Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hands on activities...

Many people ask me about what to do if their child is a hands on learner so I thought I would tackle that topic today.

I guess, the question could mean a couple of different things. For example, it could be that you child needs to be moving or doing something with their hands so they can learn. I know when I read aloud, Kari always knit or did some sort of handwork--it seemed to keep her more focused and also she felt so productive. Scotty would play with blocks or little plastic toy figures or puzzles when I would read. The rule was he had to be quiet and had to be able to tell me about what I was reading when I was done.

He also needed to be moving while he was doing regular paperwork. While doing math, for example, he would tap his pencil till it about drove us crazy--and he did not realize he was doing it. But, when I let him use a clip board and do math someplace other than the table [he liked doing it under the table, laying on our dog], he worked faster and better.

Many kids do well if they:
  • can sit in a rocking chair to read or do lessons
  • have a stress ball in their hand
  • can sit on an exercise ball to read or do lessons
  • have gum to chew
  • have frequent breaks where they can run around
  • can jump on a mini-trampoline or shoot a few hoops between lessons
  • I recently heard from an occupational therapist that putting a balance disc on their chair can make a huge difference
For these type of kids, they need to be moving in order to do their best learning.

I always figured I didn't care as long as they were trained to do socially acceptable things like sitting in a chair at Sunday School and so on.

Now, on to the second type of hands on learner. This is the child that really doesn't "get" history or math till they feel it, taste it, do it. They may need to use counting bears, beans and coins for math before they understand the concepts. Most math programs for young children include some type of manipulative based learning, and if they don't, you can usually add some as you go along.
Science is best done by reading and doing and that is why I love Sonlight science. I love the real books and the weekly experiments. Before we did Sonlight Science many times I would read the list of what we needed to do the experiment and then sigh and say, "Well, if we had a copper screw..." I mean, science should not be done that way. How boring!

That is why I LOVE the science supply kits that you can get from Sonlight. That way you can actually do the experiments without having to run all over town to find some little essential component.
But, for things like learning about Native Americans, I know many folks try to do the whole "mom takes two weeks assembling all the items needed to make a tepee" thing. The parents spend lots of time and money and then the kid is involved for maybe a hour. I never quite understood that type of learning/teaching and this is why.

I believe, that if you give kids great books and read to them and have them read good books themselves, they will be inspired to do hands-on activities themselves. Once their imagination is stirred, there is usually no stopping them. I remember when I read about Samuel Morse to my kids-I think they were about 14, 12, 10, 6 and 3 at the time. They worked and worked and finally called me upstairs to see what they had done. They actually constructed a working telegraph system connecting their upstairs bedrooms together. They were tapping SOS like mad and smiling like crazy.

I also recall sugar cube Egyptian pyramids and a DNA model made out of pipe cleaners. And I cannot count the number of pretend sword fights, assorted forts and various spying syndicates we hosted through the years. I am totally convinced that kids who love to learn through hands-on methods can do that without mom having to try to do all the work herself. They can learn and understand by reading and listening to great books, and you can provide lots of arts and crafts materials and a sense of humor; and then let them see what they can do. You will be amazed!

I hope this sparks some ideas so that your hands-on kids can get a great education without wearing you out.
Take care,

Photos, from the top:
  • Kari "mummifying" Scotty after we studied about Egypt
  • Kari sewing a dolly blanket--inspired by Little House books and how the girls sewed
  • Scotty wearing off some energy shooting a few hoops between lessons
  • Kari with Monarch after it hatched from our mason jar, science at its best
  • Cris, juggling--great for kids with extra energy and to promote coordination--the Klutz books of Juggling is a great place to start.

1 comment:

  1. Totally! Absolutely, and right on [smile].

    Great examples, Jill. Thanks for sharing.