Monday, November 28, 2011

Demonstrated Flexibility - Alex Adapting Well To Our New Location


Song:  Young At Heart

Group:  Future World Music



When we moved here last week...
Alex had to overcome a lack of sleep 
(we had spent all night packing)...
the loss of the only home he had known...
a new home in another state...
a disruption of his routine...
being tired as a result of the sudden altitude change
(we now live a little over 5,300 ft. / 1,615 meters - just over a mile in elevation)
and unfamiliar surroundings.

After getting some well deserved rest...
he adapted well.

We put our sofa in the new house...
and put his bed in his new room...
and with that...
he started smiling and adapting.

We have yet to fully get back into the routine...
but he really likes our new home and city.




Alex's mother took Alex up the hillside to overlook the surrounding area.

Our neighborhood is in the hills.  The area is peaceful and quiet.
It is so easy to feel very comfortable here.

We have gone to a few nearby restaurants.  
The food is cheaper here...and the service is superior.
People here are so much more friendly in general.


This is one of the nearby Japanese restaurants.

It was crowded...but that is always a good sign.

Just tonight I had found a great Bar-B-Q place just a few minutes from our house.

They serve great food at very reasonable prices.


Alex has done a fantastic job adapting to his new surroundings.
He is back in the studying mode without any fuss.
We heard him pounding his chest in delight as he did well on his tests on-line.  
He loves doing well with his studies.

We have just finished up with Alex's application.

All we can do now is submit it and await the results.

Regardless of the result...
we are fully prepared to be flexible and to adapt to that which comes...
whatever may come.

How could we be any less flexible and adaptable than Alex has already demonstrated?

We simply shall not be.

Our contingencies are already emplaced...
our hearts set...
our wills steeled.

We are in for the long haul...
the long term over the short.

We shall either overcome and move forward...
or we shall adapt and keep moving forward.

Either way...
we shall eventually succeed.





Friday, November 25, 2011

Home Schooling - Alex's Leisure Reading - The Handy Physics Answer Book



Song:  A Beautiful Storm

Artist:  Jennifer Thomas





Part of a great series of books about various disciplines of science.

This particular book may be had from Amazon for approximately $15.00.


Alex is reading it as one of his leisure reading books.  

He loves to just lie on the sofa or on his bed and just read 
through this book.

He is almost a third of the way through the 392 pages
of this very interesting and concisely written book on the various
components which make up that which is modern Physics.

The book is broken into 13 main chapters...
each of which is divided into subcategories of basic principles.

This book is a general outline of the science of Physics...
one designed to give a very basic overview of some of the major concepts.


1)  General - The basics

A description of Physics and the subdivisions of Physics.


2)  Movement - 

A description of some of the basic principles of motion...
including, but not limited to, Newton's three laws of motion...
Conservation of Momentum...Gravitational Interactions...etc.



3)  Work, Energy, and Simple Machines - 

A description of such principles as...
Conservation of Energy...Simple Machines such as...
Incline Planes...Pulleys...Levers...Gears...
Energy Production...etc.


4)  Objects At Rest - 

This Chapter discusses the notion of center of mass...
the basics of Tensional, Compressional, Torsional, and Shearing forces...
various structures and the designs made to handle the forces.


5)   Fluids - 

It covers Buoyancy, Hydraulics, Fluid Dynamics, and Pressures.


6)   Heat And Thermodynamics - 

This chapter covers the basic States Of Matter...
Heat Transfer...and the laws of Thermodynamics.


7)   Waves - 

It covers the properties of Waves through matter...
including Electromagnetic waves.


8)   Sound - 

Although it is a wave...
they thought it deserved a chapter all its own.


9)  Light - 

A more in-depth look at this component of the electromagnetic spectrum.


10)  Electricity - 

Another more in-depth look at this portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.


11)  Magnetism, Electromagnetism, And Electronics - 

Our uses of these in our modern world.


12)  Modern Physics - 

Basic Elements of Matter...Quantum Physics...Nuclear Physics...etc.


13)  Deep Theories - 

The Grand Unified Theory...The Cosmos...Einstein's Theories.


This book is not designed to be one of a thorough lesson in each area...
but rather a very general overview so a child may know how each are interrelated 
and how they are used throughout our world.  The book gives real examples of how
we use this knowledge to our practical advantage.  Each subcategory is very succinct...
some only one paragraph in length.  

This makes it perfect for the elementary school student
to get a basic understanding of how we understand our world.

It makes for great leisure reading as it captures the child's imagination
without overloading his young mind with complicated formulas or a great
number of details.

This book lays out the basic tree of Physics knowledge to the branch level.

By providing a firm picture of Physics in his mind...
his hunger to explore the twigs and leaves of Physics is stimulated...
and his further exploration of the various branches will be in perspective.

Alex loves reading this book because it is light reading...
which makes it fun.

It is effortless learning of a very valuable subject.

Through the real to life examples...
the practicality and necessity of Applied Physics is brought to light.

In short...
Basic Physics made fun...
a firmer understanding of the world around your child...
for about $15.00.





Friday, November 18, 2011

Victory - Another Challenge Conquered By Alex - Explore Test


Song:  Time Keeper

Group:  Future World Music



The results of Alex's testing at the Davidson Academy
(not given by the Academy...just hosted there by the Academy)
came in yesterday.

It is the Explore test for 8th graders.

He tested in the gifted category to see how he compares nationwide with 
the scores of 8th graders even though he is in 6th grade.

It was the test he had taken, and the one I had described in an earlier article here:



We had initially taken it to see where Alex could improve for future tests.

A qualifying score would allow him, with other criteria we have completed...
to apply to the Davidson Academy.

We had initially thought that the extremely high test scores necessary 
to achieve for application consideration at the Davidson Academy
was, perhaps out of our immediate reach...and so...
we were using it as an intellectual height marker to see the areas where 
we would need to shore up for possible future consideration
at the Academy.

After he had completed the test last month at the Academy...
when we had asked how he thought he had done...
he seemed nonchalant...
he merely said he thought he had done well.

We told him to not get too disappointed should the test scores not be high enough
for application consideration because we were using it as a tactical teaching tool...
for us to see where he actually stood so we would know where to concentrate our efforts.

Well...
he maxed both the Math and Science portions (100%)...
and he got a 97% in English...
giving him a Composite Score of 99%...and...

allowing us to apply to the Davidson Academy!!!

(He also gets an award and the right to attend a ceremony of awards
for his Explore test results later next year at a University in Iowa.
(Belin-Blank Center for the Gifted - Exceptional Student Talent Search...
we will most certainly fly out to watch Alex receive his award.)
________________________________________

Although his Reading Comprehension was still in the high range for 8th graders...
it is his weakest point.

However, as we now know where his weaker points are...
we are going to concentrate on those areas even more.

While this was a tremendous achievement for Alex...
and it will allow us to proceed toward our goal...
the toughest testing lies ahead.

He must compete with many extremely qualified applicants for a very few spots.

Should he survive the initial application cuts...
he would still have a very extensive Davidson Academy 
day of assessment that includes not only
Critical Reasoning and Essay testing...
they also have an oral board where they will
delve into his capability to adapt and express...
and most of all...they will be exploring his attitude...
they will need to see a deep and focused drive.

The Davidson Academy wants not only the brightest in the nation...
they want the intellectually hungriest.

The students must be able to organize and prioritize...
to be able to be self driven toward their goals...
to be able to operate autonomously and with great focus.

We have but just over 1 week to compile the necessary forms and requirements.

Although we are now almost completely moved, and we still must do many things
to complete it before the snow over the mountains makes it difficult to travel...
our new priority is getting the application in on time.


To what do we attribute Alex's continuing academic success?

Alex's love of learning...
his tremendous on-line and DVD courses...
his various supplementary workbooks and reading...
and, second to none, my wife's research and academic tutelage...
ensuring Alex always gets the best learning material...
 the best personal academic support and conceptual teaching...
as given by her.


So why need we get Alex into a place of higher learning
such as the Davidson Academy?

Because...
he is rapidly eclipsing our capability to help him with his studies.

It is his rate of learning that will soon force us to have to pass on the torch
to those who are much more highly educated and have more specialized knowledge.

Another very important factor...
he will have intellectual peers with whom to share challenges...
and with whom he shall be challenged by.

This will serve to stimulate his appetite to learn even more.


No one is going to hold back our son...
especially not us...his parents.



Monday, November 14, 2011

The First Step Of Our Journey From Fantasy To Reality


Song:  Welcome To Your Fantasy

Group:  Future World Music


We have found our new home in Reno, Nevada.

This is to be our new base of operations for Alex.

Although his acceptance to the Davidson Academy is by no means assured
(our Fantasy)...
this is a first and necessary step for us to secure him a possible spot in a year or two.


We are heading to Reno...
across the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

I had scouted out the house first and I had selected it based upon our needs.

My wife had only seen pictures of it...
she and Alex are to see it for the first time during this trip.

The house itself sits in the hills approximately another 800 ft.
above Reno City...which itself, sits at approximately 4,500 ft.

This puts the house at approximately 1 mile above sea level.

The air is crisp and clean...I have always loved high country.



Although it is almost half the size of our current house...
it is still roomy enough for us.



Views from the house 


A view from the porch





A view of the main living quarters.

We are just a little ways by car from the University Of Nevada
(Davidson Academy location).

It is dead quiet in the neighborhood...perfect.

We shall be actually moving our furniture in 3 days.

We are very excited with this move.

We all like the neighborhood and the house.

Reno itself has many restaurants and activities for us to try.

All around Reno there are many places of natural beauty in close proximity
for us to fully explore.

Just being on this journey toward fantasy fulfillment is high adventure.

So...welcome to the first step of our fantasy.



Sunday, November 13, 2011

Home Schooling - Part 12 of a 12 Part Book Review - Brain Rules - Rule 12



Song:  Gift Of Life

Composer:  Thomas Bergersen



BRAIN RULE 12


EXPLORATION:  We Are Powerful And Natural Explorers


The author covers some fascinating examples of animal and human
responses to observed stimuli...the ability to learn from how others do things
through our ability to imitate through the Brain's use of Mirror Neurons.

We can feel what another is feeling through visual or auditory cues.

This way of learning is so powerful that even through our own movies of the mind...
we may learn or rehearse movement or behavior without actually doing it (visualization).

This is the reason that it is so important to conduct yourself in a correct manner
in front of your children.  Especially when they are young...
much of what they learn is monkey see...monkey do.

Perceived attitudes are picked up and mimicked.
For many of us...our first realization of our children doing so
is an "Oh No!" moment.


The Author also revisits the notion of plasticity in the brain...
even in adults.  This means that anyone can learn anything...
at any time...it just takes more time the older you get.

The real variable to learning is the amount of desire spurring drive.

Exploration is the unfettered desire to satisfy curiosity.

It is the drive to learn...
to input information into our hard drive.

Always remember...
it is never shame on them for exploring their environment...
it is shame on us if they get hurt during their exploration
(it is always up to us, as parents, to baby safe the environment).

It is not exploration that you wish to curtail...
it is the concept of sharp, hot, bad, dirty....etc. that you wish to teach...
and in how to recognize them.  Again...not by detail first...but by large categories.

In attempting to dampen exploration... you attempt to dampen curiosity.

This is from where their drive for learning comes.

This is to always be encouraged.


Chapter Summary


1)  Babies are the model of how we learn - not by passive reaction 
to the environment but by active testing through observation, hypothesis...
experiment, and conclusion.

2)  Specific parts of the brain allow this scientific approach.

3)  We can recognize and imitate behavior because of 
"mirror neurons" scattered across our brains.

4)  Some parts of our adult brains stay as malleable as a baby's...
so we can create neurons and learn new things throughout our lives.


We have always encouraged Alex to explore his world.

We made special effort, when he was very young, to ensure
his safety so he could have unfettered access to as much of 
his environment as possible...to explore and learn...
mostly to stimulate and nurture his love of learning.


An example of the amount of environmental stimuli and the baby safe
environment we had established for Alex when he was still very young.



This book was as informative as it was fun to read.

Although much of it was basic common sense...
what was surprising to me was how much of it was
actually experimented with and researched.

This book is very informative and examines much of what we take for granted.

For new parents and for teachers (which all parents should be)...
this is a good reference book...
a reminder of the basic what and whys of human behavior...
probably one of the most fascinating subjects one could study.





Home Schooling - Part 11 of a 12 Part Book Review - Brain Rules - Rule 11


Song:  Immortal

Composer:  Thomas Bergersen


BRAIN RULE 11


GENDER:  Male And Female Brains Are Different



I simply must preface this article.

Neither the author, nor I, intend to put the difference between mere gender 
above the far more telling individual differences due to other far more important
factors.  Most of them are not inherent but acquired.  This means it is the fighting spirit 
that is the most important attribute (realized drive).  It is what lay in the hearts of people
and what they do with it that matters most of all.

As those who have read my other articles know...
it is the willfully stupid person who judges by any particular group...
whether it be by race, gender, religion...etc...ad nauseum.

A person defines himself by his actions in the face of duty...
and by his inactions in the face of temptation.

NOT because it is politically correct...
that would be a stupid reason in of itself...
but because any judgement of another, other than by merit, is sheer idiocy  
(for those who know me...
you already know I am by no means a politically correct person...
merely correct  :)

I say what I reason to be truth...
that which is on the side of goodness and righteousness
(again...not religious in connotation).


Any and all who stand with those who stand with Goodness and Righteousness...
are my brothers and sisters.

Any and all who stand with those who stand with Evil...
are my mortal enemies.



In any and all circumstances...
the mind is the great equalizer.

It is in how large your dreams are...
how intelligently you plan your route to your destination...
the amount of passion and drive...
the amount of expended effort...
the will to never give up...
to be willing to forego immediate pleasure
for the greater pleasure at the end of the journey
(Deferred Gratification)...
the willingness to surpass pain and fatigue...
of having the tenacity of a Tiger
to see your dream to fruition.

These are what matter...
NOTHING ELSE.

I say that any differences that exist do not matter.

To do anything but teach in the most efficient and effective manner
as dictated by the aptitude and attitude of the individual...
using all that we know in how the brain works...
using as many of the senses in the most interesting and engaging form...
by spacing the ingoing knowledge to where it may be repeated in smaller chunks...
by allowing the student to advance or to linger as demonstrated
through 100% concept test scores...
by explaining concepts before details...
taught through the use of interactive and self paced computer courses...
a high standard, which would be standardized throughout the nation...
freeing up the teachers to help explain concepts to those who need it...
to do anything less is cheating our children, our nation...our future.

To think that particular ways of teaching to particular students is a goal...
is to think (irrationally) that the world should adapt to the individual...
instead of teaching the individual to adapt to whatever situation they
may face.  The world has a right to expect the person to be able to
rationalize and correctly judge a course of action from unknown 
and ever changing variables.  To be able to think on their feet...
of them not having to be taught in some tailor fashioned manner
before they could understand.

Unity of a people would be impossible in such a scenario.

Whether a person is a visual global thinker...
or a systematic detail oriented thinker...
DOES NOT MATTER.

By presenting the material in the most efficient and effective form...
is to have presented it in the most rational form...
from concept to detail...
and with as many senses as possible.


This, of course, precludes consideration of
the truly special needs of children
whom are out of the norm for whatever reason...
and are in need of special care in their learning.


Although the author and I are somewhat aligned on this...
this is how the chapter should have been written...
and so...
there is no need to summarize it.

This is all anyone should ever have to know of the differences 
of groups of people.

For those who thought I should have kept true to the author...
that I shouldn't have essentially written this chapter for him...
that I am arrogant for having done so...

I am sorry
(again...not really :)...
it needed to be said.

So far as my being arrogant...
it is so difficult to know how to be humble
when I've had so few instances where
I've been wrong  :O

(I am, of course, joking......I am not arrogant  :)


Home Schooling - Part 10 of a 12 Part Book Review - Brain Rules - Rule 10



Song:  Kingdom Skies

Group:  Two Steps From Hell


BRAIN RULE 10


VISION:  Vision Trumps All Other Senses


This chapter starts out with an example of vision trumping smell and taste.

An experiment was conducted using 54 professional wine tasters
who, in their profession, use particular words to describe the attributes 
of white wines and quite other ones for the description of red wines.

A group of brain researchers had conducted an experiment at the 
University of Bordeaux.

What they had done was to use a tasteless red dye to color 
a white wine unbeknownst to the 54 wine tasters. 

They then recorded their descriptions of the supposedly red wine 
(really a white one).

All of them used the descriptors reserved for red wines.

Their vision had overridden their smell and taste (taste is almost all smell).


Not only does vision override what is perceived...
most of what we remember is visual.

A picture is more vividly remembered and recalled than mere text.

The author goes on to explain that text and oral presentations alone are a far 
less efficient means of teaching than with visuals.

He cites that after an initial presentation and a lapse of 72 hours...
the retainment is on the order of 10% if it was presented orally only...
vs. 65% if a visual was used in, and in correlation with, the presentation.


Chapter Summary

1)  Vision is by far our most dominant sense...
 taking up half of our brain's resources.

2)  What we see is only what our brain tells us we see...
and it's not 100% accurate.

3)  We learn and remember best through pictures...
not just through written or spoken words.


Now...
need everything have a physical picture shown to 
effectively describe something?

No.

The use of a very descriptive and colorful vocabulary
allows the listeners to make their own movie in their minds.

Is the use of a descriptive vocabulary the most efficient means?

No...and that is the point.

Where you can...include visuals.

That is one of the great things about on-line and video courses...
they are visually rich and are presented in a very interesting manner...
often times presented using humor or with great gusto and passion.





Home Schooling - Part 9 of a 12 Part Book Review - Brain Rules - Rule 9



Song:  Gift Of Life

Composer:  Thomas Bergersen



BRAIN RULE 9


SENSORY INTEGRATION - Stimulate More Of The Senses



For this article...I skipped through the first part of the chapter
to get at the portion that applies to parents.

The core of this chapter is that the more of our senses that are stimulated
during the learning experience...the better remembered they will be.


Rules For The Rest Of Us

The author included a researcher's summation of multimedia
presentation principles.

Instead of listing them all...I will summarize the best way of presentation
according to his empirical findings as the principles were repetitious
and superfluous as presented.

I will narrow it down to two basic principles:

1)  Students learn better when extraneous material is excluded rather than included
(and so the reason for my summary of the principles :)

The rule of simplicity applies to everything...
prioritize by function and results.

If it adds to the goal... include it...
if by including it...it detracts from the goal...
leave it out.


2)  Students learn better from the utilization of more than one sense at a time...
such as auditory and visual.

This means that text next to a picture is inferior to
a narration of it with the picture.

Animation, and even better, interactive animation
with narration is better.

Use more of the senses at the same time...
particularly when the senses are representative of real life conditions.

Think simulators.
You can learn to fly with one.

Even without the motion of an expensive one...
put your child on a computer or video game console
with a flight simulator game or program...
he can learn how to fly a real one...
so long as it has the same flight controls as the real plane does (some do).


Chapter Summary

1)  We absorb information about an event through our senses...
disperse those signals to separate parts of the brain...
then reconstruct what happened, eventually perceiving
the event as a whole.

2)  The brain seems to rely partly on experience in deciding
 how to combine these signals...
 so, people may perceive the same event very differently
(and so, just one of the many reasons eye witness testimony is so inherently inaccurate).

3)  Our senses evolved to work together...
 which means we learn best if we
stimulate several senses at once.

4)  Smells have an unusual power to bring back memories.


I try to use our family outings to teach Alex applied lessons in science and in life.

Our camping vacations are also part natural classrooms.

Just some examples:

Alex's First Night Of Camping

Alex At California Caverns

Star Gazing And Alpine Lake


The world is our laboratory.

Supplement with real life examples where you can.

The same applies to lab work.

It involves Kinesthetic memory as well...
ah...another sense.

Most lab work also involves the sense of smell as well.

In the study of the electromagnetism...
don't just rely on texts...
have him build things...
such as electrical motors.

I will be doing many more such things with Alex in the future.

And while you are out there...
don't forget to utilize Inferential Learning through observational awareness...
and the teaching of new principles through directed conversation utilizing
the Socratic Method.

Inferential Learning

The Socratic Method Of Teaching




Saturday, November 12, 2011

Home Schooling - Part 8 of a 12 Part Book Review - Brain Rules - Rule 8



Song:  To Glory

Group:  Two Steps From Hell


BRAIN RULE 8


STRESS:  Stressed Brains Don't Learn The Same Way



This chapter started with the description of an inhumane experiment
conducted with the intent to alter the psychological disposition of an animal
through the continued and arbitrary use of an extreme negative stimulus.

As a result of the experiment...
the animal had realized that no matter the actions 
or inactions it had tried...
the negative stimuli was going to be administered.

It soon realized it had no control...
not even in the prediction of occurrence...
and so... had lost all hope.

It had shut down all its mechanisms...
controlled motion and cognition.

When the negative stimulus ceased...
it was still in a state of "learned helplessness".

It is an often used tool of hate...
of those whom are of Evil.

It is the technique of those seeking complete dominance over others.  

It is of those who wish to get... not cooperation through leadership...
not even compliance in a directed manner of negative reinforcement...
it is the seeking of complete and utter submission through the use
of completely arbitrary punishment at will in an attempt to rob the victim
of all hope by wresting their ability to not only control the outcome...
but to even predict when the person may strike.

The bully at school...
the perpetually drunken parent who lashes out at
his or her family at will...
the tyrannical boss or teacher who is power hungry...
the queen bee who attempts to squash those around her
through the use of rumors...cliques...the perceived power of her words...
they all attempt to dominate through the crushing of hope in others.

The effect is a shutdown of further learning.

It has a physiological effect as well.

Under negative stress (it is subjective)
the body releases tremendous amounts of chemicals
which alter, not only immediate physical and psychological processes...
it has a particularly insidious long term effect on both.

The author points out that one of the 
GREATEST PREDICTORS OF PERFORMANCE IN SCHOOL...
IS THE EMOTIONAL STABILITY OF THE CHILD'S HOME.

I had to shout that one out...
I am sorry (not really) :)  

It should be shouted all across the lands...
to every parent.

Inherent in almost all children is the drive to explore and to learn.

This automatically implies that it is in the absence of...
negative and arbitrary stress...
and in the presence of encouragement of positive actions through
Positive Reinforcement...
that the child's drive is guided and nurtured.

With the child's drive on high...
they are then free to reach the heights that
only they set for themselves.

That is under their ultimate control...
and so, begets...
unlimited hope.


Chapter Summary
(my summarization of his summary)

1)  Your body's defense system - the release of stress hormones...
is designed for short term effects on the body to perform short term tasks.
Chronic stress induces chronic problems..physically and mentally.

2)  The worst kind of stress is the one in which the person has no control.

3)  Emotional stress has huge impacts across society.
Everything from a child's ability to learn to an employee's ability
to perform...to be productive.


It is vital for a child to realize that he has control over his destiny...
regardless of how the rest of the world may treat him.

The key is through his knowledge that his family is always there for him...
that no matter what...they will always love and support him...
that through the parent's guidance to true knowledge...
he may advance himself at will...
that nothing can stop him from achieving that which he desires...
so long as he never gives up.

Alex has been raised with full and unrelenting love and affection.
He is constantly being positively reinforced with our attention...
 guidance, and appropriate praise.

We have eliminated negative stressors in his life.

We actively seek out and practice means for him to be able to 
protect himself from negative societal stressors so he may 
thrive in...even a negative environment.

In teaching him not only concepts of his subjects...
but in teaching him how to learn any subject...
even the physical...
he knows that he shall be able to eventually conquer any future obstacle.

By stressing adaptability...
he has learned that while he may not win all of his battles...
through intelligent planning and applied effort...
he will eventually win the war.

With the firm refuge of the love of his family...
the knowledge and love of learning...
the confidence in his ability to adapt to any future situation...
 the firm knowledge that he has ultimate control over his destiny...
he has forever growing hope and an unfettered drive toward his...
Inexorable March To Glory.



Home Schooling - Part 7 of a 12 Part Book Review - Brain Rules - Rule 7



Song:  Sprinkle To Rain

Artist:  Isaac Shepard



BRAIN RULE 7


SLEEP - Sleep Well, Think Well


The negative effects of extreme sleep deprivation are well documented...
and for the purpose of this article...
I shall skip over the first portion of this chapter's coverage of it.

Of primary concern is the quantity and the quality of sleep
acquired on a daily...or rather, for most, a nightly basis.


My experience:

Just know that to achieve optimum sleep...
there are three very important factors...

Dark...Cool...Quiet.

Although I still sleep during the day
(not only as a result of 23 years of working nights...
I actually prefer the calm peace of the nights to live in)...
I achieve absolute darkness, coolness and silence by separating
my sleep quarters into a room that has no windows (or blacked out ones)...
a separate air conditioner (I prefer the temperature to be in the mid to high 60s)...
and I have an insulated room for sound...
besides the steady droning of the air conditioner giving a white noise.

The absence of light is not only crucial...
it is physiologically based.

In our brain...
the Pineal Gland produces...among other hormones...Melatonin.

Melatonin, besides affecting other hormones in the body...
sets our circadian rhythms.    
It promotes sleep.  It is produced in proportion 
 to how much light the brain registers as received in the eyes. 

 In darkness...
Melatonin is produced in much higher amounts.

In light...
far lesser amounts.

Any amount of stimuli received...
 by any of the senses...puts the body on alert.
A body on alert...is a body not fully resting...
and so...
the need for comfort and silence.

 Another preparatory measure for sound sleep is to not eat anything...
at least 3-5 hours before bedtime (this is also one of the secrets to weight loss).
This allows the bulk of digesting to have been completed.  
Rest should mean for the body as a whole...
not just that of the mind.

Of course...daily physical exercise is also a key to deep relaxation.

This alone promotes deep sleep at night.


The author cites some research into learning just prior to bedtime.

An experiment using math problems with a 12 hour interval...
students who had the interval during the daytime (no naps)...
about 20% of them were able to do similar problems afterward 
in a more efficient way.

Using another group...
given the same circumstances save one...
their interval was at night and included an 8 hour block of sleep.

They had found that this group had 60% of them solving 
similar problems in a more efficient manner.

That is a 3 to 1 ratio in favor of the sleep group.

Whether or not it means that learning happens during sleep...
or that the mind has uninterrupted time to consolidate and store
without new information erasing the details of the old...
it is enough to know that it is effective.


Chapter Summary


1)  The brain is in a constant state of tension between cells and chemicals
that try to put you to sleep and cells and chemicals that try to keep you awake.

2)  The neurons of your brain show vigorous rhythmical activity when 
you're asleep - perhaps replaying what you had learned earlier that day.

3)  People vary in how much sleep they need and when they prefer to get it...
but the biological drive for an afternoon nap is universal.

4)  Loss of sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory...
mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity.


We always ensure Alex has plenty of solid sleep. 

He also formerly studies until bedtime 
(the day is interspersed with breaks, playtime, and other activities)...
after which he showers and then sees a fun science program
or other concept rich video or TV program...
and then for his final hour or so...
each and every night until he drifts off to sleep...
his mother reads to him at his bedside...
has him read to her...
she questions him about the content...
has him project his thoughts into a similar situation...
and finally as his eyes get droopy...
she reads to him as he drifts off to sleep.

Alex has always found comfort in her voice as he falls asleep.

The bedtime routine is nightly.

The new concepts he learns before bedtime
seems to comfort him, puts his mind at ease.

He loves to learn.

I think this allows him to feel as if he has not wasted a day...
even if he had to review material earlier...
he could at least get some new concepts at the end of the day.

He looks forward to bedtime because it is an established routine...
one that gives him comfort and a new adventure at the same time.



Home Schooling - Part 6 of a 12 Part Book Review - Brain Rules - Rule 6



Song:  Moonlight Sonata

Group:  E.S. Posthumus


BRAIN RULE 6

LONG-TERM MEMORY:  Remember To Repeat



I am going to present a modern analogy for memory.

The short term or working memory is, of course, our RAM...
Random Access Memory...the data which presents the information
at the time to formulate and compute.

Our long term memory is our Hard Drive and ROM (Read Only Memory).

The Hard Drive records that which we find important for more
permanent storage.  The ROM is the firmware...the instructions...
which makes use of the information in the memory.

Although this is more difficult to alter...
it is done on the human level through repetition.

We can alter the actual wiring in the brain through repetitious
usage.  Through a new way of thinking, and using this new process
of learned skill over and over...we may change our ROM...
or in effect...update our instructional base...essentially giving us a
new computer.  People may change...it is just that most don't
since it involves so much effort.

It is done naturally in humans as they transition from child to adolescent
to adult.  Our experiences mold our ROM through the strength of...
and the number of, repetitions.

When one reaches adulthood...most of our ROM is hardwired...
and so, most never change
(again, the wiring MAY be changed in adulthood....
but only through great effort or trauma).

That is why it is so crucial to have your child learn correctly at the beginning.

Although the brain is always plastic...
it is extremely so... the younger they are.


It is not only repetition that is key...
it is the timing of it that also matters.

The brain must not only encode the memory...
it must then consolidate and store it.

Should new information be presented...
the extent of which overloads the person's ability
to store in their short term memory (differs by person)...
the person is forced to remember only the salient points
of the new block of information...thereby losing many
of the details.

Should the information be presented by concept...
and only by concept until mastered...
the pertinent information may be retained as a working whole...
and the working memory is then clear for new input.

Revisiting and consolidating the new information into
a larger working concept allows the long term storage
to be updated and stored together (an essential defragmentation).


Chapter Summary

1)  Most memories disappear within minutes, but those which survive
the fragile period...strengthen with time (and exposure).

2)  Long term memories are formed in a two way conversation
between the hippocampus and the cortex...
until the hippocampus breaks the connection and the memory
is fixed in the cortex...which can take years
(unless the memory is fixed early through adequate repetition
or fitted into an easily remembered concept).

3)  Our brains give us only an approximate view of reality...
because they mix new knowledge with the past memories
and store them together as one.

4)  The way to make long-term memory more reliable is to incorporate
new information gradually and repeat it in timed intervals.


A great strength of Home Schooling is in its inherent
ability to adhere to that which is the most effective way
of remembering...through repetition...concept by concept...
before moving to the next.

Through constant review...and through DAILY instruction
and practice...broken into smaller sessions ...which are repeated
more often and at an appropriate amount of spacing...
where the information may be cogitated and eventually downloaded...
a child may make steady improvements.

A three month break from school  (as in most public schools)...is sheer madness.
It is a holdover from when children had to help with the harvests.

School should be year round with perhaps 4 one week vacations
(one for each season).

Alex loves learning because of his steady progress.

The inherent nature of daily on-line learning allows
it to fit in with the way that humans naturally learn...
through daily reinforcement...and in smaller chunks at any one time.

Concepts learned...
daily reinforcement...
eventual retainment...
steady progress.



Friday, November 11, 2011

Home Schooling - Part 5 of a 12 Part Book Review - Brain Rules - Rule 5


Song:  Nara

Group:  E.S. Posthumus



BRAIN RULE 5

SHORT-TERM MEMORY:  Repeat to remember


This chapter starts with various forms of memory.

What they are, in the context of this article, is unimportant.

What is important is not even the steps of memorizing that the brain 
uses in everyday recording
(encoding, storing, retrieving, and erasing).

That which is of great importance to us, the parents, is how to help our
children better their recall abilities.

Researchers have found common characteristics in the encoding process.

They had cited three that have direct implications to learning.

However, for real life application...
there is one central message...
to remember through contextual understanding.

If randomness can be made to be meaningful...
time and again, researchers had found a much higher retention rate.

Learning the concept or understanding the context which underlies
the seemingly random inputs...
through the instructor tying it in to real world examples...
gives a layout of proper placement of the input in the whole (context).

The stronger and more relevant the examples...
and the more often they are used...
the stronger the initial imprint.

Chapter Summary

1)  The brain has many types of memory systems.  One type follows 
four stages of processing:  encoding, storing, retrieving, and forgetting.

2)  Information coming into your brain is immediately split into fragments
that are sent to different regions of the cortex for storage
(and that is why it is important to tie them together in context).

3)  Most of the events that predict whether something learned
will also be remembered...occur in the first few seconds of learning.  
The more elaborately we encode a memory during its initial moments...
the stronger it will be (multiple real life examples).

4)  You can improve your chances of remembering something...
 if you reproduce the environment in which you first put it into your brain
(although physically is impractical...placement of yourself backwards in time
to the place in your mind is practical).


We always strive to give multiple real life applications of principles to Alex.  

If I can...I inject humor.

Doing so not only grabs his attention...
it helps in retainment as it will be an anomaly that stands out in his mind.

I will also attempt to revisit the concept or principle again...
many times in the future to ensure retainment.

I will also have him to try to illustrate a principle through real life examples
as we see them happening outside.  By doing so...you are not only incorporating
multiple senses...most importantly...you are giving him a picture to recall a principle.
By merely recalling the picture...he will remember the movie in his mind
about what the whole discussion was about...
concept or principle...
 and all in context.




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