Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Learning How to Learn

Do you remember when you first were learning to drive a car?  You had to work hard to judge where the car should be in the lane - not too close to the curb and not to close to the painted line.  Thought went into when to press the break and how hard.  Did you have to issue apologies for throwing passengers forward as you learned to make judgments about where your car was in relation to the car in front of you, how close was acceptable and how fast you could comfortably stop?  Did you bump over curbs while learning when and how far to turn the wheel when going around a corner.  New drivers must pay attention to traffic beside them, on-coming traffic, traffic turning into the road, pedestrians, motorcycles, road signs and lights.  Speed must be monitored, not too fast and not too slow.  In the beginning, your muscles were probably tense and you most likely fatigued quickly as your brain worked hard to think about all the multiple aspects of the driving task.   

When learning something new and multi-faceted, like driving a car, our brain has a lot to process and remember all at the same time.  Once driving becomes routine, most of the driving task is moved from the executive brain centers to areas of the brain that handle automated functions.  The secret of automaticity is that performance can become better with much less brain power.  An experienced driver can think about other things while driving, unless something out of the ordinary happens and a quick decision must be made.  I have noticed that as long as I am going somewhere familiar, I can listen to music or carry on a conversation with a passenger; but if I come into unfamiliar territory and have to start thinking about directions or if it starts pouring down rain, then my passengers must be quite and all music is turned off.    My mother used to say, "Be quiet; I can't see."
Have you met children who are operating like new drivers in their own bodies?  Perhaps they are unaware they are standing on your feet or in your personal space.  They don't realize they are too loud.  They don't adjust their speed appropriately - too fast or too slow.  They forget what they were just told to do on the way to do it, because something else got their attention.  Staying in their chair is like trying to keep the car between the lines.  Staying in the chair, finding their pencil, figuring where to put their paper, listening to the teacher, finding the correct page in the book, ignoring the person who just walked by in the hallway, and on and on, requires more brain energy than is available because nothing is automatic for them.  NeuroNet Learning founder, Nancy Rowe, says, "Children who struggle with cognitive multi-tasking are self-distracted learners who must constantly work to recover their train of thought."  The child may be exhausted and tense like the new driver; or he may just give up and end up in trouble for poor behavior and/or not getting his work done.  

NeuroNet Learning offers several  movement-based programs to train children to automate basic sensory-mortor skills which are the foundation for all other learning.  All NeuroNet exercises are done in rhythm, because skills are not truly automatic unless they can be done on-time.  Once a child knows how to automate skills and realizes that she is capable of doing so, she can successfully apply that knowledge to other learning tasks.  Learning to automate skills is learning how to learn. 
NeuroNet Integrated Rhythms is offered through ILC.  Integrated Rhythms consists of 8 levels of exercises.  As children Improve with practice, they qualify for higher levels of the program while building confidence and proficiency.  Most students require 16-24 weeks to complete the program.  Integrated Rhythms is designed specifically for school-aged children.  Before the end of the year, it is my plan to become a certified provider of NeuroNet Early Learning as well.  You can find additional information about NeuroNet Integrated Rhythms by clicking on the NeuroNet tab in the top menu bar of this blog.

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