Menu
Jump to content

What's with the ads?

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Guest

Direct instruction and creativity/problem-solving

Recommended Posts

Guest
DH recently told me that the reason he types so slowly is because he often starts with the stressed syllable, even when that's not the beginning of the word. E.g., if he were typing the word "engaged" he would likely type "ga" first, then have to backspace to fill in the "en," then forward-space to add the "ged." I thought that was fascinating because it highlights both the nonlinear way he thinks and also the fact that VSLs tend to categorize things based on meaning or importance, so he basically files and retrieves words by the accented syllable rather than by the first letter.

 

 

Wow. Just wow. This is one of those things that is so far out of my own experience that it is terribly difficult to fully comprehend.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
My DH and DS are both extreme VSLs, and I have to say that learning how to teach DS has been like learning a foreign language, because I'm very much a linear-sequential thinker. I've tried to add more concrete details in my comments.

 

 

I don't know how linear or sequential I am; but I too feel as though when I work with dd I often have to "translate" the way I think into the way she thinks.

I'm almost, but not entirely, bilingual now. :001_smile:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So what's a good book/website to learn more about Visual-spatial? It could describe ds, but I need to read more on HOW to teach this child. I'm checking out the one Jackie linked.

 

I've read Edison trait and Strong-willed child or Dreamer. Those were both helpful too.

 

I think I have parts of that as well, but I was conditioned to operate in a traditional learning environment.

 

We are outside the box in many aspects, but I'd like to be more intentional about where we are headed. I get nervous on how we do things, and my natural inclination is to fall back into the traditional route.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
So what's a good book/website to learn more about Visual-spatial? It could describe ds, but I need to read more on HOW to teach this child.

 

The single most useful book for me so far has been Jeffrey Freed's Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World. I credit this book with helping me learn to teach dd to spell, at long last. At the time I first encountered it I didn't understand how visual spellers thought and remembered. Now I don't necessarily really "get" it on an intuitive level, but I can see it in front of my face when it occurs! There are other chapters on teaching reading strategies, math, and writing.

 

And this is not a book or a website, but: some kids are extraordinarily astute about how they best learn, even at relatively young ages. They may not be able to explain it to you in terms you can understand (or they may -- Elizabeth's dd does this), but they can certainly show you. Dd has been my teacher in this regard. By watching her reactions to different types of activities or approaches or materials, by seeing how she chooses or asks to approach a research interest of her own choice, by talking and gauging how well she understands different media, I've been able (over the years; it wasn't a quick or easy thing to understand) to get a really good idea of how she thinks and figures things out. She's always been full of plans not only about what she wants to learn but HOW she wants to go about it. I'm really thankful that somehow I was given the wisdom to listen to what she was telling me.

 

Edited to add: Freed's book talks a lot about right-brained kids and ADHD, which dd does not have; but so much of what he says is still true of her and useful for me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Wow. Just wow. This is one of those things that is so far out of my own experience that it is terribly difficult to fully comprehend.

Well then this will totally blow your mind... I was just talking to DH about how hard it is for me to imagine thinking in 3D moving images, and he said that actually he thinks in more than three dimensions and the images are often extremely abstract. :blink:

 

He says that since he tends to be working on multiple problems over long periods of time (he's a computer scientist specializing in stereo/3D imaging and does a lot of research on the neurology of vision as well), he can "nest" multiple, multi-dimensional "conceptual maps" inside each other and "pop" into and out of them as needed, including working on different levels or dimensions simultaneously. Each level contains connections to all other levels, so it's not just a conceptual version of those little nesting dolls. Of course he said it's not really possible to explain it in words, so he tried to explain it by analogy to some concept in quantum physics, while drawing diagrams all over the chalkboard in the kitchen, all of which was completely over my head.

 

I learn something new every day... :001_huh:

 

Jackie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Furthermore, information isn't filed in neat, content-specific file folders for easy retrieval, it just sort of floats around in their heads looking for a connector site.

 

I think you've explained for me dd's brain, something that has flummoxed me for some time now.

 

Textbooks preorganize information in a linear, sequential way that is perfect for linear, sequential thinkers. Spatial thinkers don't learn that way, though — they jump all over the place, often making lots of lateral connections rather than moving step by step through the material. For example, a VSL kid learning biology may start at the beginning of the text, learning about cell structure, but then want to jump to learning about single-celled organisms (including several weeks studying protists in pond water), then researching the evolution of life on earth and recent research in recreating the process, and then maybe a brief foray into the search for life on Mars, back to evolution and natural selection, then DNA & genetics (with lots of hands-on labs), then studying the human body (with a side trip into the evolution of viruses), then reading Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish, then... etc. It may look completely random and disorganized to a linear/sequential person, but that is how they learn and organize information, and if they are allowed to learn that way, then their retention is amazing, and they will often jump ahead and make further connections on their own.

 

This is why forcing these kids to just "suck it up and get it done," when they are frustrated and miserable, only exacerbates the problem. They aren't just "crying to get out of the work" — in fact, much of their unhappiness comes from the fact that they want to do it, but it's just not working. Amen. Like Karen's DD, my DS is a very compliant, eager-to-please kid. It isn't a character issue, it's a neurotranmitter issue; they simply can't process information when they're in this state, no matter how hard they try, or how much they want to please.

 

Jackie

 

Now I hate to sound really ignorant here, but can you tell me about the daily process of working through the biology text in the fashion you described? Are you saying your ds *did* this with a text or that it *could* work this way? I'm asking, because in my own mind I've been able to free up within the topic (start with hands-on or something else, etc.), but I hadn't thought to approach it the way you're describing. I think there are a few more steps implicit in that process that I need spelled out.

 

There is now brain-imaging research which confirms that in some young children (particularly in visual-spatial thinkers), 3-D mental imaging ability develops BEFORE a flatter, more fixed and sequentially-oriented visual processing. It's not a disability or a problem, UNLESS you stick that kid in a rigidly sequential classroom where the methodology of learning to read is grounded in a mode of perception and processing utterly alien to those kids -- which most programs are, as they have been designed by left-brained, word-oriented, sequential, incremental thinkers.

 

And by the way, dd did not learn to read phonetically either.

 

With some kids, the 3-D processing goes along with an incredibly accurate sense of their bodies' position in space and in motion; with others, the reverse seems to be true.

 

I'm trying to chew on this. I'm not sure to what degree dd is VSL. What I do know is that before VT she did not see (as in with her eyes) with true depth perception because of the visual processing and vision problems. Now she has both proper sense of self in space AND proper depth perception. I have no clue to what degree that has changed her internal visualizations and ponderings, hmm. It is true she's insanely good with stuff like that. She has been rearranging my basement, talking about visual walls using certain things, etc., lol.

 

One of dd's greatest frustrations in private school was the writing program, which was agonizingly (to her) incremental... Double Amen.

 

The book you mentioned is "School of Dreams" just in case anyone is looking. It's awesome, very, very inspiring. I read the whole thing, every single page, something I rarely do. (You could say I'm an impatient reader.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So what's a good book/website to learn more about Visual-spatial? It could describe ds, but I need to read more on HOW to teach this child. ... We are outside the box in many aspects, but I'd like to be more intentional about where we are headed. I get nervous on how we do things, and my natural inclination is to fall back into the traditional route.

 

Linda Silverman, a psychologist who specializes in helping gifted VSL kids, wrote an article called Two Ways of Knowing that summarizes a number of the psychological and neurological studies on VSLs. Some of the information is dated (it was written about 15 years ago), but it's a good starting point. Below are some of her suggestions for teaching VSLs (note the emphasize on discovery-based learning):

 

* Use inductive (discovery) techniques as often as possible. This capitalizes on the visual-spatial learner's pattern-finding strength.

 

* Teach the student to translate what he or she hears into images, and record those images using webbing, mind-mapping techniques, or pictorial notes.

 

* Incorporate spatial exercises, visual imagery, reading material that is rich in fantasy, and visualization activities into the curriculum. Spatial conceptualization has the ability to go beyond linear thinking because it deals more readily with immense complexities and the interrelations of systems.

 

* Avoid drill, repetition, and rote memorization; use more abstract conceptual approaches and fewer, more difficult problems.

 

* Visualization and imagination are the visual-spatial learner's most powerful tools and should be used frequently.

 

* Allow the student to construct, draw, or otherwise create visual representations of a concept as a substitute for some written assignments.

 

* If a bright student struggles with easy, sequential tasks, see if he can handle more advanced, complex work. Acceleration is often more beneficial for such a student than remediation.

 

Jackie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
Linda Silverman, a psychologist who specializes in helping gifted VSL kids, wrote an article called Two Ways of Knowing that summarizes a number of the psychological and neurological studies on VSLs.

 

...

 

* Teach the student to translate what he or she hears into images, and record those images using webbing, mind-mapping techniques, or pictorial notes.

 

* Incorporate spatial exercises, visual imagery, reading material that is rich in fantasy, and visualization activities into the curriculum. Spatial conceptualization has the ability to go beyond linear thinking because it deals more readily with immense complexities and the interrelations of systems.

 

* Avoid drill, repetition, and rote memorization; use more abstract conceptual approaches and fewer, more difficult problems.

 

* Visualization and imagination are the visual-spatial learner's most powerful tools and should be used frequently.

 

...

 

* If a bright student struggles with easy, sequential tasks, see if he can handle more advanced, complex work. Acceleration is often more beneficial for such a student than remediation.

 

Jackie

 

Great list. Jeffrey Freed's book gives specifics about how to do this: HOW to use visualization, what types of things can typically be speeded up rather than slowed for remediation, etc. I had done a number of them intuitively -- or perhaps what is more likely, dd had already taught herself without me knowing it, so I had no room to interfere and trip her up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
Well then this will totally blow your mind... I was just talking to DH about how hard it is for me to imagine thinking in 3D moving images, and he said that actually he thinks in more than three dimensions and the images are often extremely abstract. :blink:

 

Yep, this one blew all the fuses.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest

 

The book you mentioned is "School of Dreams" just in case anyone is looking. It's awesome, very, very inspiring. I read the whole thing, every single page, something I rarely do. (You could say I'm an impatient reader.)

 

Thanks; I keep messing up my titles today: imperfect retrieval technique.:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The single most useful book for me so far has been Jeffrey Freed's Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World. I credit this book with helping me learn to teach dd to spell, at long last. At the time I first encountered it I didn't understand how visual spellers thought and remembered. Now I don't necessarily really "get" it on an intuitive level, but I can see it in front of my face when it occurs! There are other chapters on teaching reading strategies, math, and writing.

 

And this is not a book or a website, but: some kids are extraordinarily astute about how they best learn, even at relatively young ages. They may not be able to explain it to you in terms you can understand (or they may -- Elizabeth's dd does this), but they can certainly show you. Dd has been my teacher in this regard. By watching her reactions to different types of activities or approaches or materials, by seeing how she chooses or asks to approach a research interest of her own choice, by talking and gauging how well she understands different media, I've been able (over the years; it wasn't a quick or easy thing to understand) to get a really good idea of how she thinks and figures things out. She's always been full of plans not only about what she wants to learn but HOW she wants to go about it. I'm really thankful that somehow I was given the wisdom to listen to what she was telling me.

 

Edited to add: Freed's book talks a lot about right-brained kids and ADHD, which dd does not have; but so much of what he says is still true of her and useful for me.

 

Sounds great. I'm adding it. Thanks for the edit, I would have dismissed it because of the ADD subtitle.

 

Linda Silverman, a psychologist who specializes in helping gifted VSL kids, wrote an article called Two Ways of Knowing that summarizes a number of the psychological and neurological studies on VSLs. Some of the information is dated (it was written about 15 years ago), but it's a good starting point. Below are some of her suggestions for teaching VSLs (note the emphasize on discovery-based learning):

 

 

 

Thanks, Jackie, that list is helpful. It's nice to know the book addresses how to do this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Now I hate to sound really ignorant here, but can you tell me about the daily process of working through the biology text in the fashion you described? Are you saying your ds *did* this with a text or that it *could* work this way? I'm asking, because in my own mind I've been able to free up within the topic (start with hands-on or something else, etc.), but I hadn't thought to approach it the way you're describing. I think there are a few more steps implicit in that process that I need spelled out.

Well, DS tried to learn biology that way the year I decided to impose textbook learning on him, but every time he wanted to jump off and explore some connected thread, I said something along the lines of "no, we won't get to that until chapter 18" or whatever. I just assumed that he needed to go through the textbook in the "correct" order, but what I actually did was prevent him from really learning or retaining anything — and I managed to make him hate what had previously been his favorite subject. :banghead:

 

So we started over, sans textbook. Here are some of the things he's studied in the last couple of years:

 

* He's interested in paleontology, so he's read extensively about the emergence and evolution of single-celled organisms, and the new research on the origin of amino acids. He can draw and label the parts of plant and animal cells and describe the function of most organelles.

 

* Extensive study of protists and algae; he regularly collects new organisms, studies them under the microscope, identifies, and draws them.

 

* Spent several months studying the different ant species on our property, including conducting lots of experiments and reading about the concepts of "emergent phenomena" and complexity.

 

* Spent several months studying mantids and grasshoppers, including observing a mantid stalking, capturing, and consuming prey daily, as well as mating and laying eggs. He noticed that the mantid learned, from experience, to pull the back legs off large grasshoppers before eating them, so she wouldn't get kicked while eating, and that she always discarded one small part of the grasshopper, which turned out to be the contents of one part of the intestine — even though she would carefully eat the membrane around it, like eating corn on the cob! Watching her eat grasshoppers led him to research grasshopper anatomy & physiology and he did lots of drawings.

 

* Collected and maintained a colony of about 40 planarians and conducted numerous experiments (e.g. food preferences, preference for light or dark, fresh or "stale" water, etc.). Researched and drew diagrams of their neurology and digestive systems (he was fascinated by their primitive "eye spots" and the fact that they eat by everting their "stomachs" from the middle of their bodies since they lack mouths).

 

* Spent about a month studying birds after he read a book about a biologist who kept a pet barn owl for 20+ years. Watched an online "owl cam," dissected pellets, watched Life of Birds, did numerous bird-watching trips, read Proctor & Lynch's Manual of Ornithology, and did lots of drawings.

 

* He's spent at least 200 hours on paleontological digs in the last 3 years, plus reads books, scientific articles, and assorted paleo blogs. He's read parts of Origin of Species, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, The Beak of the Finch, and Your Inner Fish.

 

* We spent a couple of weeks studying the human eye and visual system, including dissection, which he did not enjoy, lol. He's fascinated by trilobyte visual systems, though; not only were their eyes made of minerals, some species were capable of binocular color vision. He recently had a very interesting conversation with a trilobyte specialist, who did a double take when DS started asking him very detailed questions, lol.

 

* He's really into marine invertebrates like nudibranchs, jellies, anemones, and... all those other things he could easily rattle off a list of, but which I have no idea about. (I once mistakenly confused sea squirts with sea cucumbers and got an indignant lecture about pentaradial symmetry vs something else and... I forget the rest). I don't know where he gets all his info from, he just reads a lot, watches documentaries, and absorbs things out of the air apparently.

 

* He hasn't done much with genetics yet, beyond a bit of research into fruit fly genetics, watching several documentaries, messing around with a large DNA model we have, and reading parts of The Cartoon Guide to Genetics and a "graphic novel" called The Stuff of Life.

 

I'm sure there's more but that's all I can think of off the top of my head. I expect that by the time he hits 9th grade, he'll have covered most of what's in an intro level bio text, so the text will just fill in the gaps rather than being the primary mode of learning.

 

I'll write more in a separate post.

 

Jackie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jackie, see that's what I'm realizing I *should* have done with my dd and am floundering, trying to rearrange for in my mind. We spent a whole chapter reading (on paper mind you) about planaria. Well I think that's all fine and dandy, but she was not enjoying it, even with all my efforts at looking at pics online, etc. Finally we googled a bit, realized you could CATCH the things, found instructions (on MIT's website, of all places), and realized we should have STARTED there and worked with them all we wanted, then read the text as needed/desired. I would have had the textbook to guide me in content coverage, and it would have been fine. Shrug. I hate learning the hard way, hate it totally.

 

So it sounds like what I'm thinking in my mind of moving toward is what you've been doing. Then I'm on track. The one big difference is that she's a history person. She has spent days now looking for pictures of dragons to enhance her newest art project. Oh man, if I were REALLY smart, I'd figure out a way to jump into THAT topic for our science. Dude, I am slower than molasses! See I was telling her we could look at models of lizard and reptile anatomy (musculature, etc.) to know what the dinos were built like. (You need to know so your sculpture will look realistic.) Dude, how could I be so slow!!!!

 

Ok, I'll shut up now. I really appreciate you spelling that out. As Karen said, dd tells me and I *still* miss it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
Jackie, see that's what I'm realizing I *should* have done with my dd and am floundering, trying to rearrange for in my mind. We spent a whole chapter reading (on paper mind you) about planaria. Well I think that's all fine and dandy, but she was not enjoying it, even with all my efforts at looking at pics online, etc. Finally we googled a bit, realized you could CATCH the things, found instructions (on MIT's website, of all places), and realized we should have STARTED there and worked with them all we wanted, then read the text as needed/desired. I would have had the textbook to guide me in content coverage, and it would have been fine.

 

On another fairly recent thread -- somewhere -- I quoted -- something -- in which a study had shown that the best single factor for predicting how much a kid could understand and retain from a non-fiction text was not reading difficulty level, but prior knowledge or exposure. Tomorrow when I'm freshly caffeinated I can try to remember exactly where this was. But the example the author used to reinforce this point was to show a passage reporting a cricket match, full of such obscure slang and particular terminology that I could only understand words like "the" and "in."

 

Perhaps one of the things that happens when kids do investigative learning, or are exposed to hands-on examples and/or exploratory learning first, is that they gain the exposure and the preliminary understanding necessary so that reading a difficult textbook is made much easier; their minds are primed for the formal, text-based learning by the previous activities in a way that can't happen with kids who go straight to the text and are expected to acquire their main understandings from that. Perhaps this goes a long way to explain why the MIT experimental class ended up scoring higher on the test that both classes took. And maybe that's why, at least in part, Jackie's son is able to effortlessly absorb what he reads AFTER his messing about and hands-on investigations. Also wondering whether for V-S learners, some of them at least, watching a documentary, say, might trigger the same neurological connections as hands-on stuff. So even though they get the same kind of information as they would from a text, different parts of their brains are coming into play, so processing it all differently, and maybe more effectively.

 

No idea. Just speculating... Night Thoughts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There's a fascinating story in a book called Dream School, which is about one of the top-ranked private schools in the nation. One of the physics teachers decided to do an experiment with one of his classes, replacing the usual syllabus for a six to eight week period with a huge and demanding project -- having the kids experiment with Alka-Seltzer rockets which they would build and refine, then doing "launches" and coming up with the mathematical equations which would eventually enable them to determine where the rockets would land, THEN adding the complication of where they would land given a certain amount of water and Alka-Seltzer.

 

The final test was conducted in the gym. A hula hoop was placed in a random spot on the floor across from the launching pads, and kids had three tries to run their equations through their computers and/or calculators -- I forget whether the fuel amount was pre-specified or whether they had leeway on that -- and land the rocket in the hoop at least once. They also had to present their work on the design of their rocket and on their mathematics to a panel of five or six outside scientists and specialists brought in for the occasion.

 

The outcome: one of the groups that the teacher considered the weakest in the traditional AP class came out tops (either first or second place); the group made up of stellar AP students performed the most poorly -- they actually failed. After the kids begged for something to make up for it, he gave them a written test on the textbook material, which they duly aced. They simply could not apply what they knew because they were used to a very specific definition and use of knowledge. They knew, in other words, how to study for the test, and that was the limit of what they knew.

 

I know tests and scores loom large in the minds of most of us. But the blog, the studies, the chapters in the Dream School, are encouraging precisely because they say that you do not have to sacrifice one for the other. In fact, you will likely end up with kids who score higher on the tests if their work is not limited to or centered around a syllabus geared to the tests.

 

For some kids, you'll also preserve their love of a subject rather than getting the reaction that the ex-dean of Stanford Admissions Joyce Reed got when her daughter took the French AP test: "Thank goodness, now I never have to look at or speak French again." It doesn't happen with all kids, but it happens to some; and mine is a great example of one those kids whose passion for a subject can be destroyed when the emphasis is on narrowly defined performance and scores.

 

This whole thing can sound counterintuitive for many of us, I'm very aware, but that's because we are so used to the whole testing apparatus and the test prep industry. I understand it takes a lot of courage to do what feels like betting your child's future on a scary departure from the way things are conventionally done -- again, that's why the studies and stories are so important. I don't know that I would have done it had I not been faced with a child who absolutely required it.

 

If anyone is wanting to experiment but is afraid, even in the face of the studies and stories, to risk a child's SAT II scores -- perhaps you could pick an area that isn't going to be a SAT II subject for your child in which to see how it all works. My leanings are the opposite -- I do this in exactly the areas that my child is most passionate about and will be most likely to need to have scores in should we decide to go that route -- but I can see that for others it might work better and be less panic-inducing to start out in other areas and see how it goes, or to do as Roger Schank did, and build up a child's "outside" interest (the subway kid; Nan's kids' peacewalking and traveling and sailing) in this way.

 

Thank you to both you and Jackie! Yes scared does sum it up. In hindsight, I so wish we had done this experiential learning in junior high so she could have reaped the benefits of that before even hitting high school. Yes it is definitely counterintuitive, and yet it does make sense once you think about it. Any creative pursuit begins with nothing and builds from there. It doesn't start by getting a formula and plugging in numbers, or words, or lines, or sounds, it begins by thinking and experimenting and eliminating and developing what's left. It sounds like you're doing exactly what Jackie had suggested - doing the experiential and investigative learning first and then exploring the topic through reading. It would be great to have more info on the MIT course and when and how the textbook played into their learning. Was it just a reference tool, or did they actually go through the applicable chapters working the sample problems and applying the formulas - this would be interesting to know. It sounds like my dd would absolutely love that class, but to even make that even a remote possibility, first she has to learn the subjects to test well on them to meet the admission requirements. :tongue_smilie:

 

I haven't even read through the posts after yours above - I can't believe how much was added here today! I'm going to have to come back to this thread tomorrow when it's not so late. Thank you so much for bringing up this topic! :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jackie, see that's what I'm realizing I *should* have done with my dd and am floundering, trying to rearrange for in my mind. We spent a whole chapter reading (on paper mind you) about planaria. Well I think that's all fine and dandy, but she was not enjoying it, even with all my efforts at looking at pics online, etc. Finally we googled a bit, realized you could CATCH the things, found instructions (on MIT's website, of all places), and realized we should have STARTED there and worked with them all we wanted, then read the text as needed/desired. I would have had the textbook to guide me in content coverage, and it would have been fine. Shrug. I hate learning the hard way, hate it totally.

 

So it sounds like what I'm thinking in my mind of moving toward is what you've been doing. Then I'm on track. The one big difference is that she's a history person. She has spent days now looking for pictures of dragons to enhance her newest art project. Oh man, if I were REALLY smart, I'd figure out a way to jump into THAT topic for our science. Dude, I am slower than molasses! See I was telling her we could look at models of lizard and reptile anatomy (musculature, etc.) to know what the dinos were built like. (You need to know so your sculpture will look realistic.) Dude, how could I be so slow!!!!

 

Actually, DS really became a "history person" once I turned him loose. I decided to be really hands-off with history; I get him whatever TC courses he asks for, I watch/discuss them with him whenever I get a chance, and provide him with books on whatever topics he wants to research. He was really into Egypt for a while, but for the last year and a half or so he's been devouring every resource on Greek history he can get his hands on. He's also made numerous forays into related areas, using Greece as his conceptual "base." E.g., after watching the TC course on the Greek & Persian wars he decided to do more research about the Persian (Achaemenid) Empire, then followed that trail through the Seleucids, Parthians (with a brief detour to the Tocharians), and Sassanids, before returning to Greece with a course on Alexander (followed by another, even more in-depth, course on Alexander). He also went back and researched Mesopotamian city states once he understood Greek city states, because then he had something meaningful to connect the information to (whereas the first time we went through Mesopotamia he had zero interest and remembered nothing).

 

One really interesting opportunity he's provided for me, in terms of helping him synthesize more abstract concepts, is that he's invented this fictional civilization ("Entegonia"), including writing their "history," mapping their landscape, and designing/drawing many cultural attributes like clothing, weapons, houses, religious shrines, etc.; he's also evolving them over time. This is a huge bonus for me, because he's providing two of the key components for VSLs: a wholistic "big picture" canvas and an arena for discovery-based learning. So, for example, when he showed me his original map of the Entegonian world, I noticed that he had a lot of geographic features arranged in ways that would not occur in nature, so I started asking questions: "Interesting that the river is running parallel to both the mountains and the ocean — where does it start and where does it drain? Can you do a bit of research on rivers and watersheds?" (He redrew the river, and added a marshy delta where it drained into the sea.) "I see that the forest ends abruptly at the edge of this steppe environment. I wonder what would cause that?" (After a bit of research, he added a transitional zone and changed the steppe to a plain when he realized that the descent from the elevation of the steppe to sea level would be far too steep.) When he said that he was planning for the Entegonians to move from the forest near the sea to the steppe/plain area, I asked him to name all the resources he could think of that would be available to people with easy access to a river, forest, and ocean. He decided that there were multiple sources of high-quality, easily accessible protein (fish/shelfish, game, fowl), honey, fruit, nuts, probably starches like tubers and acorns; unlimited supplies of salt and fresh water; wood for building and fuel, etc. "So what would cause these people to migrate from a land rich in natural and food resources to a much sparser area like a plain or steppe?" He thought of natural disaster (forest fire, tsunami), competition from neighboring groups, conquest and forced migration. He planned to have them transition from a forest-based people loosely organized into a confederation of tribes into a more hierarchical society practicing agriculture, so I asked what would drive that transition: what would be the advantages for them, in that environment, of a more stratified organization? I suggested that he research the sort of environments in which all of the earliest civilizations developed, and think about why they developed in those particular places.

 

OTOH, there were some aspects of Entegonian civilization that he absolutely nailed, such as having the main deity of these forest people be a god of both hunting and the moon, symbolized by a wolf. He drew beautiful jewelry, including a pendant showing the hunting/moon god, made of silver, wrestling with a boar, made of gold to symbolize the sun; he said it was made to commemorate an eclipse. He also said that as they transitioned to being more settled and agricultural the sun god would become more prominent, and there would be a struggle between the elders who wanted to continue venerating the moon good and the emergent priest class who wanted to focus on the sun god. I thought that was really perceptive.

 

Anyway, I hope that gives you a few ideas of how you can use some of the creative "projects" these kids come up with for some stealth learning, by asking lots of questions and letting them figure it out, rather than directly "interfering" or trying to co-opt their projects.

 

(BTW, if you want to sneak a bit of science into her dragon project, there's a very cool website called Dragon Genetics that you might casually mention to her... ;) )

 

Jackie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

KarenAnne, thanks for the interesting and thought-provoking article. Perfect timing for me. I have been spending my past two weeks looking back on this last year and thinking about the direction I want to take in the fall. I have been mulling over things like my kids' MBTI looking for answers, searching for a better way to help them learn - a more effective way, more individualized.

 

Thanks to you, and Jackie and JennW for sharing your thoughts, research, insights and glimpses into your personal life. The VSL vs. linear/sequential learner was new to me and VERY helpful. I would guess that I'm somewhere in the middle, but my ds is definitely not linear/sequential. I couldn't understand why he was taking so long to do a lesson of Lial's, since it's so clear and sequential and makes perfect sense to me! How could he forget how to graph an equation when two minutes ago I just showed him how to do it? Why does he always seem to have a need to try a unique method to solve a problem - Why can't he just DO IT LIKE THE BOOK SAYS? :blush: Sigh. I have so much to learn. Intuitively I've always known that I need to find a non-traditional way to "reach" his unique/quirky mind. That's why we started as unschoolers.

 

So I guess my personal goal is to have it all - take the content of a classical education and offer it to him in a way he can devour it :D

 

So much food for thought, I will be processing this thread for weeks. Thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Also wondering whether for V-S learners, some of them at least, watching a documentary, say, might trigger the same neurological connections as hands-on stuff. So even though they get the same kind of information as they would from a text, different parts of their brains are coming into play, so processing it all differently, and maybe more effectively.

That's a very interesting question. I would guess (and this is purely a guess) that for a VSL a really good documentary would be the equivalent of a really concise, well-organized, well-written book for a linear-sequential thinker; i.e., it would be presenting the information in a way that was "preformatted" for the way they absorb information. Actually, now that I think about it, many documentaries do sort of start "in the middle" of the story, by presenting the key concept or event, and then they jump forward and backward in time, even leading the viewer down dead end rabbit trails (NOVA documentaries often do this, replicating the way a scientific puzzle was solved, dead ends and all). So I think there's more to it than just the fact that documentaries use pictures instead of words — I would assume that documentaries are likely to be produced by people who are themselves VSLs, so not only is the information presented visually, it's presented in a structure that makes sense to them as well. In contrast, textbooks tend to present information in a more linear, sequential way, like an expanded outline. I think many documentaries would be very difficult to outline! They lend themselves more to the "mapping" strategies used by VSLs, which often have a hub (main concept) at the center, with branches to other "satellite" concepts.

 

It's still, I think, a more passive form of learning than interactive/hands-on/discovery-based learning would be, because the "answers" are still being provided rather than the student discovering them for themselves. But perhaps by providing the information visually, it gives VSLs a much larger field of concepts to play with later, whereas if the same information had been presented in text form they would probably only have been able to visualize a small percentage of the info — and only what was relevant to them at the time. With documentaries, they can often absorb and retain the whole thing, for later playback, even if they don't quite "get" all of the information when they first see it. Does that make sense? I know there have been times when DS has suddenly made a connection and said something like "oh yeah, I remember that documentary about annelids when they said that... blah blah blah" and it's something that didn't really even register at the time but that now makes sense to him. There's no way he could do that with information from a textbook, because there would not be any "storage mechanism" for information that wasn't immediately relevant when he read it.

 

Jackie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The kind of hands-on learning and analytical thinking we are discussing doesn't have to be connected to a conventional academic subject to be effective, either. Roger Schank, a computer scientists and specialist on memory and cognition, wrote a book called Coloring Outside the Lines. It's a few years old now, but it has some great stuff about what his research has discovered to be effective (note: not necessarily efficient) ways of learning.

 

He talks, for instance, about analytical thinking, which is a staple of the classical curriculum and many, many other educational philosophies. Only he defines what he is talking about as something that isn't learned from doing math problems or paper-based logic. Rather, he says, it comes from "putting your kid into a complex situation and asking him to figure his way out." Repeatedly.

I just ordered this book — thanks for the recommendation! I couldn't agree more with the idea of developing analytical thinking by putting your kid in complex situations and making them figure their way out. We very quickly dropped the logic/critical thinking workbooks (which DS hated) and replaced them with chess, which he loves. It accomplishes the same purpose, IMO, but it's more visual, it's three-dimensional, and it's much more interactive and engaging. And the joy on his face whenever he manages to beat DH is something you just can't get from a workbook. :)

 

Jackie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest

Last night after we watched the final episode from the first season of Young Sherlock Holmes, dd mused about how long it took her to figure out what "homicide" meant when she was much younger and came across it in books, what she thought it had first meant, how she gradually refined its meaning for herself. I asked her why in the world she didn't simply ask me what it meant, being such a young child at the time. She said, "You know I prefer to figure things out for myself."

 

All of a sudden -- BING!!! I realized that what I've long seen as a problem, a deficit, in both her and dh, which is that both of them really don't like to ask questions and thus do not conform to typical conversational patterns or the stereotype of the ideal, questioning, curious student, is actually part of just what we've been discussing. She doesn't ask questions, NOT because she's passive or uncurious, but because she's actually thinking and working and musing all the time, figuring them out for herself. Whole patterns of working with dd and many frustrations I've had wondering why she doesn't ask questions when she's clearly in interested in a subject (it's not that she NEVER does, just that she rarely does), all became clear.

 

What a gigantic aha! moment for me. I can't believe it's taken me this long to understand it, and I'm so grateful that this thread was taking off as it has in a way that allowed me to reach this amazing conclusion. Thanks, everyone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
Actually, DS really became a "history person" once I turned him loose. I decided to be really hands-off with history; I get him whatever TC courses he asks for, I watch/discuss them with him whenever I get a chance, and provide him with books on whatever topics he wants to research.

 

After many discussions with Jackie last year, this is precisely what I did with dd this past year too. She was an extremely reluctant history reader. I substituted some TC lectures, which she loved immediately. Now we follow the same pattern of watching, discussing, and doing follow-up reading. I also tie the history courses to literature; we're usually alternating or combining history courses with lit courses.

 

This past year dd, who previously claimed the only interesting era in history was the Renaissance, has become totally fascinated by the English civil war and the early modern period. Sadly, there isn't nearly as much TC material on this period and place as there is for Jackie's son on ancient Greece. But I started reading aloud chapters from some of the books I like, including a great book on the politics and linguistic theory behind the making of the King James Bible, the Restoration theater, the development and significance of coffee houses, and other assorted topics. Dd is now ASKING me for more history done in this fashion. In her own way, she's doing what in another, more outgoing kid would be banging down the doors demanding more.

 

We're now into the early 1700s and the Augustans, whose main literary aims included wit and political/cultural satire. Dd is gobbling up things like Dryden's MacFlecknoe, which she thinks is hilarious, and parts of The Dunciad. This is never in a million years what I would have predicted she'd take to, nor is it what I would have put into a syllabus if I'd been thinking up a parent-directed course.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
And yet he was unable to memorize times tables or deal with the carrying algorithm.

 

Essentially he has zero ability to memorize anything unless he understands it completely first.

Thank you for the response. :001_smile:

 

I believe, however, that the inability to memorize something which is deprived of meaning is something that most everyone deals with. What I do not understand is where is the understanding inherently absent (at least for some minds) in the "standard" way of doing things.

For example, you mention the carrying algorithm - but that is not something which is presented to kids as a dogma. If it does not intuitively make sense to them, do you go back to explaining place values, or do you not even switch the base from base 10 to, say, base 5, to underline the principle and have them conceptually understand what they are doing?

Times tables, likewise, are not inherently deprived of meaning either - in the "standard" way of doing things, it is not that you hand them to the kid and tell them to memorize... you actually have them understand well what they are doing and if they have any experience with skip counting it is really quite intuitive.

 

Any algorithm, any formula... are deducted first from the observation of how things behave, in any (good) math / science class. That IS the "standard" way of doing things, from what I know - definitely not giving the kid a formula or a scheme for a process they cannot understand.

So the only thing which can go wrong is for the child to be unresponsive to that standard way of doing things... and my question is, what happens THEN? Can they articulate WHY it does not make sense to them? Even if you change the base? Even if you use manipulatives to show what is happening? What could be added to the standard process I know to make it more suitable for those kids? How do you adapt the process for your child?

The trick over the years has been to keep applying standard approaches especially as his brain matured. And I'll have to write about that later as I have to head out the door. The short answer is that this kid, well, this young man now, is not following a traditional route at all, but he is a happy, functional and successful young man who is so very thankful I chose to homeschool him in with a non-traditional approach.

 

Oh, and totally off subject, but EsterMaria -- did your daughter ever start the violin??!!

Thank you for the reply, Jenn - I would love to hear details about how you kept applying standard approaches and how he responded to that.

 

She is enormously frustrated because of a mismatch which exists between what she hears (she has an excellent attention to detail) and what she can physically perform herself, but she is quite patient so I suppose she is progressing nicely. It has opened a Pandora's box, though - now they both want also a - mandolin, go figure.

For example, a VSL kid learning biology may start at the beginning of the text, learning about cell structure, but then want to jump to learning about single-celled organisms (including several weeks studying protists in pond water), then researching the evolution of life on earth and recent research in recreating the process, and then maybe a brief foray into the search for life on Mars, back to evolution and natural selection, then DNA & genetics (with lots of hands-on labs), then studying the human body (with a side trip into the evolution of viruses), then reading Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish, then... etc. It may look completely random and disorganized to a linear/sequential person, but that is how they learn and organize information, and if they are allowed to learn that way, then their retention is amazing, and they will often jump ahead and make further connections on their own.

Wait, I am confused here.

 

How is this approach not linear? It is not a straight line in the way assumed by the text, but more like a wavy one, but fundamentally, it is still linear, is it not? It is not that they jump in the middle of the chapter about an eye (regardless of what they studied before) and deduct the beginning of the chapter? One of my kids used to do that and it drove me crazy, but simply reorganizing the textbook content in a different but still fundamentally linear fashion has never been an issue, even in schools they do it all the time. Does anyone "perfectly" follow a textbook in the first place? It is more like a compendium of what to go through, a checklist, organized by some landmarks, but it is possible to rearrange it, in many cases (I think biology is a good example, since things are not interdependent there for the linear approach to be a must).

as far as she was concerned, there was no single fixed "right" way for a letter to point. There were just possible rotations.

My middle kid did that. :001_smile:

Then she continued to do that in math... Sort of: "What is the sum of angles in a triangle?" Answer: "Depending on which geometry you are in..." :lol:

One of dd's greatest frustrations in private school was the writing program, which was agonizingly (to her) incremental, slowly building up from sentences to paragraphs, learning to incorporate quotations as a separate skill, then and only then moving on to putting two or three paragraphs together, then finally producing a short essay. This drove dd to frenzies of tears. To her, this was fragmenting writing into unrelated bits and pieces in a way that made it impossible, meaningless, and incomprehensible. She was ready to learn by reading examples of full essays and going right to it, in a whole and therefore to her meaningful and accessible form.

Karen, can you break down what exactly was so agonizing for her? From what I understand, her writing instruction consisisted of many little "chunks" and she was expected to master one little chunk after another one. Did she have problems with the individual chunks because she could not see the whole picture? Or she already knew how to do it so it was boring? If so, was she not able to "dumb it down" for school, so to speak - the way that pretty much all advanced kids find themselves dumbing things down for the "official" versions of what they are doing? I guess I am trying to understand whether she was just bored because she already knew things, or she did not know things in advance, but could somehow not process what she was taught.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One more question while I am trying to wrap my mind about this.

 

What you are (Karen and Jackie) basically saying is that you have kids who are wired that way that they are on one extreme end of processing things, rather than being "versatile"?

 

By "versatile" I mean something like this.

Drawing is a skill which does not come naturally to me or to my eldest kid. However, if need be, we can learn to draw - we can literally learn to see things which we would normally ignore. It is not our "usual" mode in which we function, nor our preference, but if need be, we really can adapt to that mode. One of the reasons why I find the elementary drawing instruction important for all kids is exactly because it fosters versatility for us linear types, pushes us out of our comfort zone, and also serves a proxy for some other skills. Now, middle DD can draw anything, anywhere, from any perspective, it is a natural skill for her far more than learned one - but I think a few years of drawing instruction really helped the eldest DD too, in her own way, even if she cannot hope to accomplish, at least not with nearly the same ease, things on the paper that her younger sister can.

 

With that same eldest DD over the years middle DD informally worked on diminishing her verbalizing tendencies in math - she would tend to solve geometry problems by literally writing out lengthier solutions - by placing the focus on having her start seeing relationships and think in terms of seeing more than in terms of translating everything to language. Of course, the eldest DD is far from approaching geometry on its own terms the way middle DD can do - but still, it has been a very useful skill learning for her.

 

Or, say, languages. We did one of each: one which was mostly deduced via analogies (applicable because of our native language) and intuition and only then "formalized" in grammar instruction (Latin), one which was built as a structure fully incrementally. And one which was in the middle of the process (Hebrew), with added conversational method. Of course, the languages were not picked randomly, there is a serious 'cultural agenda' behind each and every one of them - i.e. the concrete knowledge of those languages was important to us - but in the approaches, different skills and different modes of learning were emphasized.

 

What I am trying to say, I guess, is that I more or less consciously wanted them to master different possible approaches to things. Sorting things in neat organizational boxes, if needed - but then being able to draw it all out and recombine it for areas which were more interdisciplinary, if needed. Approaching things which lend themselves to visual functioning visually, but not applying the same principle to algebraic abstractions or to more "fluent", linear fields which deal with language or music.

 

Are you saying, essentially, that your children are so extremely wired in one direction that this type of experimentation cannot work for them and that they must learn exclusively in their preferred way?

So, geometry works naturally - but how do they work out algebra without changing something in the way they approach it? How do they work with law, linear text or music - areas which do not lend themselves so easily (or at all) to being translated to pictures? How do they learn foreign languages, which are incremental in nature and where it is often not possible not to follow a kind of organized line of thought, at least in the beginning? How do you adapt those areas for them?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It would be great to have more info on the MIT course and when and how the textbook played into their learning. Was it just a reference tool' date=' or did they actually go through the applicable chapters working the sample problems and applying the formulas :)[/quote']

 

You can see last fall's TEAL (Technology-Enabled Active Learning) version of Physics 8.01 Classical mechanics here. There's a link to the textbook syllabus - they use Young and Friedman's University Physics. A note at the top of the syllabus states that the students are responsible for preparing the assigned textbook section in advance of class, so yes, I think that they still view the textbook as an integral part of the course. Traditional homework, exams, and a final are still required; it's basically the presentation of the material during lecture/recitation/lab time that's changed in the TEAL approach.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest

Karen, can you break down what exactly was so agonizing for her? From what I understand, her writing instruction consisisted of many little "chunks" and she was expected to master one little chunk after another one. Did she have problems with the individual chunks because she could not see the whole picture? Or she already knew how to do it so it was boring? If so, was she not able to "dumb it down" for school, so to speak - the way that pretty much all advanced kids find themselves dumbing things down for the "official" versions of what they are doing? I guess I am trying to understand whether she was just bored because she already knew things, or she did not know things in advance, but could somehow not process what she was taught.

 

I don't know that I understand exactly what was going on in her mind, but I think it's something like this:

 

If we sit down with the task of reading, annotating, researching, and writing about a poem, for example, dd

balks at the "steps." What she wants to do is read the poem, then go away for a while -- maybe hours, maybe days, maybe several weeks -- and let it do whatever it does in her mind. She may or may not read and compare it to other poems, think about the relationship of meter and rhyme in poetry to that in song lyrics (it came out the other night that this is one thing she has been musing on silently), think about paintings, connect it to non-poetic reading she has done. I have no idea because she doesn't tell me; this is not a verbal process for her. When she comes back, she wants to sit down and write -- the full essay, in one sitting.

 

The steps that she may or may not go through are invisible to anyone outside. I don't really think, though, that there are "steps," as linear thinkers process through. She makes a variety of connections in a number of ways, a web of interconnections and very personalized, intuitive discoveries as Jackie has described and quoted the way 3-D imaging mind mapping can work. I do know this is very different than whatever processes I go through, because when I talk to her about them or work through a poem in the way I know how to do, she is lost.

 

The whole "writing process" as it is commonly taught, moving through research and invention, outlining, drafting, revision, is anathema to her. She seems to think things through internally to such a degree that it's all there in her mind -- IF it's a project she is engaged in or fascinated by.

 

A lot of writers worked like this, from people like Samuel Johnson (who wrote with the printer's boy standing impatiently by waiting to snatch pages from his pen) to Dickens to Frederick Forsyth. Other writers were compulsive drafters and redrafters -- my favorite story concerns Samuel Richardson, who obsessively pestered readers about their responses to his book Pamela and continued revising until practically the day of his death, trying to shape and control his female reader's attraction to his bad guys and to make his heroines more and more ideal. His massive (million-word) novel Clarissa was not only drafted multiple times, but he also wrote several other copies with blank pages inserted so that he could gather reader responses before he published the novel. I don't know how the man ever did anything but write and change what he wrote (maybe he didn't).

 

At any rate, the standard writing process model was in play at dd's private school, along with a breakdown of various pieces of drafting into even smaller increments. I believe that dd was so frustrated partly because she already knew some of the things about writing that other kids did not, but also -- and this is key -- because her mind does not work through the standard linear writing process.

 

I think there is enormous, absolutely enormous, variation in the ways that people think about and approach writing. Some writers talk about certain books as seeming to be "dictated" from a mysterious source; that is, the books just flow from their pens and are never corrected or changed. Other books are an agonizing struggle. Some people start at the end of the story: Margaret Mitchell (I know you hate Gone With the Wind, but it's the example that comes to mind) wrote the final scene of her novel first. Other people write linearly and incrementally, even stopping in the middle of a sentence so they can pick up at exactly that point in mid-stream the next day.

 

Again, this all only becomes a problem when one model becomes dominant within an institutional school system or curricular framework, and it is assumed that every kid will be able to write using that model, unproblematically.

 

Actually, the development of the writing process model in and of itself is informative. It began in the 1960s with people like Peter Elbow and Donald Graves talking about the writing process NOT as something that moved through a series of predictable steps; but there were bits and pieces of "different stuff," you might say, to be found mixed up in it at various points, which were NOT the same for everybody. One of the two, Elbow and Graves, once drew a diagram of his own writing process; it was a scribble going around and around in messy circles.

 

Then what happened was that the whole model got into the hands of people who were writing curricula, and they took that messy, non-linear model and tried to tidy it up and put it into what they considered logical, sequential steps. Gradually, the variety and almost V-S quality to the original thinking became codified, narrowed, rigidified, and dogmatic, until it finally emerges in the highly scripted programs put out by Lucy Calkins at the Teacher Institute of Columbia University. So basically, the program changed hands from V-S type thinkers (or at the very least, non-linear thinkers) to logical sequential thinkers as it got turned into a formal curriculum, and in the process its very nature changed dramatically.

 

The school dd went to briefly did not follow this exact program, which is basically an elementary level curriculum. But clearly the entire educational culture of the U.S. has been greatly influenced by this model, and in many places it is now offered as "the" way "we're" (the school) going to teach our kids to write -- just as many schools adopt one particular form of outlining/note-taking (Cornell, etc.) rather than allowing kids to experiment with several different methods to see whether one works better than the other -- or whether, indeed, as is the case with dd in some but not all subjects, note-taking is not helpful at all. I have read a number of anecdotal stories by people who took notes by drawing elaborate pictures and linking them to single words from a lecture. I have seen dd keep the auditory equivalent of a photographic memory after listening to a 90-minute talk. The variety is huge. We just don't usually see it, because, I think, we're so immersed in the context and assumptions of our own way of processing and understanding that we CAN'T see it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest

How do they work with law, linear text or music - areas which do not lend themselves so easily (or at all) to being translated to pictures?

 

There's a lot to think about in your questions and I will try to get back to them, but this -- the idea that everything is "translated" into pictures -- is a fundamental misconception -- about my particular child, at least.

 

The popularity of Temple Grandin's book, Thinking in Pictures, has made made many people link visual-spatial learning exclusively with visual images and drawing, with having to "translate" words into images. This may be quite true for some people, but what I'm starting to realize is that the whole idea of a "spectrum" of learning styles is probably misleading in itself, because it's a linear model trying to represent something much different. I'm now starting to think of it as a more 3-D kind of cloud or web, in which logical-sequential thinking forms one or more clusters in certain places, and VS processing can occur in similar clusters at various dispersed points. That is, all VS learners are not alike by any means. Nor do they all necessarily "think in pictures." Jackie posted about her dh's way of "visualizing" as being highly abstract and as involving more than three dimensions, as best as he can explain it. Because many VS thinkers do not process in incremental steps, but seem to make large intuitive leaps and connections, it's very difficult to pin down exactly what is going on in their brains. Science is just beginning to map it out in terms of what areas of the brain are triggered and used differently.

 

I'm not that kind of thinker myself, so I only have limited access to what is happening in dd's mind. I understand and have come to accept these limits, and to know I will never completely be able to "see" what goes on.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There's a lot to think about in your questions and I will try to get back to them, but this -- the idea that everything is "translated" into pictures -- is a fundamental misconception.

Right, sorry, I was typing quickly - I do understand we are talking about multi-dimensional type of visual processing rather than classical 2D "pictures" (incidentally, I have also read one of Temple Grandin's books some time ago, which does begin with explanations about thinking in pictures - maybe it is that one). :001_smile:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thank you for the response. :001_smile:

 

I believe, however, that the inability to memorize something which is deprived of meaning is something that most everyone deals with. What I do not understand is where is the understanding inherently absent (at least for some minds) in the "standard" way of doing things.

 

 

I think it is a matter of degree. Certainly people memorize things better when there is meaning involved. And I don't think it is good to teach without meaning. However I have seen kids who have minimal understanding in math classes cope fairly well. Some even get As. My son is the type of kid who will need to study Analysis before Calculus.

 

 

 

Any algorithm, any formula... are deducted first from the observation of how things behave, in any (good) math / science class. That IS the "standard" way of doing things, from what I know - definitely not giving the kid a formula or a scheme for a process they cannot understand.

So the only thing which can go wrong is for the child to be unresponsive to that standard way of doing things... and my question is, what happens THEN? Can they articulate WHY it does not make sense to them? Even if you change the base? Even if you use manipulatives to show what is happening? What could be added to the standard process I know to make it more suitable for those kids? How do you adapt the process for your child?

 

 

 

I think I might have been misleading with my statement about his inability to memorize that which he doesn't understand. It's more that he has a need to derive it himself. He totally understands the carrying algorithm at this point. He just doesn't understand why people think it's easier than doing it his way. (I am putting words in his mouth here, but I think he'd agree.)

 

The addition algorithm is pretty simple. But what about long division? Sure kids might have an intuitive understanding of how it works. But can they prove it? How about the quadratic formula? Same thing. He really needs to be able to prove it mathematically. On his own. It was always my experience in math class that a teacher would write out the derivation of these things but fellow students weren't necessarily able to recreate it on their own. At least not most of them. It's not just that he understands it better that way. Either he understands things completely or not at all. He is somewhat of an on off switch in this way. And like the addition algorithm understanding a conventional method and having an affinity to it are two different things.

 

I remember him wanting to switch the names for the X and Y access (he was very small). I drew the line here "no son of mine is going to call the x axis the y axis":lol: After some hot debate he finally gave in. I have had to teach him to be flexible enough in his thinking to deal with the fact that there are certain ways that people do things and sometimes you have to "do what the Romans do."

 

I always call my son "the canary in the coal mine" because he is the one that is most sensitive to bad teaching. It's not that other students don't suffer from this as well but he is almost always the one who reacts to it first.

 

He is kind of way over my head at this point. But to travel back in time to when I was still a few steps ahead of him. If he didn't understand a concept he would not be able to articulate why it didn't make sense. As a matter of fact he is not always able to articulate things he doesn't understand. He has a great library of information in his head. He understands it deeply. And yet expressive language is pretty low. We work on this.

 

You mention bases and he loved thinking in this way. I am pretty sure he used the same strategies to work with other bases that he used with base 10. This was a high interest activity for him. He never had an interest in manipulatives. Instead of seeing things from the concrete to the abstract his arrow goes the other way. I am not sure why this is. But it seems that he takes information in by abstracting it first.

 

I actually don't do much anymore to adapt for my son's unique learning style. Homeschooling is the biggest adaptation. We can discuss things all the time and this helps him learn almost everything. But this is something that many of us do. When he was little I encouraged his unique way of thinking while making sure he understood the way other people think (or at least the more traditional ways of doing things). And I made sure to give him work that didn't have too many rote and tedious calculations. He didn't have to memorize his times tables before algebra. I let him learn fractions before long division. I kind of went with the flow and let him work on concepts when he was ready not when the books said to.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We're now into the early 1700s and the Augustans, whose main literary aims included wit and political/cultural satire. Dd is gobbling up things like Dryden's MacFlecknoe, which she thinks is hilarious, and parts of The Dunciad. This is never in a million years what I would have predicted she'd take to, nor is it what I would have put into a syllabus if I'd been thinking up a parent-directed course.

 

So were these authors and works that came up in the TC courses? Or were they things you knew about and steered her into?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest

So the only thing which can go wrong is for the child to be unresponsive to that standard way of doing things... and my question is, what happens THEN? Can they articulate WHY it does not make sense to them? Even if you change the base? Even if you use manipulatives to show what is happening? What could be added to the standard process I know to make it more suitable for those kids? How do you adapt the process for your child?

 

 

With dd, for the things in which she is interested, she simply DOES NOT WANT TO BE TOLD, not from any kind of oppositionality or rebelliousness (as Jackie and I have both noted, our kids are even problematic in their desire to follow rules and to please). She NEEDS to figure things out for herself. She needs to spend time pondering, messing around with possibilities, wondering what would happen. She may end up using, or not using, a particular standard algorithm, but she doesn't want that to be given or presented to her, in whatever shape or form, before she has a chance to explore for herself. This is precisely the pattern that the blog post writer describes (the post that I linked in the opening of this thread).

 

Is this inefficient? To my mind, not at all. It does take time; but in the end, the result is optimal learning, for this child.

 

It does change my role in the whole educational enterprise. I am not her explicit teacher except at rare moments. Rather, I sit and work with her, trying to use what she is using and figure out problems, discuss or compare (I don't do this all the time, but often); I provide a variety of materials for her which she may or may not use; we talk about the different ways we approach a topic or a problem and how difficult it is for us to conceive of it in the way the other does; we branch out as often as possible to include documentaries and trade books (for math as well as for history and science); and I continually either offer her exposure to or follow up on her interest in topics outside the conventional high school subjects -- in fact, sometimes we work almost entirely outside the norm for periods of time (barring math and Latin). In many areas, I simply get out of her way, and that's the hardest but probably the best thing I can do for her.

 

Given her insistence on thinking things out for herself, and given her resistance to direct instruction because it isn't necessarily helpful to her much of the time, I don't think of myself any longer as a repository of academic and cultural learning which it is my job to transmit to her. I know a lot she doesn't, of course. But with this particular child, it is not my job, nor is it in her best interests, that I present myself as the one who is going to give it to her. It's my job to help her discover what she most passionately wants to know, and to open up new areas to her for further engagement.

 

It is not simply a matter of unresponsiveness, although this can happen too; it's a matter of dire consequences if she is taught against her innate wiring, consequences like the breakdown she suffered at the private school.

 

Edited to add: Another potential consequence of trying to impose direct instruction on dd with materials of my choice only can be that, like Jenn's older son, she is perfectly capable of deciding that she's never going to look at that type of thing again, and then proceed to carry out that determination. When she was in private school one of the things that absolutely terrified me was that she was never going to pick up a pencil again and write for her own purposes if writing became so tainted for her. And she would have done it. It's not rebellion against authority; she would be giving up something very dear to her and central to her intellectual core in deciding never to write again. She would, however, give it up on ALL fronts rather than have to conform to something that was so antithetical to her wiring, neurology, processing style, whatever you want to call it, and in her mind would force her to compromise with her inner directives. It's bizarre; it's tragic; it's something that I want to avoid at all costs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
So were these authors and works that came up in the TC courses? Or were they things you knew about and steered her into?

 

Some of both, although I don't "steer" this child so much as I put things I think will engage her into her path.

 

With one TC course, she was charmed when the lecturer singled out every single poetic work we had read and discussed for the 17th century (this was not pre-planned; it just worked out that way). The lecturer also discussed works in other genres we had not read -- Hobbes's Leviathan, and Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair -- and she got her interest piqued by those, which are now on her reading list. It happens in different ways.

 

With the Augustan poets, I had enticed her with a few satirical works like "The Rape of the Lock" and "The Death of Dean Swift" because she always, always responds to these; but I had not even considered "MacFlecknoe," which I only encountered in grad school.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You can see last fall's TEAL (Technology-Enabled Active Learning) version of Physics 8.01 Classical mechanics here. There's a link to the textbook syllabus - they use Young and Friedman's University Physics. A note at the top of the syllabus states that the students are responsible for preparing the assigned textbook section in advance of class, so yes, I think that they still view the textbook as an integral part of the course. Traditional homework, exams, and a final are still required; it's basically the presentation of the material during lecture/recitation/lab time that's changed in the TEAL approach.

 

Thank you for the links and info Kathy. Okay, so they are still doing the more traditional learning of reading the text first and then applying that knowledge to hands on investigation. No? As in if they've already learned about the topic which will be addressed in class, and already know the mechanics and math behind it, then the hands on experimenting and problem solving isn't coming from a lack of knowledge, but from applying that knowledge in a more concrete way and seeing the practical application of that knowledge. Or at least that's my inept way of describing what I'm guessing.

 

To me it absolutely makes sense not to waste precious class time on just having what's in the text presented by the professor - or at least not in physics. It makes sense for them to learn it first, and then have time to figure out solutions with the teacher there for answering questions or asking questions to further their investigations. IMO this is a brilliant use of class time!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dd is gobbling up things like Dryden's MacFlecknoe, which she thinks is hilarious, and parts of The Dunciad.

 

Can I just say how happy I am to find someone else who has even heard of MacFlecknoe? I :001_wub: Dryden just for this poem alone, and have done ever since I discovered it as an undergrad.

 

Carry on, ladies; I'm following this discussion with great interest.

 

:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
I would guess that I'm somewhere in the middle, but my ds is definitely not linear/sequential. I couldn't understand why he was taking so long to do a lesson of Lial's, since it's so clear and sequential and makes perfect sense to me! How could he forget how to graph an equation when two minutes ago I just showed him how to do it? Why does he always seem to have a need to try a unique method to solve a problem - Why can't he just DO IT LIKE THE BOOK SAYS? :blush: Sigh.

 

 

I completely empathize with your frustration. :grouphug:

 

Dd can indeed do it like the book says; but the consequence is that she stops thinking.

 

To say the least, this may be efficient in that she gets it over with faster, but it's not ideal in any way, shape, or form.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You can see last fall's TEAL (Technology-Enabled Active Learning) version of Physics 8.01 Classical mechanics here. There's a link to the textbook syllabus - they use Young and Friedman's University Physics. A note at the top of the syllabus states that the students are responsible for preparing the assigned textbook section in advance of class, so yes, I think that they still view the textbook as an integral part of the course. Traditional homework, exams, and a final are still required; it's basically the presentation of the material during lecture/recitation/lab time that's changed in the TEAL approach.

 

wow, cool, thanks. I wonder if they'll put the lectures on OCW.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
wow, cool, thanks. I wonder if they'll put the lectures on OCW.

 

You can access most of the material if you click on that homework link in my post, and then click on the Topics button on the gold bar on the top of the screen.:D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
One more question while I am trying to wrap my mind about this.

 

What you are (Karen and Jackie) basically saying is that you have kids who are wired that way that they are on one extreme end of processing things, rather than being "versatile"?

 

By "versatile" I mean something like this.

Drawing is a skill which does not come naturally to me or to my eldest kid. However, if need be, we can learn to draw - we can literally learn to see things which we would normally ignore. It is not our "usual" mode in which we function, nor our preference, but if need be, we really can adapt to that mode. One of the reasons why I find the elementary drawing instruction important for all kids is exactly because it fosters versatility for us linear types, pushes us out of our comfort zone, and also serves a proxy for some other skills. Now, middle DD can draw anything, anywhere, from any perspective, it is a natural skill for her far more than learned one - but I think a few years of drawing instruction really helped the eldest DD too, in her own way, even if she cannot hope to accomplish, at least not with nearly the same ease, things on the paper that her younger sister can.

 

It seems to me what you're seeing here is attention to detail in an area that doesn't naturally draw one to attend to detail. Drawing is an easy example to see this because visually it's simple to spot the differences so one learns to attend to those details to reduce the differences.

 

With that same eldest DD over the years middle DD informally worked on diminishing her verbalizing tendencies in math - she would tend to solve geometry problems by literally writing out lengthier solutions - by placing the focus on having her start seeing relationships and think in terms of seeing more than in terms of translating everything to language. Of course, the eldest DD is far from approaching geometry on its own terms the way middle DD can do - but still, it has been a very useful skill learning for her.

 

Again, the focus is on details here. What comes naturally to one child in the subject of art comes naturally to the other in the subject of math.

 

What I am trying to say, I guess, is that I more or less consciously wanted them to master different possible approaches to things. Sorting things in neat organizational boxes, if needed - but then being able to draw it all out and recombine it for areas which were more interdisciplinary, if needed. Approaching things which lend themselves to visual functioning visually, but not applying the same principle to algebraic abstractions or to more "fluent", linear fields which deal with language or music.

 

Are you saying, essentially, that your children are so extremely wired in one direction that this type of experimentation cannot work for them and that they must learn exclusively in their preferred way?

So, geometry works naturally - but how do they work out algebra without changing something in the way they approach it? How do they work with law, linear text or music - areas which do not lend themselves so easily (or at all) to being translated to pictures? How do they learn foreign languages, which are incremental in nature and where it is often not possible not to follow a kind of organized line of thought, at least in the beginning? How do you adapt those areas for them?

 

ALL children are wired to learn through experiences. It's how humanity "works." We experience everything through our sensory organs and our brains interpret and process those experiences. The concept of cause and effect are worked out in infancy when we learn cooing begets a different response than screaming. The concept of versatility that you are looking for here comes when a child learns that paying attention to detail begets more information and is a rewarding thing to pursue. Conventional school takes the opportunity to introduce the results of experiential learning in a formal setting but that doesn't take into consideration the developmental nuances of each child. Doing conventional school at home is little different if the child is still learning by schedule rather than exploring and processing.

 

Keep in mind also that as children mature, their experiences require a different kind of "play." A 13 yo is likely to have different attractions than a 3 yo. At 15 my ds began to teach himself calculus so that his science books made more sense. His devoted interest into neurophysiology requires higher order math skills. Because he's naturally interested in pursuing this subject, calculus was not a lesson but a component of science. It was a matter of ferreting out the details necessary to pursue his interest. Because he pursued this interest in the way that *his* mind processes information best, through the experiences which his brain excels, he learned far more than a class could teach.

 

There is an article in the Jan/Feb Scientific American MIND magazine about cognition and physical sensations. "Fleeting sensations and body movements hold sway over what we feel and how we think." It was interesting to see the correlation between expressions of physical concepts and mental concepts (like "washing away sins," "airing dirty laundry," etc).

 

The last part of the article talks about the implications in education:

 

Gesturing while doing math problems helps children learn and retain what they have learned [see "Hands in the Air," by Susan Goldin-Meadow; Scientific American Mind, sept/Oct 2010]. Physical action is equally valuable for children learning to read. In a number of recent studies, Glenberg and his colleagues have shown that elementary school children who, while reading, manipulate toys or pictures on a computer screen to simulate the action in what htye are reading demonstrate better reading comprehension and more vocabulary growth.

 

Building on those findings, Glenberg's team has further learned that simulating actions helps kids solve math story problems more efficiently. In one scenario, children read a story problem involving a robot's movements and were asked to calculate the total number of steps the robot took. The catch was that the text also provided irrelevant numerical information, such as the number of people the robot greeted. The study found that children who were instructed to physically manipulate images on a computer screen to mimic the robot's actions were better able to ignore the irrelevant information. What is more, after learning the physical-manipulation procedure, children got the same benefits just by imagining how they would move images to simulate the action in the story - a technique that may be more practical in classrooms, which are likely to lack props to match every story....

 

The evidence seems to support the idea that kids learn *anyway* simply by *doing* and by providing an educationally enriching environment, we can do as much if not more for a child's education on their schedules as on ours. For this reason, a parent who is well educated can help by having stimulating conversations with the child as they process what they're learning. My son's fascination with physiology offered conversations between him and I about history. Certain periods of history are relevant to him because they remind him of specific scientific discoveries. Information gathered from the Crimean War inspired Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur to develop germ theory. An idea of life just prior to the discovery of bacteria put an image in ds' head that applies to other historical events. My daughter, otoh, explored the Beatles pretty thoroughly this past winter and much discussion was had about the Viet Nam War, the U.S.S.R., passive resistance, Gandhi, the British Empire, and the list goes on and on. My husband is a scientist and so much of our scientific discovery happens naturally throughout the days and weeks and months.

 

Allowing the child to pursue an interest allows the child to gravitate towards the way in which s/he naturally processes information most effectively. As children mature, their brains mature and learning is more effective (and therefor more rewarding) when finding information gathered in one place. Textbooks and other scholarly resources are naturally attractive because they're so rich in opportunity to satiate one's curiosity.

 

(goodness, I've only skimmed this thread and so I hope my comments aren't totally out of place)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
Can I just say how happy I am to find someone else who has even heard of MacFlecknoe? I :001_wub: Dryden just for this poem alone, and have done ever since I discovered it as an undergrad.

 

 

You have a kindred spirit in dd.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't know that I understand exactly what was going on in her mind, but I think it's something like this:

 

If we sit down with the task of reading, annotating, researching, and writing about a poem, for example, dd balks at the "steps." What she wants to do is read the poem, then go away for a while -- maybe hours, maybe days, maybe several weeks -- and let it do whatever it does in her mind.

 

That's probably very close. I'm a non-linear thinker and a systems analyst. I don't use a structured systems design approach but rather I learn about the requirements and then a week or two later, the design, in it's complete form down to every detail, pops into my conscience thought space. Then my job is to translate that thought space into a linear form so that I can communicate it to the people who will work on it. Due dates/schedules can be very discouraging to the VSL because we do not do our best work when we have to force it to completion. It lacks that sense of beauty and wholeness that we can achieve if given enough time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That's probably very close. I'm a non-linear thinker and a systems analyst. I don't use a structured systems design approach but rather I learn about the requirements and then a week or two later, the design, in it's complete form down to every detail, pops into my conscience thought space. Then my job is to translate that thought space into a linear form so that I can communicate it to the people who will work on it. Due dates/schedules can be very discouraging to the VSL because we do not do our best work when we have to force it to completion. It lacks that sense of beauty and wholeness that we can achieve if given enough time.

Yes, this is exactly what DH says! He says that linear people who learn and understand things step by step, piece by piece, can assemble those pieces into a whole by force of will if they have to, even if they hate the subject, find it boring and meaningless, etc. But he says that there is no way he can force, by sheer willpower and determination, a cloud of ideas and concepts and connections to form themselves into the whole. It's not a logical process and there's really no way to speed it up. The "bonus," however, is that often when that cloud finally does come together, it's pulled in all kinds of other ideas and concepts that were not part of the original package, which often leads to very original solutions that a more linear thinker might not have come up with.

 

Jackie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Right, sorry, I was typing quickly - I do understand we are talking about multi-dimensional type of visual processing rather than classical 2D "pictures" (incidentally, I have also read one of Temple Grandin's books some time ago, which does begin with explanations about thinking in pictures - maybe it is that one). :001_smile:

 

I think you're trying to understand non-linear in a linear kind of way and it doesn't work. Is it possible that you're extremely on the that side of the spectrum? I don't mean it as an insult - I'm just wondering if maybe there isn't a way for you to understand the non-linear anymore than there is a way for those on the opposite side to think linearly. It's more like order coming quite quickly out of chaos than it is building up to something.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Times tables, likewise, are not inherently deprived of meaning either - in the "standard" way of doing things, it is not that you hand them to the kid and tell them to memorize...

 

Any algorithm, any formula... are deducted first from the observation of how things behave, in any (good) math / science class. That IS the "standard" way of doing things, from what I know

Unfortunately, the "standard" way of doing things in any public school I've been involved with, as a student or parent, is precisely to have students drill math facts until they get them, and they are presented with algorithms and told to apply them whether they "get" why it works or not. This is why I despised math in school, even though I was quite gifted at it and could figure out the "how" and the "why" on my own. My son's PS teacher was just like the American teachers described by Liping Ma, who had no conceptual understanding of math whatsoever. She also refused to allow DS to start division until he had perfectly memorized his times tables, which is absurd. VSLs simply do not do well with memorizing discrete sets of facts out of context, and in fact there are many people who are quite gifted in higher mathematics who never learned the times tables. After I pulled DS out of school, I let him use a chart, and he learned his math facts just fine by using them in context. Similarly, once he understands a math concept on an abstract level, he doesn't need lots of drill and repetition to "cement" the concept; as soon as he can visualize it, he gets it. The first time I showed him how to solve a word problem algebraically, he was quite annoyed that he wasn't taught that way from the beginning because it made so much more sense to him. VSLs are often much better at math than arithmetic, but they spend so much time 'remediating" arithmetic and/or slogging through endless problems and review, that they end up hating math.

 

How is this approach not linear? It is not a straight line in the way assumed by the text, but more like a wavy one, but fundamentally, it is still linear, is it not?

Well, by that definition pretty much everything is "linear" in the sense that one day follows the next so we do one thing after another. In the example I gave, there were several "detours" into topics and materials that are not in the text, and the list of biology topics that DS has actually studied (posted a page or two later) is neither text-based nor linear. Similarly, the way he approaches history (currently, anyway) is that he uses Greece as his "base" and then travels around both chronologically (backwards as well as forwards in time) and geographically. He's also jumped out of the frame, so to speak, to look things up about the Ottoman Empire, the development of medieval weapons, the influence of Roman military strategy on medieval warfare, and lots of other little topics. I don't insist that he do things in a certain order or according to a certain schedule. Looking back, in hindsight, at what he's studied, it may be possible to draw a very meandering, loopy "line" connecting one topic to another, but I think calling that "linear" makes the term no longer useful in the way that Karen and I and others are using it.

 

 

If so, was she not able to "dumb it down" for school, so to speak - the way that pretty much all advanced kids find themselves dumbing things down for the "official" versions of what they are doing?

Well, I was an advanced kid who would have been "able" to dumb things down for the sake of fitting in, but I was never willing to do it, and it's not something I would ask or expect of my kids. I don't want my son sitting in a classroom, bored out of his mind and just going through the motions, when he's capable of learning so much more, at a much higher level, by doing it his way. I truly don't even see the point of that. Because of my own educational experiences (and DH's, too), I start from the assumption that there is really nothing in the "standard" model of education that is inherently "right" or "better" or "necessary." DH and I would both have been far better served in high school by being given the chance to self-educate, and in fact we both ended up being very successful in fields where we were exclusively self-educated.

 

Jackie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What you are (Karen and Jackie) basically saying is that you have kids who are wired that way that they are on one extreme end of processing things, rather than being "versatile"?

I'm not sure I understand the way you're using the term "versatile." My DH is an extreme VSL, about as far along that scale as you can get, but he can still read complex texts and write scientific papers. He does need a LOT of help organizing his thoughts, because to him everything is connected to everything else so he tends to keep "circling" around a topic rather than writing in a "straight line," but his visual strengths don't mean he's verbally-disabled. Obviously he is much better at some things, like math, science, music and art, than he is at things like writing and foreign language, but I don't think there's anything he'd be incapable of learning, if he was allowed to learn it in his own way.

 

Are you saying, essentially, that your children are so extremely wired in one direction that this type of experimentation cannot work for them and that they must learn exclusively in their preferred way?

 

So, geometry works naturally - but how do they work out algebra without changing something in the way they approach it? How do they work with law, linear text or music - areas which do not lend themselves so easily (or at all) to being translated to pictures? How do they learn foreign languages, which are incremental in nature and where it is often not possible not to follow a kind of organized line of thought, at least in the beginning? How do you adapt those areas for them?

 

As DebbS noted, I think you're looking at these issues from the perspective of a linear thinker so, to you, geometry is visual and algebra isn't — but to DH, algebra and calculus are just as visual as geometry. He is also a gifted musician and for him music is very visual and spatial. He is not a good sight reader, but he can play anything by ear because he can picture the music in a 3-dimensional way and play what he "sees." When we go to the symphony, I hear a sort of continuous "river" of sound flowing into my brain through my ears, whereas DH actually perceives the music as a sort of constellation of sounds located in three-dimensional space, and he can listen to each of those sound points separately. On the one hand, that gives him a far deeper and more detailed experience, and allows him to appreciate the music in a way that is totally lost on me, but the downside is that he hears every single tiny individual mistake and he can pinpoint exactly who made it.

 

I think foreign languages are probably the toughest subject for VSLs, especially when grammar and vocabulary are taught in a less contextual way that depends a lot on drill and memorization. DH was forced to spend years studying Latin, French, and German, presented in a very dry grammar-based way; he was always terrible at it and doesn't remember a thing. Would he have been successful in learning a language if he'd been intrinsically motivated and had been allowed to learn by immersion or some other method that worked for him? I would think so. My DS has chosen to study Attic Greek; he's extremely motivated, he's using a text that focuses on reading and translating from day one and introduces grammar concepts in a more context-based way (Athenaze), he'll be taking classes from someone who goes out of his way to teach in a really engaging, visual, interactive way (Regan Barr), and he uses visual mnemonics to help him with vocabulary. I'm sure it will be difficult for him, in a way that science isn't, but I also think he can be successful at it.

 

In terms of both content and skills, I don't think there's really anything that DS or DH couldn't learn, if they wanted to and were able to approach it in their own way. If the question is "are they 'versatile' enough to be forced to learn something through methods that are completely counter-intuitive to them," then I don't understand the point of that?

 

Jackie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm finding all of this fascinating! I'd like to ask a slightly off topic question. Is it this kind of thinking that allows a child to read fluently who has never been taught how to read?

 

Another question, how do VSLs tend to draw? For example, if they were to draw a person, would they start with the head or main part of the body, like most others do, or would they just start in what looks like some arbitrary place in the drawing and go from there?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That's probably very close. I'm a non-linear thinker and a systems analyst. I don't use a structured systems design approach but rather I learn about the requirements and then a week or two later, the design, in it's complete form down to every detail, pops into my conscience thought space. Then my job is to translate that thought space into a linear form so that I can communicate it to the people who will work on it. Due dates/schedules can be very discouraging to the VSL because we do not do our best work when we have to force it to completion. It lacks that sense of beauty and wholeness that we can achieve if given enough time.

 

that's how I write.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think you're trying to understand non-linear in a linear kind of way and it doesn't work. Is it possible that you're extremely on the that side of the spectrum? I don't mean it as an insult - I'm just wondering if maybe there isn't a way for you to understand the non-linear anymore than there is a way for those on the opposite side to think linearly. It's more like order coming quite quickly out of chaos than it is building up to something.

When I was a fairly young child, I had a nearly photographic memory (I could literally see the book in my mind and quote it by reading it from my mind) and I was ambidextrous up until certain age (not sure if that piece of information matters in any way). I even recall vividly a few synesthetic moments (you know, all specific letters on the page suddenly becoming blue and you being able to just count them without reading the text and stuff like that), in two scripts. Not sure what, or when exactly, happened - it was more like a process over several years than a fixed point - but by somewhere around hitting double digits I had lost it, not sure if due to misuse or brain maturing differently or whatever.

 

I did retain however quite a bit of visual sensitivity when it comes to art (and oversensitivity, being that some visual patterns seriously freak me out as I cannot process them) - for example, I cannot draw for the life of me (probably because I never liked drawing past kindergarten), but I can recall paintings in quite a detail, "walk" through buildings and cities in my mind, imagine I am a little kid and then "walk" through it from that perspective etc. - and when I was considering university choices, I actually had second thoughts between letters and art history.

 

On the other hand, my favorite type of discourse is the legal one - you know, words organized perfectly linearly to the maximum of possible precision. My education has been extremely text-based and I never had the least problem with it.

 

I have no idea what I think in - language, "architectural images", a mix, sometimes one and sometimes the other... No idea at all, I cannot pinpoint it, I think that what is most of the time in my mind is music LOL. Reading this thread has a bit of a chilling effect for me, actually, because many things which I considered "perfectly normal" are obviously typical of VSLs - I do not take standard types of notes unless I have to, I do not preview or edit my work and tend to process all the chaos from my head at once (but at the same time, I am perfectly capable of simulating the "supposed" process if I am required to do so :tongue_smilie:), I regularly skipped parts of the process in math in my mind (but never had problems working things out traditionally) and very often had several solutions to the same problem (e.g. one typical linear algebraic and one graphic), having learned Hebrew as a child made me extra aware of the possibility that things can be read from right to left too so I experimented with my own scripts as a kid which, for example, combined regular Hebrew with mirror-image Latinic and vice-versa (my kids did that too LOL), etc. It always seemed so normal to me that people can "switch" if needed.

 

For example, Karen's description of how her daughter prefers to write fits me to a T. But, at the same time, when it comes to me, it is how I prefer to write, not how I am compelled to write - if I have to start now rather than when I feel inclined to, or "fabricate" the whole process which does not correspond to what I have in mind, I can do it. It may not be my optimal work and my optimal performance, but I can definitely do it and if I do not do it, it is most definitely a defiance / character / call it as you wish issue with me. My kids are the same - they are drawn to (opposing) directions as to how they tend to think, but they are versatile too. Because of that, it is always so difficult for me to imagine a child who genuinely cannot "switch" modes, or just dumb things down for the sake of performance, or go through the darned book for the sake of performance, etc. That is what I am having the biggest block in understanding in this thread, I think.

 

Even you, Deb, say that you "translate" your thoughts to a linear mode when you work, do you not? And then, I am not sure that the fact that we do not work our best when under pressure is related to the type of thinker we are.

Again, the focus is on details here. What comes naturally to one child in the subject of art comes naturally to the other in the subject of math.

No, no - it is the same child who "gets" perspective / geometry / etc., and her older sister does not, but she can learn how to "get" it. My problem in drawing is that I can see, but cannot put it on the paper, but this kid had literally be taught, patiently and step by step, how to see in the first place. The amount of effort that would take this child to learn something like academic painting or drawing would be enormous, but theoretically, she could learn it. The younger kid is very few "tricks" away from that level, but for the older kid, it is not about a few "tricks" to figure out, but a whole new "language" of approaching the world to master. So, she does not draw or anything, and there is totally no point in making her do so, but I still find it greatly beneficient that she had experience with it. And theoretically, if she had to pass a drawing class for a degree or for any other bureaucratic nonsense (like standardized tests are), she would maybe not pull a A, but she could definitely make herself work to a point she can pass it, maybe even pass it with a solid grade.

 

That is my point in "versatility" in the context of fulfilling formal requirements not to be "handicapped" by not having had a "comparable" educational experiences - doing HARD things is still possible (like drawing for my eldest kid, or high school PE requirements for me who loathes sports), though maybe not pleasant or personally rewarding.

Allowing the child to pursue an interest allows the child to gravitate towards the way in which s/he naturally processes information most effectively. As children mature, their brains mature and learning is more effective (and therefor more rewarding) when finding information gathered in one place.

I think all of us here allow - and how! - our children to follow their interests :001_smile:, in the ways that are the most suited for them to learn, but what really interests me is the idea that some children genuinely cannot process some ways of learning that are typical for the academic setting because they are wired differently. I realize I have many underlying assumptions - such as the fundamental versatility one, or the idea that it is good to foster that versatility to a point rather than allow children to learn exclusively through a mode they find the most intuitive one - and I would like to see if there is a need to revise some of that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My dh is very VSL, which I'm just seeing it with a name on it. He's a carpenter and he visualizes a project before breaking it down to the steps of construction. It's amazing to see his thought process in action really. He had a horrible time in school though, and I was not surprised ds learns in a similar manner. I think I've done a lot of things right for ds intuitively because of dh's input.

 

However, I'm enjoying this conversation. As ds gets older I feel less secure about my hodgepodge method of poking at a subject until we get it right.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Another question' date=' how do VSLs tend to draw? For example, if they were to draw a person, would they start with the head or main part of the body, like most others do, or would they just start in what looks like some arbitrary place in the drawing and go from there?[/quote']

One of the main differences I noticed between my middle and my eldest kid is that the middle - the "visual" one - does not really sketch things before drawing, or if she does, those are very loose sketches, just to make sure how much paper she has at disposal. She already has all the spatial relationships between things in her mind, while my eldest kid always had to make a rough sketch before continuing, to underline proportions and perspective, before continuing.

 

Another thing in which they differ terribly are shadows and such details which my eldest kid has to be reminded to specifically look for, while my middle kid considers them an essential part of the picture from the beginning. Basically, it seems to me that my eldest kid "compartmentalizes" the picture into little pieces and then glues them, while the middle kid sort of "sucks in" the whole and then just puts it on the paper. I have also observed differences in the number of glances at the object they make - the eldest kid is far more insecure of her memory of what she saw, while the middle kid glances less and seems to hold it in her mind longer. Also, she was the one to get frustrated if she was drawing for so long that the position of sun / shadows / etc. changed, while my eldest, not paying particular attention to those, never really sweat it, BUT, at the same time, my middle was capable of finishing the picture as it was before the shadows had moved.

 

This is all when they were elementary aged and had on and off drawing lessons, but the middle kid always had more practice, while for the eldest kid drawing was a "check off" area.

 

I did not notice differences in where they start, but the eldest goes from general to specific - first all general then specifying it all - while the middle for example does the head first, but with most specifics, then does other general thing with most specifics right away, and then just does a sort of final polishing when she has the whole picture.

The eldest kid has difficulties drawing from the perspectives which are not hers - for example, she cannot sit in the middle of the room and imagine as though she was drawing it through the window, while my middle kid can rotate perspectives in her mind.

 

I will add more details if I recall them, but basically, this is what I observed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
how do VSLs tend to draw? For example' date=' if they were to draw a person, would they start with the head or main part of the body, like most others do, or would they just start in what looks like some arbitrary place in the drawing and go from there?[/quote']

DS drew very three-dimensionally at a very young age. Even at 3 or 4, his drawings included perspective, foreshortening, and a sense of composition that were really unusual. The first drawing he did that really stands out in my mind (he was about 4) was an undersea scene with an octopus whose tentacles curved around themselves and other things like bits of coral, and the ones closer to the viewer were larger while the ones going back reduced in size the farther away they were. The fish in the front were larger than the fish of the same species in the back, and some were drawn from behind or in 3/4 view. He has always been able to look at an object, turn it around in his mind, and draw it from any angle, which is something I could never do, even though I'm quite good at drawing and had a successful career as a graphic designer. I'm afraid I am quite stuck in 2 dimensions!

 

Jackie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

×
×
  • Create New...