During my 1st grade year, I attended a nice private school. When my mom went to visit one day, she discovered that I had been placed in the back corner of the classroom. Every 10-15 minutes I would quietly get up and walk a lap around my desk before sitting back down. The teacher didn’t seem to mind too much, but put me in the back of the classroom so I wouldn’t disrupt the other students.
Now not all kids are this extreme, but when our bodies are held perfectly still, the brain shuts down. And yet this is precisely what our culture wants children to do and how we define the setting for “getting an education.”
The cultural expectations say:
Sit still, pay attention, stop fidgeting.
But everything we know about the way the brain works screams, “NOT SO.” The beauty of homeschooling is that it provides the flexibility to embrace your child’s unique learning needs and have a holistic approach to education that maximizes learning potential.
So what is the missing key to TURN ON your child to learning and help that learning STICK?
:WARNING: Science overload ahead.
If you want to know the “WHY’S” read on. If not, just trust me. Movement matters. 🙂
WHY does movement turn the brain ON to learning?
√ Develops Neural Pathways
Neurons are brain cells. They consist of dendrites that collect information from other nerve cells and relays information into the cell body and down the axon to the axon terminals where the information is passed on again. This process of nerve cells connecting and networking is the physical manifestation of learning, thought.
Stimulation via experience and movement = ↑ in dendrite branching and myelination (faster thought processing, reaction, etc.)
No Stimuli means branching drops. Use it or lose it applies here.
All of this serves to connect new information to existing information which leads me to the next area that movement effects.
√ Forms Base Patterns
From birth we are taking in input through our senses and as we start to move within our environment and experience life. This forms our initial base patterns and determines the way we process and act upon learning.
Just as it looks, in effect we are forming an ‘experience net’ inside our brains where all subsequent information and experiences are sorted, categorized and integrated in.
This starts in the brainstem as babies explore and learn to move and branches out from there as a child’s senses are engaged.
Movement also releases Dopamine (a neurotransmitter) which induces elation, excitement and orchestrates further nerve net development and alignment all over the brain.
√ Enhances the Vestibular System
This system is housed in the inner-ear. In addition to its commonly known role in helping the body maintain balance, it is considered the entryway into the brain. It is the unifying system that influences everything we do.
Movement triggers the vestibular system and relays sensory experiences to the brain to be processed. Every movement your child makes stimulates their vestibular system which stimulates the brain for new learning.
Integrated movements, done in coherent and purposeful way, activate the entire vestibular system.
√ Promotes Bilateral Integration
Bilateral integration is the ability of the left and right hemisphere’s of the brain to communicate and work together. We’ve all heard the term ‘right brain’ and ‘left brain’. And we know that the right brain deals with intuitive, thoughtful, creative output while the left brain is strong in logical, analytical and objective reasoning. While we may have one hemisphere that is stronger than the other, it is vitally important for these two hemispheres to work together. The more we are able to access both hemispheres of the brain, the more intelligently we are able to function! This is essential for reading, writing, comprehension and creativity.
Movement helps the two hemispheres of the brain work together, MAKING LEARNING EASIER!
√ Activates the Cerebellum
Activating the Cerebellum makes learning FASTER! Cerebellum has the fastest conducting pathways in the brain – 5-10% faster. In other words, this subsection of the brain — long known for its role in posture, coordination, balance, and movement – has a high degree of influence on the frontal cortex and cognition.
Computer imaging show the cerebellum is the most active part of the brain during learning. During non-learning processes, such as watching TV/movies, or ‘gasp’ sitting at a desk for large periods of time, the cerebellum is almost inactive.
√ Utilizes Muscle Memory
Movement has a powerful effect on memory. Do you have a pen and paper handy? WRITE THIS DOWN:
“A person may sit quietly to think, but to remember a thought an action must be used to anchor it.”
For those of you that wrote this down, simply the physical act of writing increases the likelihood of remembering it and putting that information to use later on.
A fully engaged body →
means the brain is better utilized →
and learning sticks!
√ Boosts Oxygen to the Brain
A refresher from yesterday’s post! IF you’ve made it this far, congrats! You need a break. Stand up and S-T-R-E-T-C-H! Without oxygen, our thinking brain goes to sleep. Movement activates it and wakes it up. Think of our brain like a computer. When you aren’t moving, it goes into ‘sleep mode’ and the screensaver pops up. The computer is still technically ‘on’, but it doesn’t help you at all if you don’t see the screen or do anything with it. Movement, wakes up the brain by giving it important life giving, sustaining and empowering oxygen!
So now, we have a greater understanding of WHY movement helps with learning. But how can we maximize this? Well, that is what I’m going to spend the rest of this 10 day series talking about! So hang on to your hats, we’re going to discover ways to incorporate this into your day no matter what educational approach you incorporate in your home!