The “Waiting Room” of the Mind

the waiting room of the mind

QUESTION: A mom in our homeschool group ordered one of the spelling books and commented that it seemed very simple, especially with some pages being just coloring. I remember that Sarah said something about the purpose of the coloring pages in the book… like downtime for the brain to process what it has learned. Does anybody know what I’m referring to?

ANSWER: When you learn something new, the brain stores it in “the waiting room” before sending it into long term memory. The brain needs to take time to process new things and store them properly so the new things can be retrieved in the future. If you move from one activity to the next, and don’t have downtime to process and reflect on new information, the waiting room gets really crowded and the brain starts to dump many of the new things into the trash, to make room for more information in the waiting room.

The waiting room does not have a lot of storage space, so the brain needs to process the information, and make room for more. Some things take just as long to process as they take to learn.

In the old days people used to learn a little and then do necessary work just to keep life on track. A lot of that work is thoughtless, like washing dishes and pulling weeds. You don’t need to “think” to pull weeds, so the brain takes that time to deal with all the new things in the “waiting room”.

There are a few things we need to do to learn AND REMEMBER new information:

1. We need to be introduced to new information.

2. We need to be curious about it.

3. We need to engage in it, and research it.

4. We need to use the new information.

5. We need to SHARE and talk about the new information.

6. We need to reflect on and ponder new information.

7. We need to get creative with the new information.

8. We need to attach emotions, experiences, stories and memories to the information. (click here to continue reading)

How Your Child Thinks: The Inventors (Part 3)

visual thinkers inventors creators

The visual thinkers of the world were created to be the designers, inventors, the artists, the musicians, the sailors and explorers. We say they have a problem with obedience and respect or we call it Dyslexia, Asperger’s Syndrome or ADHD. We try to tame them. Honestly, we have failed them . If a child is failing in his classroom, it is the classroom that failed the child. The child is not the one with a problem just because he learns differently.

The child must be set free to be the inventor, the artist, the dancer. So who will teach the inventor? Who will train the artist? The child must become his own teacher, and his parents and teachers must become his students, to learn from him, to understand him, to realize that he has within him the power to become great. We need to discover how to help him become who he was meant to be. We must accept that it may never happen in a desk, in a classroom and behind a pile of textbooks, even if you give the child medication and take away his crayons. Do you want to be the one to take away Albert’s compass, Benjamin’s kite, or Leonardo’s paintbrush or little Thomas Edison’s mirrors?

What is the solution for the child who fails in the classroom? Set him free from the classroom. Ask the child what he wants to learn about. Ask the child what he wants to do. Take the child to the book store, take the child to the art store, take the child to the beach, the forest, the ruins of a castle. Give him pets and let him catch lizards. Read to him until he learns to read to himself. Search for learning materials that captivate the visual mind–things like compasses, clay, mirrors, and paintbrushes. Let him sail, play instruments, and dig in the dirt. Let him take things apart and give him colored pencils. Let him watch people at work doing all different things in the world, take him to the kitchen, take him to an art studio, take him into factories and show him how to use sewing machines, instruments, scroll-saws, and tools. Let her dance. (to continue reading click here)

How Your Child Thinks: Visual Thinkers (Part 2)

children who are visual or creative thinkers

My child has a totally different way of seeing the world! He thinks in 3D Pictures.

Stop for a moment and look up from your computer. All around you are things that were designed by someone. Even the webpage in front of you was designed. Your computer was designed. The room you are sitting in, and the clothing you are wearing? Everything was designed, and chances are they were designed by a person with the gift of being able to think visually.

Some people are able to imagine something in their minds that has not yet been created. They are able to envision a better way of doing things. They are able to envision an object and change the size, shape and color using the power of the 3D workstation called the imagination. The people who designed the objects all around you were often called bad students, day-dreamers and doodlers. They are the visual thinkers.

Creativity journal for artists, songwriters, poets, writers, dreamers, thinkers

What if your child is a visual thinker? Only 10% of the population has the power to think visually, rather than to think with words. The people with the most powerful of visual minds often have an imbalance when it comes to standardized learning situations. The visual mind swirls with colors, ideas, music, art, and creativity and drives the visual thinker into a state of constant creativity and movement. Standardized systems of learning try to conform the child and make efforts to normalize him through medication, punishment, and control so he will not be a disruption in the classroom.

The visual thinker learns differently, and if you ask me, I would tell you that they can not be taught, they must discover. They struggle with the lifelessness of flat pages, the discomfort of the desk, the buzz of the fluorescent lights, the dullness of flat words on a page, and concepts void of emotion, dimension and wonder. They will ponder the mysteries of measurement and time, but their minds go blank when sitting at a desk staring at repetitive lists of math facts. They create works of art and new inventions from items rescued from the trash can, but can’t hold a pencil correctly when asked to write down their spelling words. They can tell the most amazing stories and their words will take you to far off lands and fill the air with magic and mystery, but if asked to put a sentence on paper, they might just cry. They are brilliant, they are amazing, they are curious and brave… until they are forced to conform to a way of learning designed for children who have no dancing, no questions, no music and no colors in their minds.

The majority of students will be content to follow the instructions, fill in the blanks, and make their lists on paper, but the visual thinker was not created for desks, for charts, for lists, for textbooks, for flash cards, for teachers, or for chalkboards… they would dance on the desk, and challenge the teacher. They would add color to the chart, they would roll up the chart to make a telescope or a musical instrument, they would stack the text books and build houses for invisible people, they would turn the flashcards in to a magic trick and turn the chalkboard into a work of art that belongs in a museum. They are constantly in search of the third dimension, the music and the movement.

Find Part 1 of this series here: How Your Child Thinks (Part 1). Continue to How Your Child Thinks: Inventors (Part 3)

“Failing” at 8 Years Old

You have no idea how many people talk to me about how worried they are about their 8-year-old.

Eight-year-olds are the most harshly-judged kids in the entire world because there is such a vast diversity of ability among them. For some, their brains turned on early and their academic skills are great. These kids can read, and write, and win a spelling bee. And then you have the 8-year-old who still can’t read the word “dad”. That was my daughter Anna. We all think we want the super smart kind of 8-year-old who is good at spelling, and most of them are not. Especially the boys. And a lot of the girls are not even ready yet to begin reading two-syllable words. So if you have an 8-year-old who is reading two-syllable words, that’s amazing. It’s actually kind of rare to have a child that age who is naturally really good at that. They have to learn to spell and understand 45,000 different words on their way to adulthood, so don’t expect that child to be able to spell much more than words like farm, dog, cat, pig, and house.

Give grace to your 8-year-olds and let them play games, color, draw, watch educational videos and listen to audio books, and don’t limit them by their abilities, disabilities, or challenges. Just let them be 8 years old. If you let them be that, they are never going to lose their curiosity and wonder and personality and humor and energy and joy. We ruin our 8-year-olds by making them feel like failures. No child that age needs to be considered a failure that young in life, so quit. I was a “failure”…I failed third grade. Do you know how embarrassing, humiliating and heartbreaking it is to fail third grade? Little kids don’t fail. We fail them by having expectations that are completely unreasonable for the individual child.

We worry that our kids’ struggles and mistakes and lack of abilities are going to destroy them for their whole lives. I just want to tell you that failing third grade was part of my story. It was a really important part of my story that I needed to struggle through. I needed that pain and difficulty in my life, because it was a very important part of what made me who I am today. If my education in public school had been easy, and people had respected me as being an intelligent and creative child, and if I had been able to understand the materials and everything and hadn’t failed, I would have no motivation to be helping all of you and creating curriculum for struggling learners.

It’s from my experience as a struggling learner, as a child who was hurt by the system, that I give you Fun-Schooling. I give you Fun-Schooling because as a little child I had a dream of what it would be like if it was always summer vacation. My mom and dad did summer vacation like nobody else. We had the best summers. We would travel all over the country. We had a giant map in our RV on the table. We were always doing geography, following the map, and figuring out where we were going. We did business. We went to art shows. We made art. They let me make art and sell it. I used money. We had a cabinet full of board games—Monopoly and Clue and Mad Libs. It was like the grandest unschooling adventure ever. My mom would read the Chronicles of Narnia books to us and all kinds of other amazing books. We were Fun-Schooling. That was my dream—that education could always be like that.

Fun-Schooling is the dream of a child that was failed. I saw my kids really struggling with trying to do Classical education because I was feeling pressured to do a really structured kind of thing. I’ve seen that the more freedom and tools I give my kids, the more skills I encourage, the more hobbies that they have–the more they become real learners.

Sarah’s Mom Tips: Strategies for Different Learning Styles

Recently a mom asked this question:

How should I handle a child who doesn’t put forth much effort on the Fun-Schooling pages?

The truth is, he was just hacking his homeschooling and doing the minimum, which is what kids do when they want to move on to doing something they feel is more important. The problem is that kids all have a different learning style. We make Fun-Schooling journals for all the different styles. Let’s start off by talking about these, and what I call the Five Learning Languages.

There are some kids who are Creators. The kids who are Creators learn everything for one purpose: to create something. All their education has to revolve around creativity. That’s what they are motivated by. These kids will not do normal workbooks. They need things that are open-ended, that revolve around their passions and interests.

Then you have the kids who are Detectives, who get really deep into the one thing they are passionate about. They love research and are not interested in anything that you want to teach them. They are only interested in what they want to learn. They are very difficult to give a standard education to because they aren’t going to remember anything or make any effort to retain anything that doesn’t revolve around their interests.

Then we have the kids who are Explorers. These kids will not sit still. They can’t. They want to be going from place to place. They can give maybe 5-15 minutes of focused attention to some sort of lesson, or activity and then they need to switch. They won’t sit at a desk, doing workbooks, textbooks, or even online school that makes them sit for very long. I developed a lot of materials for this kind of kid. We call them the “active kids”.

Then, the next kind of learner is the Friend Learner. These are kids who are motivated to learn through social experiences. They do not want to sit by themselves and do anything. They want to be with somebody collaborating, bonding, talking, or doing a project or reading with someone. If you ask this kind of kid to do something alone, they are going to get bored and distracted and wander off to find somebody to play with. Sometimes pets help.

Finally, we have the classic students, the little scholars, and we call them the Followers because these kids just want to please the teacher, the boss, the authority, the leader, the parent. They will do everything you ask them to do really well, step by step. They don’t put their heart into it for the sake of learning, but more for the sake of making somebody proud. They really like grades and scores and tests and multiple choice and ways to just prove that they are good at something and worthy. They are really good at “in the box” type of schooling, but a lot of times they don’t tap into their own creativity and curiosity. (click Page 2 to continue reading)

Work or Play? Why not BOTH?

Whenever my kids are playing hard and having the BIGGEST fun doing whatever kids do, when no one is telling them what to do I always ask them, “What are you working on?”  I use the word “WORKING”.  I call their activity a PROJECT.   They never say “Nothing, I’m just playing.”  No, they go into a detailed description of something amazing, that starts with: “I’m trying to build a… I’m figuring out how to… I am making a…  I’m taking this thing apart… I’m putting together a new!”

When they are playing they are often doing work that is very meaningful and important in their eyes.  I have a daughter who was always very, very busy, I was always trying to pull her away from her “play” as if it were a waste of time, because I didn’t yet see the value of play. After all, she was 9 and should be doing things that look like school. She knew how to read and write, and she was always in her own world.

One day it was raining outside and she was looking out the window.  She had been there for a long time. She was supposed to be in the school room with her science book.  I was about to tell her to stop sitting around and get back to work.  Then I noticed she had a notebook with all these strange little marks, pictures, checks and numbers.  So I asked, “What are you doing?”

“Oh, I was just charting the storm, timing the lighting and the thunder and measuring sound and distance.  I’ve been charting the weather for about a month.”

I started unschooling that child on that day, and at that point I began to ask my kids what they are working on when they seem to be playing or busy.  They always amaze me with their answers.I couldn’t find anything in the 3rd grade school books that could have been more educational and meaningful than the research our daughter had been doing on her own. I just began to ask more often what she was working on and then I began doing everything I could to support those interests. She is the one who recently gave me the ideas for the 10- and 12-Subject Portfolios! I think it is funny that my unschooled child would be the one to want to design such a structured subject-by-subject learning plan for herself!

She has learned so much about so many subjects over the years and now she wants to put all her knowledge together in a Portfolio that is well organized. 

All of my children need differing amounts of structure, motivation, instruction, teaching, guidance, assignments, evaluation, and follow-up with their learning.  They are all unique.  My dyslexics need a lot of my help and investment when it comes to learning to read, write, and spell.  Dyslexia Games makes it easy, now that it exists. (continue reading by clicking Page 2 below)

Discover Your Child’s Secret Learning Language with Legos!

Your child doesn’t learn like other kids. He has to be on the go. She is always creating something new. He just wants to play… ALL THE TIME. She’s not interested in textbooks, but she likes computers. He is in his own world. She loves field trips and hates sitting still. She can’t stop talking. He daydreams. She doodles. She is perfect. He is perfect. They just have a different way of learning.

You may feel like your child is failing in school, when in reality he or she can’t learn well in the traditional educational environment! Some kids have to learn through creating, exploring, asking questions and by investigating. They can’t just sit still and learn quietly in a desk, in a classroom, or with a teacher! You may not know how to discover your child’s optimal learning environment. You may not understand your child’s learning style, but figuring out how your child learns is easier than you think! Just watch him or her PLAY! By watching your child plays with Legos you can discover a lot about your child’s learning style and learning language!

I’ve found that most kids have a dominant learning language. There are five types of learners. You can understand what your child’s learning language is by the way he or she plays with, cares for, and uses his or her Legos.

The FIVE Learning Languages (or Personalities) include: Followers, Friends, Explorers, Detectives and Creators

You can’t really learn about your child’s learning language by the way they approach school work, because most schoolwork is geared toward one type of learner, the Follower. I have found that Legos give kids freedom to be who they were meant to be, so you should be able to really see their true colors shine when they play with them, sort them, collect them and build with them.

Typical education methods usually push kids into a mold that wants to make them into a Follower. Many kids fight with these learning methods because they can’t understand or enjoy such a style of learning. Once you understand how your child naturally relates to learning, you can give them the right tools, the right education, and the most efficient help.

I will explain each of the learning languages that I have observed in homeschooled children, because I have ten children of my own, and have worked with thousands of homeschoolers who are gifted or have learning challenges over the past 10 years. If your child is in school, or your homeschooling methods have been used to make the child into a Follower, you may need to remember what they were like when they were 3 to 5 years old. It’s not a bad thing to be a Follower, if you are a Follower in your heart. Followers actually enjoy school, but if your child resists normal schoolwork, he might speak one of the other 4 learning languages.

I call it a learning language, because we often only understand our own language, or the one we grew up with. We are all parenting unique children with unique needs, and we need to seek to understand how each child learns best. Once we learn their language we can change the way we teach them and we will be able to see and appreciate their amazing abilities. (Click Page 2 below to continue reading)