I started reading the Little House on the Prairie series to Natalie a couple of months ago. (She’s 6, and unlike my boys, totally enraptured by Laura’s story.) She was shocked to learn that on Sundays, Laura had to sit still and play quietly or read. Natalie tried it, and lasted about 7 minutes.
We just got to the part in On the Banks of Plum Creek where Laura and Mary go to school for the first time. This time, Natalie was dumbfounded that Laura would have been slapped on the hands “many times” with a ruler if she had wiggled, swung her legs, or talked during school.
What a difference a 120 years makes! I’m so glad we live in a time where we know so much more about the brain, and how learning and moving go hand in hand.
Carla Hannaford (award winning author and eductor) writes, “Movement is essential to learning. Movement integrates and anchors new information into our neural networks. Every time we move in an organized…manner, full brain activation and integration occurs, and the door to learning opens.”
Combine movement, which fully activates the brain, and creates and strengthens neural networks, with music, which is the only activity that simultaneously stimulates every area of the brain, and you have a recipe for successful learning.
As a home schooling mom, here’s some things that we’ve done that combine music (or the components of music like rhythm and meter) that assist in learning. (You don’t have to home school to do these things. You are your child’s first and most important teacher!)
While singing learning songs or poems and chants, we have a small indoor trampoline for jumping on. (Trampolines are also great for getting up a taking a break. Jumping really seems to make the just inputted information stick in brains better.)
My children all sit on exercise balls. I’ve noticed that when new or more difficult concepts are being learned, their ability to sit still decreases. All that electrical energy in their brain is going towards creating new or stronger neural pathways. An exercise ball allows them to have the movement they need, without being distracting, so that brain energy is spent focusing on learning, rather than using that brain power to sit quietly. Another option is to put a balance disk on a chair and have them sit on that.
When learning to spell difficult words or skip count (counting by 2’s, 3’s, 5’s, etc.), we get up and bounce a ball back and forth, taking turns counting or giving the next letter in a word. The kids love it, and they learn faster and better.
Playing background music is great, too. One suggestion – during homework or school time, the best music to listen to has no words.
Be sure to give your children plenty of get up and play breaks to rest and refocus eyes, and allow the brain to process everything they just learned. Otherwise, the information really will be in one ear and out the other.
How do you integrate music, movement and learning into your family’s life or classroom?
-posted by Miss Analiisa, who loves that music not only helps shape growing minds, but transforms the heart and soul as well.