is the result of your influence as much as that of the school system they fall into. Sometimes being a good parent requires learning new skills, but that is alright as learning new skills is part of life’s processes. No-one is born knowing how to parent. We learn some of it from our parents through their role modelling and we learn some from interacting with people as we grow up. Though, having said that nothing will prepare you for being a parent, you just learn as you go along. But you do have to learn.
Don’t overload your child
You don’t have to expose your child to everything at one time. There is no need to fill every waking moment with experiences and knowledge. You should allow down time, so they may process what has been experienced, what has been learnt and to rest and recover. Being a child takes a lot of energy and there is a need to re-charge their batteries from time to time. Build quiet times into their day when it is alright to sit and do nothing. Remember, a tired child will struggle at school.
Be positive about their school experience
“It’s alright mate, you have to go and there is nothing we can do about it.” doesn’t send a positive message about going to school. The school years are such a wonderful time of our lives and must be reinforced as such. Don’t bring the woes of being an adult, or the problems you are experiencing upon your child’s fun years. You can use their experience to bring some release from the pressures of your life. Encourage them to become involved with school activities and then be supportive and join in with them at these events. One of my most vivid memories is when my father and his friends turned out to watch me at my school rugby league game. I played many games but that one I remember. Don’t underestimate the importance of being part of their school experience.
“We will all be role models in our children’s lives. We don’t have that choice. The choice we do have is whether we are a positive role model or a negative role model. That is our choice.” – Peter Kenyon
Are there things you can do to help your prodigy to become a person who thirsts for knowledge?
Maryanne Wolf in her book, “Proust and the Squid’ addresses this question.
“The more children are spoken to, the more they will understand oral language. The more children are read to the more they understand all the language around them, and the more developed their vocabulary becomes.”
“… many efforts to teach a child to read before four or five years of age are biologically precipitate and potentially counterproductive for many children.”
The reason for this is the myelin sheath (fatty coating around nerves to help electrical information to flow) in the angular gyrus (that part of the brain related to language, number processing, spatial cognition, memory and attention) is not sufficiently developed until five to seven years of age. It develops in all children at different rates and in girls faster than boys.
Sometimes your five-year-old is just not ready for school and your young lad may not be ready until seven years of age. By that time, they are in year two or three and maybe well behind at school. It is not that they can’t learn, it is just their brain was not ready for them to learn. They can catch up, but by this time they may need some assistance.