Teaching and Learning

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Posted by: | Posted on: November 28, 2013

Thursday’s Teaching Tip: Stop while they are having fun

A normal attention span is 2 to 5 minutes per year of a child’s age. This is the standard used to determine Attention Deficit Disorder. (Note: A child’s attention span while watching TV or playing video games is not an accurate measure of his or her attention span, as these systems have reward based mechanisms that keep a child going and going and going, while in actuality reducing their “natural” attention span.)

Another fun fact: interrupting a child when they are having fun makes them continue to think the activity is fun.  Plan this into your daily routine, if you are a homeschooler or if you monitor your child’s homework. For example, I know that my daughter’s attention span is on the longer end.  At 7 years old, she can hold attention for at least 35 minutes.  Therefore, no educational activity or lesson (including the practice) lasts longer than 30 minutes, and needs to be kept light and engaging for the full 30 minute.  If I waver, or sense impending disinterest, I stop.  That way we always stop while we are ahead.

On the other hand, my son’s attention span is closer to 20 minutes, for things he likes to do…but I stop after 10 minutes, just in case I missed his cue for “fun”.

A note on punishments….if you ground a child…, they have likely forgotten or lost interest in the reason why they are grounded after they have been grounded longer than their attention span, however their BODY remembers the emotions behind it.  Their anger, yours, etc.  Is this the end that you had in mind?

Comment if you were grounded when you were little, and what you did  during the time you were grounded.

Posted by: | Posted on: November 25, 2013

They Worship You

Most kids worship their parents.  Not as in a parents are God sense, but in that delightful kind of cartoon hero-worship.  Its easy to forget that when kids reach the tweens and pre-teens.

…or when they are potty training.

When I was potty training Yeah!, I was exasperated that despite the fact that she KNEW what to do…she didn’t do it.  My aunt said “She’s not doing it to make you mad.  She loves you. She thinks you are wonderful.  She doesn’t want to disappoint you”.  She raised the most loving sensitive son that I have ever met, despite the fact that I remember how frustrated that she was when she was potty training.  (Which, is why I was so affected by her advice).  That perspective may have saved my daughter’s life….figuratively.

One client of mine had a daughter that she was struggling with.  Everything was a battle. But they came to me about school work, specifically reading.  When we worked together she was a joyful little girl.  When her mom came, she was full of angst.  What came out is that she was being scolded for her performance, despite the fact that she was honestly working as hard as she could with the tools she had. I had complete empathy for the situation. I gave the advice of my aunt: “She’s not doing it to make you mad.  She loves you. She thinks you are wonderful. She doesn’t want to disappoint you.”  Then I added, “She feels that you are so wonderful, that she could never be like you.  She’s afraid that you think she’s dumb.”  While I worked on increasing the tools she had at her disposal, her mom worked at being her partner: offering books on tape as a stop gap until her reading skills caught up with her intelligence.

Think about your favorite hero.  Mine was Ender Wiggins from Ender’s Game. (I know…I’m a nerd)  I wanted to be like him….or at least be his friend.  And if Ender Wiggins thought that I was stupid, or mean — or horror of horrors — disappointed in me, I would just about fall apart.  Of course, he’s just a character in a book.  If he was here on earth, like my DAD…well that would be paramount to saying that I’m not worthy to be alive.  So this sweet little tween felt her mother didn’t think she was worthy to be alive.  Mom quickly adjusted, and worked out parent-child contracts about her behavior, and became her big fan regarding her school work. This was paramount to having your hero come down from his or her pedestal to say that you were their best friend. The change was fundamental, and led to increased success in school and better relationship with her mom.

So consider using your child’s worship of you to turn around and pat them on the back.  Be the superhero that says that you are there to be their defender in times of need.  And step into the shadows when they become a teen and *may* not want you to show up at school.

Posted by: | Posted on: November 18, 2013

Project Appleseed, 2013

Knowing that I can protect myself against the roaming vagrants in a post-nuclear event comforts me. And in that potential future, guns are more effective than bow and arrows or slings.  Mind you, I don’t believe that I should keep a gun in the house.  The peaceful little cul de sac that we live in does not necessitate the desire for family protection…and hidden guns are just a possible local news event featuring unhappy parents. We don’t even have the kids play with toy guns in the house.  Correction: we don’t buy toy guns in our house, and the water guns acquired must stay in a special “for pool use only” bucket.  However, I have a burning need to know what I think I ought.  So, I have been trying to go to Project Appleseed for the last two years.
Project Appleseed is a nationally based program in which rifleman history and technique are taught to any who desire.  Women and children are taught to sharp shoot a rifle at drastically reduced rates.  I heard about this when my youngest child was too young to go….but I thought it was interesting for my own selfish reasons.  But I was never able to tear myself away for the weekend.  Nor could I seem to borrow a gun. I begged my Facebook friends for a rifle, and no one took me seriously.  Or they took me too seriously, and still didn’t give me one.
This year was the year.  I had a different, less selfish, motivation.  Yeah had been displaying signs of being an academic underachiever.  So I was in search of the perfect extrinsic motivator to jumpstart her nonexistent desires to do anything but read.  Archery was a win from last month’s excursion….maybe sharp shooting would also reign in her need for perfection?  This was a good bet.  Plus the history lesson within would be a nice checkbox in her elementary transcript.
As stated, I didn’t have a rifle, and was nervous about having one around the house, so I worked with the local leader, and I begged for rifles to loan.  I then practiced putting the babe on a carrier on my back for the times I got to lay on my belly to shoot. I decided to take my oldest, and I paid for Yeah and me.
The day before the event, we came down with the flu, or some other microbial infection. Yet again, life had intervened. I couldn’t envision both of us sick, in the cold and shooting.  Yeah put it best: “Mommy, if you sneeze, you might shoot someone!”.  Perhaps that was the best lesson for us both.  Oh well, next year.
Posted by: | Posted on: October 18, 2013

Big Endian Arithmetic

I never excelled at arithmetic.  In fact, when tutoring, I tell all my students that I’m horrible at arithmetic, so they need to pay attention when I’m teaching to make sure that the answers are indeed correct.  This tends to work very well with my students because they are often trapped in big brick an mortar buildings where the giants let them know that, barring a severe illness, they are always correct.  My students are the type who relish in finding typos in the book.  But I digress.

Please show our children Big Endian Arithmatic!

Big versus Little Endian is a wink to the Lilliputians of gulliver’s travels (a must read by 7th grade), and while totally relevantly irrelevant in computing, it is quite pertinent to the  arithmetical achievement of the mathematically underachieving. You see, while failing to excel in arithmetic, I was very good at estimation.  My dear mother challenged me to calculate tips (which I enjoyed, and I don’t know why) and calculate percentages off (which I did not enjoy), and so practice made me do well.  Estimation is the Hallmark of success of Big Endian Arithmetic, because the larger values are calculated 1st.  So as a arithmetical underachiever, i developed a habit of mental estimation to determine how far off my calculations were…saving me the need to check my work, and ensuring my elementary laziness.

In Big Endian addition 432 + 275, we add the 4 and 2 to get 600 something, then the 3 and 7 to get 10, so its 700 something and then the 5 and 2 to get 707.  But in school we are taught Little Endian math, and so our little 2nd and 3rd graders are evaluating things from the least relevant end….knowing that the answer will end in a 7, but failing to get the relevance of it until the problem is completed.  For our little academics this creates little problem, as they tend to be imbued with patience…but for our deviants….the underachievers that lack detail, this ability is the crux to mental self check.  So, let them be taught.  If not by you, by somebody.  Don’t let relevance take a back seat to Little Endian logic.

Posted by: | Posted on: July 22, 2012

Ant on a Log, my journey down the rapids

I am a control freak.

I have memories of being in a crib, looking through the slats crying.  Thats not entirely true.  I have created a memory, based on being told that  against her own judgement, my mother left me to cry, sometimes hours at night, so that I could teach myself to sleep.  Its the way the Brits had done it for year.  It was part of child-training, and it created youngsters with a stiff upper lip — self control.

My true memory is of traveling on a plane.  This was in the days before jetways.  I was holding my mother’s hand on the stairs that were driven up to the plane.  Something must have made the stairs move, because suddenly I was dreadfully frightened of being left.  I let go of my mothers hand, and ran up the stairs towards the perceived safety of the plane. I remember being frightened.  My fear was not of leaving my mother, it was of “being left”.

This feeling extended itself through many many instances in my life.  I doubled up on math in high school, because I felt that I was “behind” my peers.  I nagged my boyfriend (then husband) about his whereabouts constantly, fearing “being left”.

The result of the feeling was an extreme need to control my surroundings. As a teen, I needed to be “right” so badly, that i was constantly engaged in sometimes friendship damaging debates. I moved as far away from my mother as possible so that she couldn’t “control” my life. I was adamant about making enough money to “support my family” — when as a young wife, I could have leaned on my husband a bit.  

This last point drove a wedge that could have ended badly.  But I didn’t even know that this desire for control could hurt me.  I didn’t know that there were any feelings behind it.  I told myself that I was being independent, and that was good.  But the truth is, by trying to control everything around me, I felt unbound and out of control when I COULDN’t control.  I was living in fear.  But this could change.

I learned to feel the fear, and accept it as a feeling.  Other feelings came up.  I was afraid of being misunderstood, of being thought of as needy.  That being Needy was bad, and weak.  These were all valid feelings….but they were feelings that could be let go.

Thank you “fear of being misunderstood”, you strengthened my communication skills.  Thank you “fear of being thought of as needy”, you helped me become a productive member of society.  Thank you “fear of being left behind”, that doubling up on math subjects probably got me to MIT.  Thank you “fear of being left alone”, you helped me build a support network.  Thank you, and goodbye.  You limiting beliefs no longer serve me.  I am understood.  I am self-sufficient. I am on target, and I am surrounded by supportive people.  I don’t need those beliefs anymore.

I am a control freak, but I no longer try to control what is outside, choosing instead to control what is inside. 

I am no longer an ant on a log believing that I am controlling  the log.  The log is going down the rapids, and I am too small to control it.  But I CAN control me.  I can increase my grip, hold on tight, and enjoy the ride.

(If you need help in finding and conquering your limiting belief demons, click on HIRE ME, above)

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