Monday, May 20, 2013

The Revelation-- Right vs. Left brain dominant learners

This is the picture that I showed Lily (my right-brain dominant learner) when I explained how we were going to change her school.  When I described to her what school would look like from now on she got excited and said, "I love my school!"  This is so great because we've been plodding along for too long and I've been struggling with knowing what to do and how to teach her.  I don't want to force her through it all... I want her to be inspired to learn.  Is each day a bed of roses?  No, but everyday shouldn't be stressful and unhappy and tearful either.  I'm also realizing how I want to teach as a naturally right-brain dominant person!  It's all looking up.  :]

Last week I had a revelation of how to best teach my children at home.  I was doing my usual facebooking and opening up tabs and links from homeschooling communities and  blogs that I've "liked" and I don't know who first posted it, but I ran across this blog -- The Right Side of Normal

And everything she said about how right-brain dominate learners fit my 7 year old to a T.

Here's a quote from her website.
        In this same vein, right-brained dominant people are attracted to certain skills and subjects based on the two universal gifts of their brain processing preference: picture-based thinking and an extraordinary imagination. Think of the subjects or skills that would center on these traits. History and cultures use imagination to best understand these subjects. Same with mythology and science (which includes dinosaurs). All of these can be pictorially visualized as well, including nature, animals, and geography.  The creative outlets (art/drawing, theater/showmanship, cooking/gardening, dance/music, fashion/sewing, puzzles/mazes, math/numbers (concepts/spatial), building/electronics, video games/computers) utilize both of the right-brained universal gifts, also.

So my first born who has always been so visually oriented, amazing at puzzles and problem solving, she couldn't communicate as well as she could understand at a young age.  At 2 I could give her detailed instructions to follow and she could do it!  When I read to her she wants to take in all the pictures and understand what something looks like.  She falls in love with a book after seeing the film or cartoon version.  She could read and sound out words this year, but it was just so clearly something that she had to work so hard at, yet I can give her pattern block pieces and ask her to make a mirror image of what she just created and she can do it!  She's interested in photography and building things and crafting and art.  She plays with clay for an hour at least straight and makes rainbow haired mermaids and ponies (She literally will separate the colors to make this happen if they've gotten mixed a bit!)  I love all this about her!  I want to encourage that, but how do I do it and how do I still homeschool?  I'm torn because I don't want to just let her do anything all day.  She's 7.. she needs some direction, but I'm realizing that I need to refocus where I direct her and how much I'm involved in it.  I'm available, but not sitting over her shoulder.  For a lot of this I just have to think back to how I felt as a kid and what I would have liked.  I remember playing with a marble building run a bunch and having to figure out how to adjust each area to make the marbles go down just right. This is something she would work at for hours.

Her new school is pretty different than it was.  I'm no longer making her read outloud every day or doing spelling words each week.

Lily was watching "Monster's Inc" and created this Mike Wazouski character all by herself out of pipe cleaners.

Last week after reading about the Right-brain dominant learners and finding out how bad it is to start them with reading and spelling together and before they are old enough (you know when people say that they hated reading before they were a certain age and then it suddenly "clicked"?  Yeah, that's because they were physically old enough to get it.  Their brain was at the age to start bridging the gap between hemispheres.)  I decided that I could combine Lily's love of art and drawing and natural right-brain dominant ability to gather pictures and needing a visual association to a word/concept.  I wrote out her spelling words on little sheets of paper and told her what they were and asked her to color them in any way she'd like to remind her of what that word is.  For "Click" she excitedly tapped all over the letters because it made a clicking sound as she did so.  Next step is to do a fun word search for her "word arts" in books that she likes to look at.

Lily's school is the most drastically changed of the two of my girls.  Besides doing her "word arts" we got a note-book today with files of the alphabet so that she can have a place for her words and pictures.

The notebook is covered in cats because when I asked her what she wanted to learn about in school she said "All things cats!"  She looooves big cats and little cats, so besides these things to help her store and gather information I've ordered a bunch of books through Amazon all about cats.  The Natural geographic kids and many others.  Also some puzzles and games that are cat themed as well which she is super excited about

I wrote out the words that match the pictures we've been going through together (I turned MFW kindergarten alphabet learning into a unit study type thing.

And you can see them up on the wall.  Lily especially loves to look at the pictures and remind herself what the letter sounds are.

Here is a book we already had about cheetahs.  Next step is to just have her flip through it and count how many times she can find the word "Cheetah" like her word art card.  I'll read the book to her as well of course.

Last year my husband was given a free camera that was worth at least twice as much as the old one I had, but the old one isn't junk either!  So, now that Lily is old enough, I gave her my camera with instructions on how to take care of it.  She enjoyed going all over the house taking pictures and most of them were quite good!  I bet she'd like to learn how to do some trick photography as well just for fun:  positioning things to look bigger or smaller and so on.  :}

And now for the left-brain dominant learner which I think describes my 5 year old a bit more closely.
     Left-brained dominant people are attracted to certain skills and subjects based on the two universal gift of their brain processing preference: word-based thinking and sequential processes. Reading, spelling, and writing are all word-based subjects. Each of these are also highly sequential in nature, including arithmetic. It makes sense that each of these types of learners will gravitate to the skills and subjects that enhance their natural strengths and skills.

 This chart was taken from "The Right Side of Normal" blog Post

 While my 7 year old Right-brain dominant girl delights me with her right brain strengths my 5 year old left-brain dominant girl delights me with her enthusiasm for words!  She speaks better than her older sister over all and loves to use big words.  She might not know what they mean, but she will still use them!  While my oldest can more easily create what she is picturing than describing it, my middle one will describe the people she's around within their hearing a bit too thoroughly sometimes.

When I told Renna that we were going to change her school a little bit to do more of what she wanted to do she said, "You mean I get to read my new book???!!!"  Yes, you can read as many books as you want!

See, I'd been trying to slow her down a bit (as in, not letting her go as fast through stuff as she wanted to) because I was afraid that I'd burned Lily out from doing too much too early.  As it turns out it wasn't too early, it was just what subject was too early.  Renna is left-learner dominant so she finds it easy to sound out and spell a word and did so more quickly than her older sister when I'd been working with the older one much longer and the little one had only been just overhearing what we talked about.  They are both talented of course and saying that one thing is easier now for one of them than the other doesn't mean the other one CAN'T or won't be able to be as good or better at whatever that subject or interest is when they are older, BUT the point is to understand the progression of how they learn.  Note the chart above again.

Renna will get some special new school things as well.  I got her some scratch and sniff pencils today for her school since she likes to do her handwriting and spelling.  After learning about the brain thing I tried to pay attention to what each girl was looking at when I was reading them a story.  When I pointed at the words that I was reading, Renna's eyes would follow along, but Lily's would not (she was too busy looking at the pictures.)

I'm really thrilled about this new discovery and can't wait to read more about the left and right brain dominant learners!  We've only been homeschooling for 3 years now, but that whole time I just felt off balance, like I knew that something didn't quite jive but I didn't know how to identify what needed to change.  My whole parenting and teaching philosophy has been to respect my children and their individuality.  Even when they are babies I don't want to brush off shyness for example or fear as "not a big deal" and leave them to cry with someone they don't know.  I know that some people do have to do this and yes I know that children adapt.  I'm not putting down other parents decisions, just trying to describe how I see things.  No matter what life style choices we make or have to make can't we continually work at making it fit our children's needs better?  If we can grow to understand how a child learns than we can more easily understand what they need and who they are and how we can encourage them whether we homeschool or not, we as parents or teachers, can encourage those things that they are naturally great at and keep them from being labeled at a young age.

If your child doesn't fit the system perhaps there isn't anything wrong with your child.. perhaps the system is the thing that isn't the right fit.

My 7 year old sitting my the 2 year old.  I can't tell yet what my littlest will need in the right or left-brain dominant areas.  Right now she loves to be read to and is pretty amazing verbally for her age, but she will sit for long periods of time playing with clay and using scissors to cut stuff up.  Right now she's experiencing it all and we'll just wait and see what she wants to dive into.  I've been surprised recently how well she will sit through longer picture books and point at things and ask, "What dat?"

Being a mom is hard enough what with trying to teach the kids to clean up after themselves or the other household chores and "life skills" necessary for them to learn to grow up into responsible adults, but adding a homeschooling plan that is draining and difficult is just not worth it.  I not only learned what my children need from me I realized how I actually want to teach them and how I can use my own strengths.  Instead of getting bored following a lesson plan, I like to play it by ear.  Read a lot to them and just notice everything we come into contact with.  The snail in the grass, the lizard on the rocks, the butterflies in the air, the clouds in the sky, seeing their excitement as they show me something they've discovered.  That's what I love.  I want to focus more on those things and delighting in this time right now.


Abigail Berman said...

That is very helpful and insightful! Thank you for sharing! I look forward to reading more!

Abigail Berman said...

That is very helpful and insightful! Thank you for sharing! I look forward to reading more!

charis said...

Is Lilly Left Handed? Just Wondering If There's Any Correlation?

Marisa said...

I'm really enjoying your blog and all your tips!