For children to learn they have to have memory skills and they need to have a concentration span that is greater than a goldfish. But are these things inherent or must they be learned; and if they are learned are they acquired naturally or do they need to be taught?
Neuroscience is not my favourite topic, especially as I almost need an epipen to see a neurologist these days, but having Heleyna is making me wonder.
She’s five and will be six in April. She’s bright, talkative and obviously intelligent, but her memory and often her attention is pretty dreadful. Now I am not suggesting she has ADHD. She is very active, but not hyper, and sometimes she can pay very good attention. But it’s so variable and she’s so distractable that it can get frustrating trying to work with her. She obviously needs quiet to focus.
Knowing her attention span was/is a bit too short I’ve looked at low stimulus approaches to her education, as there is some suggestion that high stimulus, fast moving images are either adding to attention span problems or causing them. I printed up the Starfall Books so she had plain black and white versions. All the worksheet type stuff from Starfall and other sites are black and white so I thought this would help.
She certainly works well if she can use her hands. The Montessori resources suit her well but recently I’ve let things slip a bit and as we’re using READING EGGS I’ve let her read from the Starfall site as well. Both are brightly coloured but there isn’t a lot of image shifting, and fast movement. None of this should be a problem if we keep it at a little at a time.
To be honest I am not even that convinced by the “anti-screen” rhetoric. The research is not convincing and leaves way too many questions unanswered as there is no differentiation between “bad” screen time and “good” screen time or even the nature of screen use from passive (TV) to interactive (computer and consoles) let alone between influences, type of images, sound and the nature of the content. Some research suggests that high colour is good for brain power, while other stuff says exactly the opposite. I have come the conclusion I must see what works and what doesn’t with Heleyna by just observing her.
We had two weeks break from the structured learning while we prepared for and recovered from the wedding. In that time I kept Heleyna reading because I had already seen how difficult it is for her to remember what she has already learned. But she was moving forward in maths and geometry without a hitch.
But when we went back to learning this week – she’s forgotten so much she couldn’t even recognise the number 10.
This was a bit of a blow, to be honest.
The question is what do I do now? Do I let things slide and wait until she’s a bit older? Do I carry on regardless, go back over stuff or shorten the lessons or lengthen them…?
At the moment I am not sure how to approach this. I think I will make lessons shorter and try and plan them when the other two don’t need me at all; as the distractions, questions and interruptions are not helping her. But that does mean working later in the day, which might not suit either of us. (I tend to crash pretty regularly around 4 or 5pm and frankly I’m not much use to anyone then).
The Montessori approach allows her to try things out. I think I’ll do more presentations and then see if she can “play” learn for a while.
She does tend to have sudden “eureka” moments when everything drops into place, but I think we’ll need to do a lot of repetition and some memory games to try and build up her concentration and memory skills.
While the research on the use of computers is somewhat messy there is some better defined work showing that memory is a skill as well as innate. Learning how to remember is part of learning how to learn and being able to concentrate is probably a skill that needs some teaching as well as acquiring.