Turning This into a Breakthrough Year
Let’s face it, the end of the last school year was rough! Juggling the demands of our jobs, running the household, raising our kids, and managing their on-line education led a majority of us to have a lot more wrinkles and gray hairs than we did before. And now we must muster the strength to do it all over again!
As a scientist-educator and Founder of Fit Learning, I’m here to offer you some clarity about the situation in which we find ourselves. I am trained in behavioral science, which is the science of learning. I’m not trained as a traditional educator; I’m trained in the science behind the learning process and I apply this science to instruction. For more than 20 years, my organization has been accelerating student achievement by one full year in only 40 hours of instruction (www.fitlearning.com/results). In other words, in as little time as a typical work week, our learners make a full year’s worth of growth in essential academic areas. And we also offer virtual instruction as an option for our learners. Not all virtual instruction is created equal. Exponential learning gains are possible via on-line platforms when the science of learning is applied to instruction.
Science has determined that kids don’t learn via arbitrary timelines and exposure to stuff. They learn by the repeated reinforcement of their behavior over time. The repeated, reinforced practice of skills leads to permanent learning. In fact, with enough repeated, reinforced practice, skills actually become established as habits. We tend to think of habits as maladaptive behaviors that are difficult to get rid of – like biting our fingernails. But any behavior can become a habit if it is repeatedly practiced and reinforced. We use the term fluency to describe skills that have been established as habits (www.fluency.org). A fluent skill is neurologically permanent (i.e., remembered), resistant to distractions and fatigue, and easily usable for the learning of more complex skills. Fluent skills are automatic, effortless, second nature and indicative of expertise.
Science has also determined that complex skills can’t be effectively learned and mastered until prerequisite skills are fluent. In other words, students can’t acquire advanced math skills until basic numeracy and computation skills are fluent. Students can’t acquire proficient reading skills until phonics and decoding are fluent. Complex repertoires are comprised of many component skills, all of which require training to fluency in order for that more complex repertoire to be effectively learned. Our science has discovered that when kids are given the opportunity to truly master prerequisite skills, they can acquire more complex skills with little to no training. Students with a fluent foundation also begin leaping up curriculum ladders and show dramatic increases in critical thinking, confidence and perseverance (K. Berens 2020).
Now is a great time to rethink your plans for the next school year. You actually have the power to choose how your children are educated. You don’t have to continue with the status quo and accept what your schools are offering. With homeschooling being required anyway, why not design an educational experience for your child that can actually transform their life? Fit Learning provides a science-based alternative or supplement to traditional schooling. We offer an on-line learning platform that produces fluency in essential academic areas so that students can acquire the necessary skills to become independent, confident, perseverant and successful. This next school year could actually prove to be the most remarkable year of your child’s life. Empower yourself and your child by taking charge of your child’s education by choosing science-based instruction. In doing so, you might just turn this current breakdown into a remarkable breakthrough.
5 Science Tips Helpful for Kids
• Sitting, staring, daydreaming or fidgeting does not equal learning. In order for kids to learn the concepts targeted in lessons, they must actively participate in those lessons. Your child’s teacher should encourage frequent and active participation during classroom instruction. The most effective educators provide 20 learning opportunities per minute! If your child is participating in on-line classes, observe those classes and count the number of opportunities your child is given to participate per minute. If the learning opportunities being provided are low, request that the teacher do better!
• Learning requires positive reinforcement. Your child’s teacher should be providing frequent praise and encouragement during lessons – not just reprimands when kids fail to participate. If your child is participating in on-line classes, observe these classes and count how often your child’s teacher provides reinforcement. The most effective educators provide reinforcement after every learning opportunity – 20 times per minute! If your child’s teacher primarily uses reprimands or corrections rather than positive reinforcement – you should request that they do better.
• Use a timer during homework activities. It’s important to clearly differentiate between working time and break time. Set the timer for short, manageable periods – like 10 minutes. Require that your child work consistently throughout the time period. If your child goes off-task during the work period, restart the timer! When the timer goes off, praise your child for their hard work and give them a short break from their work space where they can stretch their legs, and get a drink or snack. After the short break, direct them back to their work space and start the timer for another work period.
• Electronic devices should be put away until homework is completed. Require that your child earn access to privileges for hard work. Electronic devices or other free-time activities are not rights — they are privileges and privileges should be earned. Allow your child to earn a certain number of electronic minutes for every hard working timer they complete. Bank these minutes and allow them to exchange their minutes at the end of the day — after homework is completed.
• Kids frequently fail to master the component skills required to independently complete assignments. If your child is working hard on homework but still struggling to complete it — inform your child’s teacher that your child requires practice of the component skills included in the assignment. You aren’t your child’s teacher — you are their parent. If your child is failing to learn the lessons and master skills, that failure is your teacher’s responsibility — not yours. Don’t be afraid to advocate for your child and demand more effective instruction.
For more information on Fit Learning visit fitlearning.com or email us at admi[email protected] For information on Dr. Berens’ upcoming book, Blind Spots: Why Students Fail and the Science that Can Save Them, visit drkimberlyberens.com. You can also view her webinar on “The Future of Your Child’s Education.”
Reference: Berens, K. (2020). Blind Spots: Why Students Fail and the Science that can Save Them. In press. The Collective Book Studio: Oakland, CA.
Learning Support Listings
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For more than a decade, Launch Math + Science Centers have provided toddlers to tweens with inspiring math instruction and STEM-based camps and classes. For Fall 2020, they have introduced their new LAUNCH STUDY HALL — The Antidote for Remote Learning! Launch instructors are ready to work privately with your child or with a small group – virtually or in your home – to provide supplemental homework help and instruction. Let Launch see to it that your child successfully completes the required lessons each day they study from home. Real-life rocket scientist, Scott Heifetz, founded Launch with one mission in mind: Inspire children to love and learn math and science. Visit their website, launchmath.com, to find out more and sign your child up today!