Times tables, flash cards and fanfares

I have always been very interested in the human brain, communication, connections and cognition.  As a home educator and mother of a child on the autism spectrum, I suppose I’m the happy pig who’s found my proverbial to roll in.

For those who are interested, skeptical* or not, being a home educator is not at all like being a teacher.  It is more akin to partner-in-crime, fellow adventurer, dream/scheme facilitator.

Home educators are free to choose any learning style they believe is best for their child.  Here we’re mostly autonomous in approach.  It’s a world away from my childhood classroom experiences.

As both of my parents are teachers, and wonderful, they do influence me greatly.  I’ve tried a fair few teacher-y activities but they often fail.  I try to replicate a lot of things my Mum did with me when I was little; some work, many don’t.

Daughter definitely learns to please herself, not others.  True intrinsic motivation or at the very least mega-silly enjoyment factor is key here.

Practical, experimental, experiential.  All good.

All of the above and achievable on the Xbox, iPad or PC?  Bloody marvellous.

Still, over the forthcoming weeks, I’m going to attempt to “teach” those times tables by good old-fashioned rote.

I’ve had some interesting comments on here, Facebook and Twitter about people’s varying love and success with times tables and learning by rote. I’ve realised I’m perhaps a bit biased and my joy of rocking out to “Der Der Di-Dee, Der Der Di-Dum, Der Der Di-DoinkDoink…” is not universal.  Hmmm.

I’m hoping daughter will grit her teeth and come with me on this one.

As well as times tables practice, I used to love doing flash cards to learn vocabulary with my Mum, apparently even from a VERY young age, 18 months old and even earlier.  I genuinely can’t remember that far back but I’m sure that to me it was just a jolly good game.

girl_with_a_massive_brainDaughter never wanted to do flash cards, she didn’t see the fun or point in it.  Back when she was attending school, she was more interested in debating how words should be spelled and developing her own preferred version than learning the accepted one.

Now, as a keen gamer, her desire to communicate, negotiate and collaborate via typed online ‘Chat’ has given her a determination to spell correctly that is indefatigable.  It’s interesting for me to see how her satisfaction comes from the practical end result of successful [spelling and] communication – a game well won – never from just dry ‘academic’ achievement.

Imposing times tables learning-by-rote will be interesting as the payback will take longer.  I hope that my hunch that she will get a similar ‘kick’ from it plays out, I believe she will LOVE the freedom and speed with which she can manage numbers in her head (useful in gaming, at the very least, where I’ve seen some frustration around number manipulation).

I generally don’t do coercion.  Instead I do a neat line in extrinsic motivation in the form of Mummy apeing about until she ends up in some kind of Tom and Jerry-esque comedy predicament, or (for max amusement) with minor injury.

So far, it works.  Lame but true.

So I’m dreaming up my two times table burp medley, three times table modern interpretative dance routine, four times table #superLOLfail living room parkour course, five times table make-my-wobbly-bits-wobble physical jerks exercise plan (new year new me two-for-the-price-of-one) …and more.

In my infant flash card phase I had a weird word-blindness to the word ‘has’.  No idea why.  To combat it, my Mum would sing out “Dah Da-Dup Daaah!!” like a little fanfare.  [Do we see a theme emerging?]

I would then know it was (and automatically say out loud) the word ‘has’.

The fanfare persisted beyond the flashcard phase into my early reading years where I would still stumble over the word until I heard the fanfare and my ‘has’ reflex responded.  Thankfully I outgrew the need for it eventually.

For some reason, the “Dah Da-Dup Daaah!!” thingy came up in conversation when Mum was baby-sitting daughter.  She thought it was hilarious.  A quick test later it became apparent that, like my times tables reflex, my ‘has’ reflex is still very much retained.

Daughter has since had many hours of joyful practical, experimental and experiential learning yelling “Dah Da-Dup Daaah!!” in various situations and locations to check that I still invariably automatically say ‘has’.

* Yes, fellow Brits, I know that’s the American English spelling, I am just SO transatlantic, you would never believe it.  Also, in WordPress, the red wiggly “spelling” line underneath the English spelling of sceptic drives me nuts as I’m not confident on that spelling.  Maybe I need some kind of “dum-dum diddly whoop whoop” for that…

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