Monday, November 28, 2011

Raising Funny Kids 2

There are moments in which my kids' zest for exploration seems very propitious! But it's their good sense of humor that really sets them apart. 

Enrichment programs in U.S. schools are typically only offered to students selected for high academic performance. However, Neuroimaging research suggests that the brain is much more plastic than previously thought, which means that an enrichment environment would most certainly benefit all children. 

Offering multi sensory, personalized, thought-provoking activities that motivate kids to more creatively and freely explore the world maximizes cognitive, emotional, and social development. 

The urban myth that home schooled students are not socially active has long been debunked, what's taken its place is countless case studies whereby home schooled students are excelling in specific areas they choose to explore after their parents made the information available. 

The counterbalance to enrichment programs used to be arts and crafts. Here, the kids who flourished where those whose natural intelligence was in the visual arts. While not a core academic component of the educational menu, arts & crafts classes, by design, were student-centered approaches to activities geared for active learning and discovery opportunity. Even the seating was varied, which is much more indicative of what kids encounter in the adult world. These environments often mirror the home environment given the less formal seating configurations (chairs arranged in a horseshoe, or in groups, or even floor or easel activities with no desks or chairs).  

Having home schooled off-and-on over the years to compliment and correct trajectories that I felt were not in alignment with my children's life exploration, I have come to believe that good humor goes hand-in-hand with multi sensory learning. 

We have a number of intelligences (academic, artistic, emotional, physical, social, spiritual, etc.) that when stimulated engage multiple senses. One natural sense, good humor, is something I've witnessed naturally emerge from my children in a multi sensory environment. 

Studies indicate that children laugh around 400 times per day, while adults only laugh around 15 times. It would appear that children have a propensity for good humor. One thing is for sure, we all learn easier in a positive state of mind. At a time when learning is often its highest, we seem to have genetically evolved a stronger propensity for good humor in childhood, which, according to neuroimaging studies, if honored and encouraged, could lead to a better sense of humor and a more accurate ability to recall facts into adulthood. Even if someone hasn't laughed much over the years, plasticity in the brain indicates that they could recapture this ability in adulthood. 

Lessons incorporating cross-curricular studies involving Internet research is a natural way for children to learn about their world and align their worldview with a grander audience. Using a safe-Internet browsing approach, we'll often pause in the middle of a lesson if I believe a greater brain stimulation opportunity exists that would promote the growth of synapses and dendrites. In other words, if a lesson sparks a fun memory, I surprise them with, "Hold on! I remember this.... (silly song from the 80s, a movie or poem, or even a funny YouTube video) that you've just got to see!" 

Immediately, their curious minds travel to that memory storage place in their brains and an emotional memory strengthens their academic brain in a way that they later recall facts easier and more naturally just because we examined exactly which finger Charlie bit. 

We then proceeded to medially draw the finger, layer by (significant) layer, and then ended our drawings with bite marks on the skin! 

The more I've "interrupted class" (within reason), the more surprised I am that we were not allowed to interrupt class as young students to offer more relevant input into what we were learning. 

The disadvantage for kids is that their worldview is limited. The advantage for parents, irrespective the level of education, is that we've all lived long enough to see some really interesting things! Sharing these moments with your kids is a great strategy for learning, good humor, and strengthening family bonds. You don't have to home school to provide an enriched, reinforced information-based environment at home. 

Funny cartoons are easily found on nearly every subject (math, social studies, science, etc.). When your kids come home from school, one way to help them appreciate the relevance of what they're learning is to show them that it's information important enough to laugh about. 

That's what catches their attention. If you recall earlier, I mentioned that kids laugh around 400 times a day. Find a reason to laugh, and bring out your kid's unique sense of humor to remember it! 

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