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Priming the Learning Environment

© Beverley Paine

The following is an exerpt from Getting Started with Homeschooling Practical Considerations for Parents of School Age Children

Maximizing learning potential involves a lot more than providing access to resources in a child centered way. There are several factors which can result in a 'switch-off' to learning and many of these relate to the physical environment and others to how the learning is physically feeling. It is easy to work out what factors affect us and our children adversely, and many come as no surprise. Late nights, too much television, video or computer game playing, over stimulation or over socialization, illness, pain, fatigue, exhaustion, shock or trauma are easy to pick and understand. But many people are also affected by loud or fast music or other noise, exaggerated geometric patterns on furniture or wallpaper, bright colours and flashing or flickering lights, especially some fluorescent lighting. These are harder to detect.

Other factors are becoming more accepted as 'switching off' a person's learning ability. Allergic or intolerant reactions to food or airborne particles can precipitate drowsiness, behavioural changes, confusion, and slowness in responses or learning ability. Hunger can have a similar effect, as can dehydration. To operate properly the brain needs an adequate intake of water in to the body. All people learn much better when offered easy and continuous access to unpolluted water. Strong smells such as perfumes and deodorants, stuffy rooms, cigarette smoke, stimulants such as coffee or chocolate and food additives all have a negative affect on learning ability.

Other 'switch offs' include lack of exercise needed to balance periods of physical in activity, lack of fresh air and adequate exposure to sunlight. Children's lives have changed enormously in the last few decades and where as once there things would have been taken for granted they now need to be scheduled in for many children.

Children can suffer from stress related 'switch offs' as well. Tension and emotional stress are a leading cause of diminished learning ability. Although these are easily recognized few people acknowledge the far-reaching affect they have. Problems within the family, or with friends, can seriously disrupt the flow of learning, making coping with new knowledge and skills difficult. Children may appear to be coping when in fact they simply switching off, preferring passive activity or solitude as a way of protecting themselves.

There are many ways the above 'switch offs' can be reduced or eliminated, making immediate gains in learning performance. Some of the more obvious include a healthy and nutritious and balanced diet, easy access to filtered or clean water, adequate physical exercise in a variety of inside and outside settings, balanced with adequate rest periods and regular sleep. Natural lighting can be used to replace incandescent or fluorescent lighting wherever possible, soft pleasing colours can tone down the physical environment, as can bringing plants and aquariums inside. Good ventilation is essential, and if necessary the use of an air filter to improve air quality will help considerably.

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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