In college I had a professor that frequently reminded us that in order to have a highly effective lesson, we must “wiggle them, giggle them or gross them out.” The LiiNK project, research by Peter Gray and the work of many others support this sediment and take it significantly further. Rather than just allowing children to wiggle a little – they encourage high amounts of physical movement and play throughout the learning time. As home school families, we have the advantage that there are no expectations for sitting in the chair to work. Math can be done running down the sidewalk, spelling words are reviewed by making the letters out of body shapes, parts of flowers are discovered and compared by going out, finding specimens and physically manipulating them. Though the options abound since we are less tied to norms, we must choose to engage in this way. It is easy to default to the normal, “easy” way.
Our family has embraced getting moving more by making sure at least one of our lessons for the day encourages significant amounts of gross motor movement even for our eleven year old. Sometimes this movement is “simple” meaning the child reads in a swing or a hammock but it is movement none the less. Other times, it is more complicated such as throwing the lies and poor choices of President Nixon during Watergate at a web of painters tape to demonstrate how our lies weave a web that eventually traps us. Skip counting almost always brings movement because why not do jumping jacks or skip through the numbers. Ever punched at the right answer or hit it with a fly swatter? Chalk markers and a big window make this one a favorite. Our family has also started taking 15 minutes out of every hour to run around outside or get moving inside if the weather is bad. These short breaks get our brains much needed rest and space as well as an additional flow of oxygen – thank you exercise. Why did we start doing this? Well, my husband happened to read an article about schools in Finland on a whim and saw that taking a fifteen minute break after every forty-five minutes of lessons was the norm. He wondered what this would do for our four boys and encouraged me to try it. After a few days of learning to adjust for me and a few days of the boys seeing that I was serious about only 15 minutes, the results were amazing. I found myself with boys that were more alert, who were completing lessons faster and more precisely, and who were excited for school. Teachers in Finland see similar results, “Once I incorporated these short recesses into our timetable, I no longer saw feet-dragging, zombie-like kids in my classroom. Throughout the school year, my Finnish students would—without fail—enter the classroom with a bounce in their steps after a 15-minute break. And most importantly, they were more focused during lessons” (Walker, 2014).
So, where can you build more movement into your day? Whatever you choose to do – keep it smart and keep it simple.
Walker, T. D. (2014, June 30). How Finland Keeps Kids Focused Through Free Play – The Atlantic. The Atlantic; https://www.facebook.com/TheAtlantic/. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/06/how-finland-keeps-kids-focused/373544/