Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina Brain Rule #4 Attention – We don’t pay attention to boring things.

Medina begins by illustrating what he later calls an Emotionally Competent Stimulus. Any emotion on the emotional spectrum will do – joy, fear, excitement, etc. According to research, this ECS can initiate attention that lasts about ten minutes. Our ability to pay attention is related to our memory. Associating details to the general idea that we already understand and remember demonstrates how it works. Further, interest plays a key role in choosing the objects of our attention. Awareness also plays an essential part. Without an awareness of something, how could we pay attention to it?

Dr. Medina relates the work of Michael Posner from about thirty years ago. As a part of Posner’s model , four of the behavioral characteristics that Medina believes have “considerable practical potential” follow:

1)      “Emotions get our attention

2)      Meaning before details,

3)      The brain cannot multitask, and

4)      The brain needs a break.” P. 79-89

While some seem to “multitask” better than others (i.e. women better than men), according to Medina, our brains deal with information sequentially, one at a time. Those who seem to do better have a better working memory than those who have difficulty “multi-tasking.” Posner’s model explains that “multi-tasking” follows these steps: 1) Shift Alert 2) Activation of Task #1; 3) Disengagement; 4) Activation of Task # 2. All of this takes time from the initial task. In a sense our brain multi-tasks by tending to our breathing and other bodily functions, but can only attend one attention-rich task at a time. P. 86-87

As a college professor, Medina organizes his 50 minute lectures into 10 minute segments, with an emotional stimulus used as a hook to gain attention for each 10 minute segment.

This concept forms the basis for the neurodevelopmental plan to have short, frequent and intense activities. Our activities are generally designed to last no more than 10 minutes. We instruct our clients to alternate activities following an activity using one system with an activity using a different system. (visual, auditory, tactile, motor etc.) By intense, we want our clients to focus on the activity they are doing. Understanding how the brain works gives us direction as to how to teach our children and how we can learn.

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A Book Review: Grammar Despair by Carolyn Henderson

A Book Review: Grammar Despair by Carolyn Henderson

Grammar Despair: Quick, simple solutions to problems like, “Do I say him and me or he and I?” provides a great resource for all writers. Henderson uses a conversational style to address common challenges in writing, using common sense ways to remember correctly written structures. For practice, she gives a number of examples of incorrect and correct grammar. In some cases she provides a “dumb ditty” to help reader to remember how to use the words.

While I may be one of those “uptight English teachers” that the author refers to on occasion, I still recommend this book to my writing students. Henderson does tell her readers that there are occasions when a writer must follow a criteria or writing style. We high school English teachers must prepare our students to follow the guidelines that college English professors and publishers require. However, Henderson does give the writer choices in some situations. On occasion, she explains why she chose one way or another to illustrate that formal writing differs from informal writing.

Henderson divides her chapters into three main categories: 1) Words that sound the same but are spelled (and used) differently; 2) Writing mechanics and 3) Things we didn’t worry about 150 years ago.

In the first category, she gives the reader simple ways to remember when to use it’s or its; you’re and your; they’re, their or there; well or will; then or than; two, to or too; finally are or our. These are the kinds of things that some people cannot seem to remember so having a quick reference is great!

Then, in the second category, Henderson gives the reader simple guidelines regarding capitalization, sentences, paragraphs, word choices as well as a discussion of the passive vs. active voice.

Finally, in the third category, she covers issues such as gender and online writing including writing e-mails and blogs. She cautions the writer that texting is not appropriate in every situation. Appropriately, she suggests that undue repetition of words may interfere with an otherwise clear message.

If you want a guidebook for punctuation problems, watch for Volume II in the Everyday Grammar Series, Punctuation Problems –Let’s Solve Them due out in 2013. I look forward to seeing this book when it is available.

You may get to know Carolyn Henderson on her blog: www.ThisWomanWrites.com. She also works with her artist husband, www.SteveHendersonFineArt.com.

Top Five Ways to Deal With Well Meaning Family or Friends Who Oppose Homeschooling

One -It’s Legal

In the State of Washington a parent who is homeschooling independently (regulated under the public school sector) must:

  1. Qualify (45 qt. Hrs. of college OR work with a certified teacher equivalent of 1 hr a week OR take a parent qualifying course OR be deemed qualified by Superintendent of Schools).
  2. File annual “Declaration of Intent” (ages 8-18).
  3. Teach the eleven subjects for Grades K-8 (reading, writing, language, spelling, math, science, health, social studies, history, art and music appreciation and occupational education). Or follow the high school graduation requirements for your school district.
  4. Assess annually (standardized or non-test assessment) (ages 8-18).

With Private Extension Program (regulated under the private sector) a parent must:

  1. Enroll in program and child meets with the teacher a minimum of 1 hour a week average.
  2. Teacher plans with parent and evaluates progress.

For the more information regarding homeschool laws in Washington check with www.washomeschool.org. If you are planning a move or currently live in another state, check what other states require by visiting: www.hslda.org.

Two -It Works

Dr. Brian Ray, PhD has conducted research and compiled research done by others to establish that homeschooling works. These studies have looked at different angles – academics, socialization, cost etc. Students who homeschool score high on standardized tests in contrast to public school students.

Home Education Reason And Research
Common Questions and Research-Based Answers about Homeschooling

by Brian D. Ray, Ph.D. (available in Store on website below)

National Home Education Research Institute

www.nheri.org

Home School Legal Defense Association

www.hslda.org

More and more colleges accept homeschoolers; some even recruit them especially.

Three – It’s Individual

One reason public and even private school does not work for everyone is that we are all different in abilities, interests and learning styles.

  1. In homeschooling each family can customize an educational program that fits the family and each child.
  2. You can consider learning styles and learning difficulties.
  3. You can adjust the schedule according to your family’s needs.

Four -It’s Social

  1. The family unit is the ideal place to develop social skills.
  2. What kind of socializing do children get in a room of their peers?  Where else in life do we associate with only people our own age?
  3. There are many opportunities available for homeschoolers to socialize with people outside the home: homeschool band or choir; YMCA physical education classes; sports teams; church groups; scouts etc.

 

Five – It (Can Be) Inexpensive

 

Because homeschooling is individual, I can only say that it CAN BE inexpensive. If you choose a very structured, “school-like” homeschool, it can be very costly. However, there are ways to do it with less expense. Options are virtually endless.

  1. Used curriculum sales.
  2. Library Materials / living books.
  3. Multi-level curriculum.
  4. Field trips  / free places and events, seasonal memberships.
  5. Support groups.
  6. Homeschool Cooperatives.
  7. Internet websites.

Maggie Dail, M.A. has been working with homeschoolers since 1994 through Academy Northwest / Family Academy (www.familyacademy.org). She instructs Family Academy’s online parent training course. She began working with International Christian Association of Neurodevelopmentalists in 2003, becoming certified in 2007. (ICAN – www.icando.org) Now in 2013 she is beginning to work with homeschooling families through Family Academy Online. Maggie and her husband, Ronnie operate Center for Neuro Development. Visit their website www.centerforneurodevelopment.com) where you can find new curriculum items and you can e-mail Maggie for a current list of used items.

Brain Rules #3 by Dr. John Medina

Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina

Brain Rule #3 Every brain is wired differently.

Medina begins his discussion on Rule # 3 using the example of an excellent basketball player who tried and failed at baseball and then returned to basketball to revive an excellent career. While Michael Jordan demonstrated how specific athletic ability could be, Ken Griffey Jr. made records as a home run king and outfielder.

Dr. Medina goes on to use a fried egg to describe the nucleus of brain cells and DNA. In our tiny neurons much genetic material differentiates individuals. Some studies have identified specific brain cells activating as photos of famous people are shown to the individuals. Brain mapping has revolutionized our understanding of how the brain works. Though Medina does not mention the need for a Designer he does marvel at the design. Again, I am reminded that we “are fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139)

In the 18th century, studies by Italian scientist, Vincenzo Malacarne, demonstrated that brains of birds that had learned complex tricks “had more extensive folding patterns in specific regions of their brains than his untrained brains (of birds).” (p. 57-58) Later, Eric Kandel’s work gave us much more of an understanding of how we learn on a cellular level, sharing the Nobel Prize in 2000 (p. 56-57). We understand now that our brain acts like a muscle and we develop it by learning. Newborns have about as many neural connections as adults; however in specific areas the number doubles or triples. Later, many of the connections are pruned and the process repeats at puberty.

Psychologist, author and educator, Howard Gardner, developed the Multiple Intelligences model of learning styles. He has identified 7-9 ways of how people differ in the learning process. This model is hotly debated within the educational community. Whether we take it to the extent that many of his followers have or not, he did help us think about how we learn and that people are different. Brain mapping has demonstrated, Medina explains, that bilingual individuals store the two languages in different parts of the brain. However, other authors indicate that if a child learns multiple languages early on, that the different languages are stored in the same place by overlapping.

John Medina offers his concerns regarding our school system:

1)      Schools structure the learning environment with the expectation that children of the same age learn in the same way and at the same pace.

2)      Difference in the students’ ability and learning styles “profoundly influence classroom performance.” P. 67

He goes on to suggest “smaller class sizes” and “customized instruction” which are hardly new ideas but, in many cases, will never exist in our current schools because of budget and staffing concerns. As an individual who has the privilege of working with homeschoolers, I see that these goals do exist in many homeschool settings.

Final thoughts:                                                                                  “

  • “What you do and learn in life physically changes what your brain looks like – it literally rewires it.“
  • “The various regions of the brain develop at different rates in different people.”
  • “No two people’s brains store the same information in the same way in the same place.”
  • “We have a great number of ways of being intelligent, many of which don’t show up on IQ tests.” P. 70

For more information about the brain go to: www.brainrules.net and www.centerforneurodevelopment.com.

Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina Rule # 3

Brain Rule #3 Every brain is wired differently.

Medina begins his discussion on Rule # 3 using the example of an excellent basketball player who tried and failed at baseball and then returned to basketball to revive an excellent career. While Michael Jordan demonstrated how specific athletic ability could be, Ken Griffey Jr. made records as a home run king and outfielder.

Dr. Medina goes on to use a fried egg to describe the nucleus of brain cells and DNA. In our tiny neurons much genetic material differentiates individuals. Some studies have identified specific brain cells activating as photos of famous people are shown to the individuals. Brain mapping has revolutionized our understanding of how the brain works. Though Medina does not mention the need for a Designer he does marvel at the design. Again, I am reminded that we “are fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139)

In the 18th century, studies by Italian scientist, Vincenzo Malacarne, demonstrated that brains of birds that had learned complex tricks “had more extensive folding patterns in specific regions of their brains than his untrained brains (of birds).” (p. 57-58) Later, Eric Kandel’s work gave us much more of an understanding of how we learn on a cellular level, sharing the Nobel Prize in 2000 (p. 56-57). We understand now that our brain acts like a muscle and we develop it by learning. Newborns have about as many neural connections as adults; however in specific areas the number doubles or triples. Later, many of the connections are pruned and the process repeats at puberty.

Psychologist, author and educator, Howard Gardner, developed the Multiple Intelligences model of learning styles. He has identified 7-9 ways of how people differ in the learning process. This model is hotly debated within the educational community. Whether we take it to the extent that many of his followers have or not, he did help us think about how we learn and that people are different. Brain mapping has demonstrated, Medina explains, that bilingual individuals store the two languages in different parts of the brain. However, other authors indicate that if a child learns multiple languages early on, that the different languages are stored in the same place by overlapping.

John Medina offers his concerns regarding our school system:

1)      Schools structure the learning environment with the expectation that children of the same age learn in the same way and at the same pace.

2)      Difference in the students’ ability and learning styles “profoundly influence classroom performance.” P. 67

He goes on to suggest “smaller class sizes” and “customized instruction” which are hardly new ideas but, in many cases, will never exist in our current schools because of budget and staffing concerns. As an individual who has the privilege of working with homeschoolers, I see that these goals do exist in many homeschool settings.

Final thoughts:                                                                                  “

  • “What you do and learn in life physically changes what your brain looks like – it literally rewires it.“
  • “The various regions of the brain develop at different rates in different people.”
  • “No two people’s brains store the same information in the same way in the same place.”
  • “We have a great number of ways of being intelligent, many of which don’t show up on IQ tests.” P. 70

For more information about the brain go to: www.brainrules.net and www.centerforneurodevelopment.com.

Brain Rules # 2 by Dr. John Medina

Dr. Medina’s Rule: The human brain evolved, too.

Young Earth Creationist’s Rule: God created the human brain to function in a marvelous way.

Psalm 139:14 “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”

Dr. Medina takes what he observes today and results of scientific studies of our life time and places them within his evolutionary model. Those who want to read this information within this context should read the book. For the rest of you, here is my distillation within my creationist model.

Medina outlines for us some of the unique characteristics of mankind, God’s special creation.

1)      Our ability to use symbolic reasoning. This reasoning allows us to use symbols to represent meaning. We have language which is symbolic. Since much is written down or recorded we have learned from those who came before us.

2)      Our ability to walk upright. Our body structure allows for us to walk on two feet.

3)      Our amazing brain power. In addition to the brain stem and mid-brain we have the frontal cortex. First, the brain stem “regulates breathing, heart rate, sleeping, waking.” P. 40 Next, the mid-brain is for fighting, feeding, flee and reproductive behavior. P. 40 Finally, the frontal cortex is responsible for the “executive functions” including the ability to solve problems, maintain attention, and inhibiting responses. P. 40

Regarding the function of the individual parts of the brain and how they interact, John Medina puts it well, “How this happens is mysterious. Large neural highways run overhead these two brains (brain stem and mid-brain), combining with other roads, branching suddenly into thousands of exits, bounding off into the darkness. Neurons spark to life, then suddenly blink off, then fire again. Complex circuits of electrical information crackle in coordinated, repeated patterns, then run off into the darkness, communicating their information in unknown destinations.” P. 42

4)      Our ability to predict and understand other people’s thoughts. “Symbolic reasoning is a uniquely human talent. It may have risen from our need to understand one another’s intentions and motivations, allowing us to coordinate within a group.” P. 47

Yes, there is evidence of our adapting to different climates and circumstances in our world, but these are examples of “microevolution”, not the “macroevolution” of the Darwin varieties. Since God created man and the earth as “mature” what we see today is merely thousands (6-10) of years old rather than billions. We can marvel at the work of God in mankind.