Written by: Kari Kling, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
(Hint…and I’m giving away a complimentary ebook to help you do it!)
Are you a parent and feeling stressed about how you are going to keep your child actively engaged this summer and not spend too much time in front of a screen?
Are you feeling worried that your children have already ‘lost’ some learning time over the past two years and you’re concerned that they might lose even more over the summer?
Do you think that you’re going to have to spend a lot of money, time and energy this summer in efforts to keep your kids from falling behind?
No matter the age of your child, or whether your child goes to public, private, charter, parochial school or is homeschooled, you are about to discover powerful and exciting learning strategies within this article. What I am about to reveal will spark your child’s curiosity, while exceeding your expectations for your child’s learning, using your life as your classroom!
Going on an afternoon trip by car to the store, going to a zoo, a park, a museum, or traveling with your family for a weekend or longer? You can easily transform any of these experiences into an impactful learning opportunity appropriate for children of any age.
When children have natural opportunities to gain an understanding of new information as a part of their everyday lives, it stimulates their learning in ways that they will never forget.
Dramatic findings from neuroscience tell us that high sensory input, incorporating as many of our senses as possible that naturally occurs in a real-life setting, is crucial to the mastery of a skill, subject or concept. Emotions also play a part in what and how something is learned. (Hint: Positive emotions will have a much more positive result.)
Think of your own learning experiences in your life, especially during the time when you were in school. My bet is that the things that you really learned, still remember and can still apply today, are the tasks that you had a real experience and interaction with in your life, not just a page in a workbook.
Did you ever learn about the ocean, yet had never been to an ocean? You most likely didn’t have a deep understanding of the interdependence of the beach, ocean life, tide pools, waves, etc.
Did you learn a foreign language, yet never have the opportunity to immerse yourself with people who spoke the language for more than an hour of class time in school? Most likely, you aren’t going to be fluent in that language.
Did you learn how to type by reading about typing in a book? Of course not. The actual process of typing is necessary to learn how to type.
If our intention is for our children to truly learn something in a way that they can understand and apply the information, we must give them an experience where they can naturally do so.
Engaging in an actual experience about what is being learned naturally incorporates high sensory input to the brain which allows for new dendritic and synaptic structures to grow, increasing our brain’s capacity. My mentor, Susan Kovalik, used to say that, “Dittos don’t make dendrites” and she was correct. It’s not that a child should never complete a worksheet to perhaps be able to show something they know in that format, but it should come at the end of the learning process…not be the learning process.
By looking at our child’s daily experiences through different lenses, we can begin to discover boundless springboards of natural learning at our fingertips.
Let me give you an example that most readers may relate to. In an effort for children to become proficient writers, most school settings begin teaching parts of speech in the first grade by being able to identify a noun. Second grade usually follows by adding the teaching of verbs and adjectives…and on and on throughout the years. Yet, in every high school, we can find students who haven’t mastered these skills. It isn’t because they weren’t taught. It’s because these skills are usually taught on a worksheet, providing very little sensory input and completely unrelated to the child’s own life in terms of meaning.
The example below was generated by one of my twin boys when he was 8 years old. After a quick review of nouns and verbs, we took five minutes while at a golf course to go on a ‘Noun and Verb Scavenger Hunt.’ My boys searched for five nouns and five verbs that they could find and then each created a little poster of their findings when we arrived home. Their posters were then hung up in their rooms as an easy reminder. I can tell you that after this five-minute mini scavenger hunt, nouns and verbs were never confused again. As you can see, the final result doesn’t have to take much time, nor does it have to be very fancy. It’s the process that is impactful.
Powerful learning opportunities are all around, we just have to start seeing them as such. The next time you go to a movie theater, ask the manager if you may bring your children up to the projection room and explain how it works. Going to a bowling alley? You may want to call ahead to see if a behind the scenes tour is possible so that your children may see and learn about the mechanics/software of how a bowling alley operates. Visiting a zoo, a grocery store, a tourist destination, etc.? Think about the opportunities that may be waiting for you. The choices are endless!
You may be wondering how you can think of more ways to incorporate new learning with your children of various ages. Here’s the good news, I’ve already created a fabulous resource bursting with endless opportunities and I’d like to share it with you!
Years ago, I created a book, now an ebook, “Are We There Yet?: Connecting Real Life to Learning, Families, and Memories to Last a Lifetime,” filled with 31 pages of natural learning opportunities using the world as your classroom. It is a reusable, reproducible book that is appropriate for all ages.
Below, I’ve listed some of the page topics, with skills listed in appropriateness from younger to older children:
Collecting/drawing pictures for a scrapbooking type page, “Take a Look.”
Parts of Speech Scavenger Hunt
Fine Arts Scavenger Hunt
Which Way Should We Go?/Mapping skills
Create a Travel Brochure!
The Big Interview!
How Much Will It Cost? Calculating costs of your trip comparing going by car, by train, by plane, etc.
And so much more!
This little ebook is usually available for purchase in my online shop. However, I would like to offer you a complimentary copy as a reader of Brainz Magazine. Simply send me an email with the words “Brainz/Are We There Yet?” and I’d be delighted to send it to you as my gift.
It is my hope that this article has sparked your own excitement regarding your child’s development and has encouraged you to begin to look at EVERYTHING in life as a natural window of unforgettable learning, no matter the age of your child.
The greater the learning opportunities to recognize the true power of our own real life experiences, the greater the inspiration of wanting to learn becomes, creating an everlasting love of learning and creating treasured memories for your family.
Kari Kling, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Kari Kling, M.Ed., Parent Coach
Kari’s 40 years of experience as an internationally recognized educator, counselor, parent coach, and author/speaker has given her the expertise to guide thousands of parents to reach their parenting goals. Kari’s solid understanding of how we behave and learn is grounded in neuroscience.
Kari is a sought after keynote and featured speaker for national and international conferences. She loves to meet and work with parents and their families in her home state of Arizona, nationally and globally.
Kari states that her most powerful learning experience about parenting has been being the mom to her 20-year-old twin boys, as they have been her greatest teachers.
You can email Kari to learn more about her parent coaching services at: firstname.lastname@example.org
or check out her website and social media.