Wednesday, June 1, 2011

We started the day by going over some of Noam's homework (again chess problems from the Chess 1a problem book mentioned last friday). Today the problems were quite a bit more difficult but he got them all. I think he's got a real skill and, if he keeps with it, he could do well, especially if he wanted to compete, though he has no interest at all in competing. I think he probably feels too intimidated and insecure.

The feedback we got from the CAMH psychological report was that Noam, though doing fine in most areas, is struggling in the area of working memory to the point where it affects his ability to maintain attention on any one subject for too long. I've seen this myself where, even in things that Noam is very interested in, his attention definitely wanders. Of course, what 11 year old boy's attention doesn't wander? But what CAMH seems to be indicating that, well, yes, all boys' attention wanders but Noam is particularly struggling in areas where others aren't to the point that he ranked in the 7th percentile in some metrics. They've suggested that we look at ways of trying to improve his short term memory and told us about one system called Cogmed that has shown promise (although that promise is disputed). Cogmed training is offered here in Toronto through the Jewish Vocational Services. Scattered Minds by Dr. Gabor Maté looks like it is a good book on the subject that takes a non-drug approach.

So, Noam and I decided to learn some memory techniques today (specifically the "major system" as practiced for over a thousand years). This won't help his working memory per se but was a good jumping off point and he has expressed an interest in the memory work I have been doing. We started by listening to 40 minutes of an audiobook about memory called Memory in a Month by Ron White. Part of the audio included exercises we were to do where we needed to visualize various things using our own creative ideas and I was really amazed at Noam's creativity and rich detail when visualizing objects and actions. Using this system we very quickly learned the entire U.S. Bill of Rights. Next time you see Noam, get his to tell you about the first 10 amendments. Of course learning about the Canadian constitution might have been more apropos but this was the example from the audiobook so we stuck with it. It was interesting because Noam and I discussed each of the amendments and talked about what each one meant so it was both an exercise in memory and civics.

As an added bonus both Noam and I learned the formula for the volume of a sphere using a memory trick.

I can't remember how it came up but we talked about the brain's limbic system versus its prefrontal cortex. Noam seemed to get it right away. I read an interesting thing in Raising Happiness that kids' prefrontal cortexes don't fully develop until around age 19 and that that is a big part of parenting: being an external prefrontal cortex for your kids.

Noam then wanted "gym class" which pretty much consists of him beating me up (under the guise of wrestling). After he beat me up, he gave me a massage and then I gave him a massage. Then he wanted "love class" which consisted of us hugging and kissing and squeezing for five minutes.

I never imagined how much I would enjoy home schooling too.

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