Most of this year, my social feeds have been full of opinions on the new Common Core standards and methods of teaching in our public schools. I am certain that my opinions have decorated many a feed as well. The new methods supposedly work for some children though I have yet to meet anybody who favors the “improved standards.” Our own experiences have been dismal at best and led to my dramatic decision to home school our oldest son.
I will wholeheartedly admit that this choice is neither simple nor meant for everybody, as it will require extensive time and effort from the parent and the child. It took several rounds of trial and error before we centered on a method that works for our son and myself. Kiddo is what I call a hands-on learner, he just learns better if he can interact with the lessons. If I can make the session tangible then he remains interested longer and retains the information better. We also have the limited attention span to contend with, I am sure that many parents will agree that attention is not the strong suit of your average 4th grader. In Kiddo’s case, he ranges between about 20-30mins before “Total Brain Shutdown.” Shortly following the onset of TBS, we will experience frustration, anger, and a dissolution of confidence.
So, I was presented with the problem of how to engage and maintain attention, while conveying knowledge, in a format that would allow him to remember what we just covered. This method needed to be conducive to the attention span limitations, bolster confidence, and leave a lasting sense of a job well done. Believe me, I have earned a whole new level of respect for teachers.
So how do I achieve this? In a word: PUZZLES! After spending an afternoon stalking though Amazon.com I was able to locate several puzzles, in many subjects, that met all of my needs. As we assemble the puzzles he gets the visual of the animal/vegetable/mineral/course and this spurs the quest for knowledge. He picks at least one focus per session from the puzzle, I gather all the information I can, and we spend that 20-30 minute block of time learning about that topic. When the puzzle is done, we glue and frame it and use it as a reference for the test. The finished product also gives him the wonderful feeling of “I did that” as it gets mounted on the wall.
From the puzzles I have found, we can easily cover the subjects of Science, History, Geography, and Art.
What creative teaching tricks have you picked up?