Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Krazy Kinesthetic Learner

We did something rather unconventional today.  Um, really unconventional.  Before you read any further, I'll tell you right from the start that Nerf guns and foam darts were involved!  Don't read anymore if you object to Nerf guns (and I completely understand if you do.  For a very long time I was anti-any-type-of-gun.  Makes for an interesting mom when you are raising a boy who seems to have a built-in trigger reflex.)  Want to keep reading?

We decided to mix Nerf wars with math this morning and it was a big hit.  I'm happy to report that ONLY index cards were harmed in our endeavor!  As I'm learning more and more about the movers and shakers who inhabit the world, or those who learn best through movement, I realize that I need to stretch my own brain further over the edges of the box which I've apparently been living in for the last 40+ years.  My box is of an entirely different composition and shape than Max's box, and sometimes I just have to haul myself out of my own worldview to get a better handle on his.  I live in a box filled with workbooks, orderly concepts (most of the time), spreadsheets, lots of words, lots of visuals, lots of stuff for my eyes to behold and take in.  Max can hardly stay contained in his box because he's jumping, performing, twisting and turning, tumbling his way out of it.  If I try to have him do some school work my way, I see my avid little mover wilt at the shoulders and hear him offer up a heavy sigh.  We are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to preferred styles of learning, so I'm learning how to help Max learn best!  That's a lot of learning to undertake, isn't it?  Learning about learning.

In the past few posts I've mentioned that we've recently completed some learning assessments to try to better address all of this multi-intelligence business.  And based on those results, I am coming to grips with me needing to change a few things around here for Max's sake.   I, (sniff), am having to loosen my white knuckle grip on any and all workbooks I may have been harboring for a future date.  I am having to let go of the pen and paper mantra that has carried me through my own life.  I am trying to keep my chin up and look for novel ideas to keep him stimulated!

Today I planned to take another run at the multiplication facts and noticed Max stalking about the house with his Nerf gun strapped to his side, looking for imaginary bad guys (apparently they lurk in corners and hide behind doors and under tables - who knew?  I'm oblivious to them.)  I had just finished making up some index cards with the 4's, 6's and 7's facts written on them in brightly colored sharpie.  My intention was to have him manipulate the cards on a big table, match them up and make a quick game out of it.  We started that way, but Max came up with a different version that suited him much better.  I stood next to the table and flashed an index card with a multiplication problem on it.  He jumped up on one of the kitchen chairs and shot a Nerf foam dart, trying to hit the card with the answer on it.  After he hit his target he said the fact out loud.  Next time we'll tape the answers to a wall and let him take aim!  He said, "Mom, I'm doing math!"  and laughed because it just didn't feel much like math.  I had never thought of putting together Nerf foam darts, math facts and index cards, but it worked!

We've also gone to the basketball court at the community center using 8 1/2 x 11 inch pieces of paper with the facts written on them, placed on the floor.  He picks a problem, bounces the ball on it a few times, states the answer and tries to make a basket.  He seems to really enjoy these diversions from the other ways we work on math.  A ping pong table could come into play, too.  Trampolines, jump ropes, pogo sticks, baseball  We could really stay in shape this way!  Exercise Math.  Hmm.

Not that he HAS to be completely solid on his math facts at this juncture; I've posted about my anxieties related to this before.  We are working on fractions, multiplying and dividing, and I see him become easily frustrated if he doesn't have the simple math fact at the tip of his brain.  Then he gets distracted and loses interest.  I figure if we keep doing fun games like Nerf Math, he'll be less frustrated as he finds he's able to apply the information and make the "other" math less cumbersome.

If you have a similar kiddo bouncing about the walls of your house, I encourage you to implement some of these ideas or other movement ideas that resonate with him or her.  I'm coming at this from a boy angle and he has a trigger finger, so the Nerf idea kind of fell into place today.  We'll review tomorrow and see how much he retained from today so we can keep working on those pesky fractions!

****A FEW DAYS LATER.........we did the Nerf gun thing again today, but this time I taped the answers up on the wall and we pretended that Max was the sheriff.  "This town ain't big enough for the both of us, 4x6.  It's time you, Mr. 24, went to live elsewhere!"  "Number 56 (8x7), you are the baddest of the b..a..d.  I've had enough of your shenanigans.  I'm going to git my deputy and we'll be back to round you up and escort you and your posse of 8's out of this here town!"  We had a good time playing up the voices and pretending we were clearin' the town of rowdy no-gooders.  Too fun.


  1. Oh, I will be using this idea for sure with my younger son next year. Love it! :)

  2. Great! I am happy to pass the idea along. I hope you can put it to good use. Happy target practice!

  3. We have lined up army guys for a "war". Each correct answer gets a "shot" at the other persons army. We each get 10 to 15 army guys and a bouncy ball (or we have rolled a tank through the opposing army).
    Each correct answer gets 1 shot if they get the problem wrong then I take the shot. the first person who gets all of their Men knocked over or off the table looses. My 3 boys absolutely loved this game!! Lisa

  4. Great idea. We did "hockey math"- a hockey stick with a sock over the end. I put index cards (flash cards) with various problems all over the floor and bottoms of walls. I would say an answer, he would take puck (soft stuffed football) and hit it with hockey stick to hit index card that had the problem with that answer.

    Now I just need a way to teach him to enjoy writing! Any suggestions?

  5. Hi Nicole - that sounds so fun! I'm really glad you found something that your son enjoyed to learn math. I didn't think about hockey! I suppose if given enough thought almost any sport could be modified for this particular function.

    As far as writing, if you look under the categories of 'Grammar and Writing' in the left column of this blog, you should find some ideas. I thought it was important to concentrate on the idea of writing first, before actually putting pencil to paper. Max did a bunch of dictation to me while I typed up his ideas; we also did some recitation via Charlotte Mason's philosophy. I wanted him to grasp the concept of building a story, of organizing his thoughts and building a story or thought. To be honest, he really disliked the practice of actual writing (using his hand and a pencil) until this year, in 7th grade. All of that 'pre' work helped to lay the ground work.

    Also, doing a ton of reading on his own or to him has been a boon to his ability with words, spelling, thought sequencing. I really don't feel there is any hurry to get a child to write. In time, if given enough breathing room, he or she will take to it naturally as a way to express thoughts.

    We did use some games, tried some writing programs and workbooks, but I think allowing him time to come to it on his own has been the biggest help. Best wishes - it's a subject that many homeschooling parents worry about and probably don't need to so much.

  6. I forgot to mention copy work, too! It has definite benefits and you can make it really fun. The first copy work Max ever did was from his favorite Calvin and Hobbs cartoon. I also chose funny paragraphs from books that we were reading at the time to see if he recognized them quickly.

  7. What is copy work? Just copying a cartoon?- your son copying it- wait, you said he recognized them... so you copied the cartoon and ?

  8. Here is a post about copy work:

    It stems from Charlotte Mason's theories about learning; the child sits down to copy passages, paragraphs, sentences, dialogue - word for word, with correct punctuation and spelling. It might seem useless and rather boring, but it doesn't have to be if you look for fun things to copy (like dialogue between Calvin and Hobbs and Susie or fun quotes). It does have value if done consistently. Look up the term on Google and you might even consider learning a little about Charlotte Mason from the 1800's. Even though she lived a long time ago, she had a lot of good things to say about how kids learn and how to support them in that endeavor. I do think having Max do some copywork helped him have a better understanding of how to string words and thoughts together.

    There is also something called dictation, which is different than copywork. That's where a child studies a short passage (depending on age of child) and practices writing it out over several days to a week. Then the parent reads the passage out loud while the child writes it out and compares it to the original. This helped Max learn to capitalize and use the right kind of punctuation. Again, you can pick fun or humorous items for a child to work on for dictation.

    Just ideas.......might be worth some investigation for you and your kiddo!


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