Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Noam was sick most of last week though on his good days we did do some work. On Wednesday we did an hour long body scan meditation from the mindfulness course I'm taking. We both lay on the ground while listening to a CD which walked us through a meditation. On Thursday we listening to a CBC radio program about placebos and the placebo effect. Afterwards we talked about the nature of sickness and the power of the mind to heal ourselves.

Today Noam wanted to learn cartooning so we spent a lot of the morning drawing. We found a great cartooning website and followed along.

This is Noam with his first drawing. Very proud. He was a little hesitant to do any more but then I convinced him that we should try drawing Archie from one of his Archie comics:

After cartooning for a while we did a 15 minute sit meditation followed by wrestling. After the wrestling, a massage for me (from Noam) then a game of chess (I won!). By then we were almost out of time with only 20 minutes left. We went through a list of things that I have written down that I want to teach/learn about with him and gave him a choice of: political geography (learning where the countries are), more memory work or learning to juggle. He went for juggling as he seemed to be in a very physical mood today. Since I know how to juggle I'm going to try to teach him in the way I was taught, which is to learn to "juggle" one ball at a time. So that's what he spent the rest of the morning on.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Noam started off the day at Sandra's (as he normally would do on a Friday on Sandra's weekend) but then came over here at 10:30 for his chess lesson. Sandra came to meet Sasa and watch Noam play. Sasa and Noam started off the lesson by playing two games. After he went through a game from a magazine where he had Noam try to guess the next moves of the grand master who was playing. Noam amazingly did very well in guessing. Meanwhile I played the amateur opponent so I had to guess the amateur moves. I think I didn't do as well as Noam.

Sasa suggested that we take Noam to play at the Swansea chess club on Saturdays where it is just kids playing. I think Noam would probably really like this if we could convince him to go.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I have to try and remember to do these blog posts immediately after class otherwise I forget what we did! Our days on Thursdays start off a little later because I have to get Maeve to school so I asked Noam to read some more of Harry Stottlemeier's Discovery until I got back. I'm also reading the book and really enjoying it. The book teaches about logic and syllogisms and fallacies but through a very engaging story. When I got back Noam just wanted to continue reading.

We didn't have a lot of time because Sasa, Noam's chess teacher normally arrives at 10:30 so I decided we should try and put into practice some of the memory lessons we had learned on Wednesday instead of continued reading. To begin I thought I would get a baseline for Noam's ability to remember a random list of ten words. After that I was going to teach him how to use yesterdays work to actually memorize them, but first I wanted to show him how it was very difficult to remember anything without tricks. So I gave Noam a list of ten words and he stared at it for a while then gave it back and I asked him the words and he got them all! What he had done is use the system from the day before himself, without being taught--he had made the connection on his own which I was quite impressed by because it was by no means an obvious connection.

Around 10:30 Sasa called to say that he couldn't make it because he had had spilled coffee all over his computer so we rescheduled for Friday. Noam wanted to continue doing the memory lists--he seemed quite excited to have figured it out.

After that we wrestled for most of the rest of the time.

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.