We don’t just think with our brains.
How can that possibly be true?
I struggled to understand it myself for quite a while, until I read the fabulous English philosopher Andy Clark’s description of what happens when someone writes, which essentially involves ideas flowing down the arm and hand, through the pen and ink, across the paper, up to your eyes, and back to your brain.
The ideas don’t literally flow, of course, but the process of writing alters the process of thinking - which is why research has shown that processing traumatic memories through journaling about them is more useful just thinking about them - the act of writing about them changes our interpretation of them in a way that just thinking about them doesn’t.
The challenge with school-based learning, of course, is that it’s primarily concerned with the brain. Our task is to remember facts and ideas so we can recount them when asked about them at a later time. Children who fidget are told to sit still, when the research that Annie Murphy Paul cites in her new book The Extended Mind indicates that this instruction is entirely misplaced - fidgeting can be a way of managing excess energy, and movement can actually help us to remember things more effectively than we otherwise would.
In this episode we learn many of the different ways that we our brains interact with the outside world to learn in ways that we might never have considered up to now.
I think of this kind of learning as Full-Bodied Learning, and long before I’d read Annie’s book I had actually developed an entire module of content for the Supporting Your Child’s Learning membership on exactly this topic. In the module we extend the ideas in today’s episode to support our children in using their full bodies to learn both in school and outside of school as well.
You do have to be a member to access that specific content, but you can get a taste for similar kinds of tools that you can use with your child in the free You Are Your Child’s Best Teacher workshop which starts on Monday September 13. In the workshop you’ll:
Learn how to use your child’s interests as a jumping off point for deep, self-driven learning
Show (to yourself and others!) that your child is engaged in complex, multi-faceted learning
Reimagine what learning looks like (it can be exciting and fun, and not something you have to bribe your child to do!)
Understand your values about learning so you can do activities that are aligned with those values
Feel confident that you can effectively support your child’s intrinsic love of learning - whether or not your child is in school.
So whether you’re homeschooling or not; whether you work outside the home or not, YOU really are the person who can best support your child’s learning - mostly because you know them better than anyone else so you can help them much more effectively once you gain the skills to do that.
The workshop consists of one short email each day for five days, access to a supportive community of parents who are on the same learning journey as you, and a wrap-up masterclass at the end to bring it all together where we can chat live about your questions.
If you want to raise a child who has an intrinsic, life-long love of learning, I do hope you’ll join me in the workshop - it’s completely FREE!
Just click the image below to sign up.
Jump to highlights:
(01:00) Looking at the idea that our mind isn't actually only located inside of our brains
(01:46) An open invitation to join the free You Are Your Child’s Best Teacher Workshop
(05:30) Learning does not just happen within the brain, but with things and people that are outside of it
(06:44) The metaphor of how our brains are like magpies nest: we draw raw material available to us as resources for our thinking process just like how magpies incorporate materials available in their environment when building their nests
(09:22) The movements and gestures of our bodies, the internal sensations of our bodies are part of the thinking process
(10:34) Interoceptive sensitivity
(13:07) The gut feeling is your body tugging at your sleeve saying that you’ve encountered this situation before and this is how you should respond
(14:53) Moving the body is a way to stimulate mental processes in specific ways and you can use different kinds of movements to produce different kinds of thoughts
(16:53) Recess - the great invention that allows students to move and break the monotony of sitting down all day in school
(17:49) Fidgeting is a very subtle way to calibrate our arousal level so that we're in this optimal state of alertness
(19:00) We're creatures who are good at moving our bodies and navigating through space and interacting with other people
(20:23) We rely on our surroundings to shape our sense of ourselves
(26:48) We can interact with our environment in a way that supports our learning
(28:33) What are some ways that we can support children in using the space around them in their learning
(31:49) Journaling and sketching as a tool to process learning deeper
(36:47) Thinking with relationships; encouraging children to learn from and with other people
(45:25) Allowing your children to genuinely work together so that parents don’t need to support their learning individually
(46:29) We tend to think of learning as when a person sits down at a desk but in fact there are all these cognitive processes that get activated in social interactions
(48:08) Argument is very valuable and can be a really effective way of solving problems
(52:43) It is a different cognitive process when we do learning with other people
(55:45) Human thinking works best when we are able to create “loops” and the best way for parents to support their children’s learning is to look for those loops