Monday, November 22, 2010

Car Schooling

Some days, I end up being a human ping-pong ball being bounced back and forth from David's school, church, and shopping.

Sound familiar?

Whether it's poor planning on my part or anyone else's doesn't change that bee-bopping here and there eats up precious homeschooling time. Pamela isn't deterred because of carschooling! While some people market games, audio projects, and other mobile products in the name of carschooling, I design car time on busy days with our homeschooling philosophy (Charlotte Mason) in mind. I am not worried about the myth of studying on one place for retention of new information. The reverse is true according to the article Forget What You Know about Good Study Habits,
Instead of sticking to one study location, simply alternating the room where a person studies improves retention . . . In one classic 1978 experiment, psychologists found that college students who studied a list of 40 vocabulary words in two different rooms — one windowless and cluttered, the other modern, with a view on a courtyard — did far better on a test than students who studied the words twice, in the same room. Later studies have confirmed the finding, for a variety of topics.

The brain makes subtle associations between what it is studying and the background sensations it has at the time, the authors say, regardless of whether those perceptions are conscious. It colors the terms of the Versailles Treaty with the wasted fluorescent glow of the dorm study room, say; or the elements of the Marshall Plan with the jade-curtain shade of the willow tree in the backyard. Forcing the brain to make multiple associations with the same material may, in effect, give that information more neural scaffolding.

“What we think is happening here is that, when the outside context is varied, the information is enriched, and this slows down forgetting,” said Dr. Bjork, the senior author of the two-room experiment.

Audio CD
Every week I burn a CD for two reasons: carschooling and laziness. I'll start with the last first. Once Pamela and I are sitting on the couch, going through our books and things, I really don't want to get up and down, up and down to play a song, audio book, or other recording. Even if I burn CDs and wield the remote, someone has to change them. For that specific week, I copy individual songs (Spanish, hymn, folk music, classical compositions), books (Librivox and Spanish stories), and homemade stories (Spanish) onto my weekly playlist on iTunes and then burn, baby, burn. Then, all I need to do is pop it in the CD player and plop on the couch. If we are going somewhere, everything we need is ready to go.

Tote Bag

Before we leave I put together our to-go bag with activities Pamela can do independently in the car or with minimal scaffolding. I grab her copywork, studied dictation (her sentences are short), purple folder (Spanish lessons, sheet music, recitation, etc.), written books to accompany the audio books, easy books, drawing, pencil/marker bag, etc.


Every week, I break up everything we do into five days. While the schedule looks jam-packed, keep in mind that many lessons are only five to ten minutes long. Whenever we complete an item, we highlight the block to help us keep track of what is done and what is left to do. Sometimes, I highlight it and, at other times, Pamela does it. When we carschool, Pamela keeps track of all her work.


I thought you might enjoy what carschooling looks like. Pamela just started learning "The Apostles' Creed" as she prepares for taking communion for the first time.


We are singing two songs: "When the Train Comes Along" for folk music and the modern hymn Open Our Eyes Lord, one of Pamela's favorite Christian songs.


We spend about fifteen minutes a day on Spanish, rotating through a wide variety of activities: songs, audio books (Ricitos de Oro and Blancanieves), homemade stories, and reading a book in English about El Salvador.

Spanish takes quite a bit of prep work, which you will see is worth the results. Keep in mind we completely skip looking at the written word. The songs are simple, a straightforward copy of the audio file with no pictures or visuals. Right now, we are learning "La Araña Pequeñita." The homemade stories are not much of a drag because they last for three or four weeks: it takes time for I write the story in English, record Steve translating it into Spanish, edit the recording, and find pictures for each sentence. The audio books are the toughest because they have a lot of vocabulary. I edit the recording and make a new audio file with vocabulary review, single sentences, and the whole story from the beginning to the current page. Then I scan or find pictures to go with everything and print out those pages too. The page contains pictures for the vocabulary words at the beginning.

The article previously quoted supports the unusual way we are learning Spanish together. "Varying the type of material studied in a single sitting — alternating, for example, among vocabulary, reading and speaking in a new language — seems to leave a deeper impression on the brain than does concentrating on just one skill at a time. "

The video is long, but delightful. Pamela clearly enjoys learning Spanish to the point of borderline stimming. She is not completely zoned out because Pamela is able to multi-task in between giggle fits. At the end, I quizzed her and nearly all the words she knew were words we had never addressed before this school year.

1 comment:

juancarlo@spanish lessons said...

awesome! those tools and techniques you mention really do the trick to learn Spanish in a fun way, learners don't get bored