Learning Basics

So, I’m glad you guys like the giggles. Charlie continues to be a joyful little boy–Walmart was hysterical, daddy is funny, life is good.

I’m back to answering questions, though. I just love talking about education and you guys asked some really good questions. My first post in this series is here if you missed it.

Today I’m going to finish answering Blogzilly‘s question, disappoint Elizabeth, and also answer Beth’s question.

Blogzilly wanted resources–what’s my go-to for working with my brain injured kid? Well, I swear by the Glenn Doman books–How to Teach Your Baby to Read, How to Teach Your Baby Math, and How to Give Your Baby Encylopedic Knowledge. Glenn Doman has worked extensively with brain injured children and I have met many, many parents who have used his programs to great success. For the record, neither Glenn Doman or Amazon give me any kind of kick back for those links–I’m just a big fan of the books.

I’m more laid back than Glenn, but his overall concepts are excellent because they rely on a couple of good basic educational concepts. These are repetition, enthusiasm, and multisensory presentation. Very simple stuff.

Repetition helps burn a concept into your brain–creates a firm, concrete neural pathway for that information. Ever notice how kids can watch the same boring video a million times? Or how they want you to read the same book over and over? Don’t tell them, but they’re learning.

Enthusiasm is kind of no-brainer. If you act excited about learning than your child will be excited about learning. If you make it seem like a trip to the dentist, than don’t expect them to to show a lot of interest in math or science.

Multi-sensory sounds scary, but all it means is “more than one sense.” Activating two senses at the same time helps burn that neural pathway all the better. Vision and hearing are the most common, but touch or smell could easily be incorporated as well. This probably best explains why you remember more when you take notes at a lecture–vision, hearing, and tactile senses are going.

Because I use the Doman method, we use big, giant flashcards–the size of a standard sheet of paper. I think this really helps with kids who have visual issues as well–it’s easier to focus on a HUGE word than on a tiny one. Kids without vision issues would probably do great with regular flashcards or simple books. I know one little boy who learned a ton of new words from the Baby Bumblebee video series (again, no kick-back).

Now, there are some people who are going to argue this method. They think that it’s inappropriate to show a child flashcards or they think that flashcards don’t teach you how to think. They are mostly right. No one should lock their kids in the house to look at flashcards all day. Play is a fabulous form of learning as is helping around the house and other normal kid activities. The amount of time I spend showing Charlie flashcards probably amounts to about a half an hour a day and it’s interspersed through-out the day. Also, we don’t do them every day and I never, ever drill him. I’m just giving him a chance to see the information.

What about people who say that flashcards don’t teach thinking? This is completely correct. Flashcards don’t teach thinking, but they do aid in thinking. Functional MRI’s have revealed that a person reads using two separate parts of the brain–one is a bank of known words, the other a processing area that reads the words phonetically. Better readers rely on the bank of words more often. In my opinion, flashcards help give your child a bank–a storehouse of readily available information. As a teacher I found it very difficult to teach something if my kids had no prior knowledge of the subject. It’s hard to draw a conclusion or think about something when it’s completely foreign to you. Flashcards or big books just give you a base of knowledge–the thinking will have to come from within.

So there you go. Long story short–show kids information often and be enthusiastic about it. If you’re not feelin’ the idea of flashcards then think of something that does work for you–watch a video with your child and repeat the interesting content in an excited voice, read a book together about farm animals, sing a particular song over and over. Learning really should be fun.

Beth wanted to know what we’re working on at my house. We recently finished up colors, shapes, and insects. We’re currently working on action words, musical instruments, sea creatures, and famous paintings. I accompany all my lessons with documentaries (which Charlie ignores), books, objects around the house, and anything else I can find.

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  1. Adding on, hoping Katy doesn't mind.

    Repetition – I'm a big fan, too. If words are part of the flash equation for your child – I've seen naming words taped to objects around the house and classroom. Makes sense to me.

    While current word use like 'burn' a la music onto a cd conveys the concept – I'm going throw-in 'strengthen'. Once a neural path is made, repetition 'strengthens' the path, makes the path more readily accessible, used with less work or requiring less to activate the path. Learning is organic or results in real physical changes in the brain of the child.

    Enthusiasm – I used judiciously. To get the child's attention and convey my feeling about the task (item, Grover). Faded when the child's interest is evident for a certain topic. Clapping for everything baby does – can be overdone to a disadvantage.

    Multisensory – definitely. Senses often left out are vestibular (feeling movement in terms of balance, felt in the head/inner ear) proprioceptive (joint position). The position the child is in during enthusiastically presented flashcards can be standing – weight bearing into the legs. Auditory stimuli (singing, language repetition) combined with swinging – is multisensory also.


  2. Melio (MelissaInk) says:

    Thanks for the book referrals. I am very tempted to get these for my little guy.

    I'm terrible at enthusiasm .. for anything. It's a personality defect.

  3. Melio–luckily, most children can't tell the difference between real and faked enthusiam. Fake it til ya make it has always been my motto.

    Barbara–Strengthen is a better word with regards to the research–you are completely correct. With regards to enthusiam–even if you're not brimming with excitement over everything, I think positivity is always the way to go.

  4. I couldn't help but think through reading all of these tips that a caring and determined parent is probably any child's most valuable learning tool–one who is willing to experiment, one who is dedicated, one who will not give up–and Charlie has most definitely got that.

  5. Awe, thanks Toni–you make me blush!

  6. Baylee and Blair's page says:

    Hey girl… thanks for the comment on my page. I honestly didn't think I had a creative side until I got my camera and took a photo class. I have always enjoyed taking pics and now have the tools to do it effectively!

    Kiss that sweet boy of yours for me!

    Hugs – Tiff

  7. Kathy - OKC says:

    I guess i will stick with my index cards for my 4 year old. I had them plastered to my 6 year olds walls in Kindergaten so he could learn his ABC's…..Maybe I should make him look at the names of stuff. :-) Thanks

  8. I wonder if flash cards would work for me with my co workers… 😉

  9. Your Therapy Source Inc says:

    Another comment regarding multisensory. Try observing your child's sensory preferences during free play or directed play – does he/she prefer visual, auditory, tactile or movement toys? Build on that preference to add in new play activities. If interested there is more info on this topic at my blog http://yourtherapysource.blogspot.com/2009/09/observing-and-guiding-childrens-play.html.

    Just found your blog after Dr. Boucher's (http://www.therextras.com) recommendation. Looking forward to following it.

  10. My cousin swears by the Your Baby Can Read prgms, too. Her child is neurotypical but she has just turned 2 and has a very lg vocab already. We have always used picture flashcards with Faith and had a good bit of success. We recently invested $22 in a 4in digital picture frame w/ internal memory for her. We can just snap a pic of a new thing and up it goes on her album and she LOVES it.

  11. Wow, Candace–that is such a great tip!

    Therapy Source–nice to meet you!

  12. Always (positive) for the behaviors we want to reinforce, agreed, Katy.

    Okay. I admit it. I clapped for the 7-month-old I just visited for therapy. But in my defense, it was a spontaneous expression of my joy at seeing her dump puffs from a nesting cup using supination. Admit it, you would have clapped, too.

    The baby looked surprised when I clapped. And I was reminded that I do not want the child to perform for my applause. When I realized that in my practice I toned-down my enthusiasm to 'nice job'. Mostly. I work more from trying to get the active movement than rewarding it – which might show a difference between teaching motor skills vs. cognitive skills. (But I DO believe in overlap of learning in more than one domain.)

    Enthusiasm lets the child know what you think is important. Some very young children (infants) can recognize fake enthusiasm.

    (I promise to try to restrain myself from long comments in the future. I acquired a nickname on another blog just for that trait. I'm not telling.)

  13. Ordered Baby Bumblebee DVD's today. Thanks for the reminder. I had them on my 'get' list.

    Do you have a schedule for Charlie? You know like 8am flashcards, 8:30am crawling, 9am mom screams takes a shower & drinks coffee, tweet, 15 minutes later…fine motor drills?

  14. Holly:
    I try to keep some kind of schedule going on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays are so nuts that I feel lucky if I accomplish anything other than making it to all our appointments. My schdule is less about activities, though, and more about rooms–we seem to do about forty-five minutes in one room and then forty-five in another with one to three minute flashcard drills thrown in any old time.

    In his room we have the radio so that room tends to be about stretching, crawling, climbing, and standing. In the den the TV is on so he usually seated in a chair with a tray or I'm giving him ABR therapy. Of course, I do let him set the tone and if he doesn't like where he's at, we change things. If he's seated I try to stick toys or food on his tray to encourage fine motor skills. And I am, by no means, by his side 24/7. I tend to believe that he's more likely to do things for himself if I'm not standing right there. I may be in the same general area, but I'll be folding laundry, washing dishes, or putting together a lesson. Or tweeting.

    Rotating through those rooms plus nap and therapy makes day go pretty quick.

    For the record, I did in fact have a time where my schedule would read "cut off ears" because there was a l-o-t of whining going on and sometimes that's a lot to take.

  15. The different room thing is a great idea. We tend to be working in the family room or in the car. It would be nice to spice things up. Good ideas. Thanks!