Homeschooling gives parents the opportunity to tailor lessons to use our
senses to improve our children’s attention, concentration, learning and
The very concept of a Carnival of Homeschooling conjures up images of colour and fun, busy, happy crowds, music, and smells of food stalls.
Words and senses link to each other, so that words can evoke memories of
smells and sights and sounds, even of feelings; and senses can evoke
memories. When we talk of muti-sensory or multi-modal teaching, we mean that we need to teach using many different sensory inputs. All teachers know and try to do this but Homeschoolers are in the best position to have the flexibility to tailor their lessons to use the senses that work best for their own children.
Not all senses evoke happy or positive memories. Think of that feeling of apprehension you get when you smell something which reminds you of childhood visits to the dentist! Not to mention the irritation we feel and difficulty we have concentrating on anything when we have an itchy or stinging insect bite!
For some of us, lying on a blanket under a tree, surrounded by grass, flowers and birds is our idea of heaven. How comforted we feel when we cuddle up into a warm, soft blanket! Some of us would sooner choose to spend our time in a warm bath, with candlelight; while others just want to be in the middle of a big, noisy party!
Yes, we all have different sensory processing and therefore different reactions to the sensory world around us. Some of us are sensory-seeking and want lots of movement, action and sound around us. This energises the sensory-seekers among us and they can actually function and concentrate better when they have intense sensory input. Others of us are sensory-avoiding and feel like curling up in a corner to hide when there is too much noise or action around us. These children can go into a “shut down” state and you will notice that they seem unable to think or follow your instructions.
If a child is in the wrong sensory environment for their own specific sensory processing, it will have a strong effect on their ability to concentrate, focus attention and process the information you are trying to teach him. Often children are labelled as having Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) or Attention Deficit - inattention type (ADD) because their sensory processing is responding to a sensory environment in a way that makes it very difficult for them to learn. Whether or not your child actually has ADHD or ADD, they will be more in control of their own
behaviour and more able to learn if they are in an environment best suited to their sensory processing needs.
Homeschooling allows the flexibility to present your lessons using the
sensory diet that is best suited to your child’s needs. If your child is a sensory-seeker, you can fill the lessons with lots of pictures, movement, touch and even smell; but if your child is a sensory-avoider, you can find out which sensations help him to feel comfortable and happy for learning. Sensory avoiders will have strong negative reactions to some sensations (for
example, a noisy classroom can make them retreat into themselves and not be able to focus or even think clearly); but even sensory avoiders respond well to certain sensations and lessons which present more input of that sensory type, will stimulate them and allow them to work at their real potential.
If your child is homeschooled, you will be able to give them the sensory environment most closely suited to their own learning needs. This must be one of the main benefits of homeschooling - you can arrange the environment according to your child’s specific sensory processing and thus help him to concentrate optimally on the work he is learning.
As a homeschooler, you can choose whether your child’s worksheets and books use a lot of colour and pictures or are “quieter” books with less visual stimulation. Homeschoolers can easily arrange for their child to leave his desk and have a short movement break, such as shooting a basket-ball through hoops for five minutes before returning refreshed and re-energised to learn the next part of the lesson. Learning mathematics tables
while bouncing a ball can easily be part of a successful homeschool lesson. On the other hand, if your child needs a quiet, still environment in order to
concentrate and be in the ‘just right’ energy state for optimal learning, you
can place his desk in a quiet part of the house, talk quietly when teaching and not have too many pictures and posters around him.
What is important for homeschooling Mums and Dads is that you make a conscious note of your child’s sensory needs. Watch him carefully and find out what seems to energise him and what seems to drain his energy or interfere with his concentration. Then work with that. As a homeschooling parent, you can adapt your lessons directly to optimise your child’s attention. This is not pandering to your child, this is optimising his
learning! That is what every parent and teacher wants.
What about children who are not homeschooled? Is there any way teachers can help them achieve the just-right sensory environment for their attention and cognitive energy? Homeschoolers might be able to stop a lesson for a child who needs a movement break but a formal class, with twenty or more pupils, is going to be very disruptive if every time a different child needed to move, the lesson is stopped for a short game of basketball.
Also, the movement that brings one child into a just-right level of energy, can send another child into a hyperactive energy level that stops his concentration; and what then about the child who goes into“shut down” when surrounded by all this movement and excitement?
Teaching in a formal school setting is more challenging than it is for
homeschoolers; but adaptations can be introduced to even these formal school lessons to ensure that all the children in the class are able to function at their true level and show themselves and the world just how clever they are. Being aware of the different sensory processing the children in your class have is the key to effective lessons, with happy children and a happy teacher.
Great lessons make great learners. Let learners can become great minds.