Thursday, July 2, 2015

Right-brained Learners

River thinking he's such a big guy, wearing Daddy's hat

A few weeks ago I talked about Sunshine's homeschool evaluation, but I don't remember if I've mentioned before why we do them, so I thought I'd elaborate a little.

Our state requires us to submit "proof of progress" at the end of each school year, in the form of standardized test results, an evaluation by someone with an advanced degree in an education-related field, or by submitting a portfolio.

I had hoped to have Sunshine take a standardized test this year, but I didn't think she was confident enough in her math abilities for that to be a good idea. So we went the evaluation route again- we've done the same for Sunshine's previous school years.

We do recognize the importance of being able to take standardized tests, but I also don't want her to do poorly and then get demoralized. Math has been a struggle for her and I want her to feel like it's something she can do, not something that's "too hard".

In researching right-brained learners several months ago, I came across some interesting tidbits. A lot of people are left-brained learners, and most curricula is geared towards them. I'm left-brained, and I did well in school and always tested well (I was even a National Merit Commended Scholar because I scored so well on the PSAT).

On the other hand, right-brained learners struggle in their early elementary years because their brains develop a little differently and the left-brained curricula just doesn't make sense for them. About the time right-brained learners turn 10 or 11, they catch up and start doing well in school because their brains have matured enough to incorporate more left-brained attributes (the same is true for left-brained learners being able to incorporate more right-brained attributes). Mr M is more right-brained than me and we've definitely seen differences in how he learns and tests. He still doesn't do well on standardized tests, but does quite well on essay tests. This post has a good discussion about the differences in right-and left-brained learners and why we shouldn't compare them. Everyone learns differently, but it doesn't mean one way is "better" or "right".

Sunshine seems to be more right-brained than Mr M and it has become very obvious to me that she learns differently than I do. Math has been a struggle from the beginning (we've changed curriculum multiple times, trying to find one that will work), and since her standardized test results need to include math, I've held off on the testing, waiting for her to gain a better grasp of the concepts.

At 9, she should be approaching the age where her brain settles into the ability to use both right- and left-brained attributes. My tentative plan is to start teaching her how to take standardized tests this coming year (4th grade) and have her take a test, with the understanding that it's just for practice, to eliminate the stress that could be associated with it. If she does well, we can submit the results, and if not, we'll go the evaluation route again.

If we need to, we can review test-taking skills in 5th grade and repeat the test-taking process. She'll be 10 in 5th grade and will turn 11 at the end of the school year. That should put in her firmly in the time frame for settling into being able to use the more left-brained attributes.

In writing this post I went back through the links I'd saved while doing my original research, but unfortunately not all of them are working right now. This page has a lot of links for a variety of helps for right-brained learners.

This blog in particular has been a wealth of information. There's not many recent posts, but the older posts have great info. I haven't purchased her book yet, but plan to do so soon. This post about how to recognize if your child is right-brained struck a chord for me. While Sunshine didn't struggle too much with learning to read, the rest were much more apt.

Researching right-brained learning also brought me to TJEd, which I mentioned in my post about Sunshine's evaluation. TJEd in the elementary years stresses allowing children to progress at their own speed and not pushing them before they're developmentally ready. This is what drew me to incorporating TJEd into our homeschool curriculum and schedule, since we definitely need to take things slow with Sunshine and her math.

I'm also really curious to see if one or both of the boys is right-brained. Here's something I need to look into: do right-brained learners have a higher incidence of being left handed? River favors his left hand for holding eating utensils and writing implements, but he still uses his right hand for lots of other things. He's young yet, but it'll be interesting to see what happens.

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