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Miss Mason + the Neurodivergent Child Workshop Notes

Thank you for joining me on the journey of educating our Neurodivergent learners!

Below are the notes + reproduces from the workshop

Who are our neuro-divergent/atypical learners?

“Greatness and littleness belong to character, and life would be dull were we all cast in one mould…” (Vol. 2, pg. 71)

“We have now started on the noblest work that can engage the mind of man, the guiding of the growth of our own child. Notice I say, the guiding of the growth, not the systematic training of a child in the ways that were good enough for his father and ought to be good enough for him.” (Roscoe, The PNEU in the Home, p. 2)



 

Neurodivergent: differing in mental or neurological function from what is considered typical or normal (frequently used with reference to autistic spectrum disorders); not neurotypical.

 

Signs that your child is an atypical learner:

 

  • Delayed speech development

  • Clumsiness

  • Difficulty interacting with peers

  • Short attention span

  • Impulsivity

  • Trouble with reading, writing and/or math

  • Behaviorial problems

  • Disorganization

  • Seems to be "just a step behind" his or her peers

(source: https://ndcforchildren.com/learning-differences/)

 

“People are too apt to use children as counters in a game, to be moved hither and thither according to the whim of the moment. Our crying need to-day is less for a better method of education than for an adequate conception of children,––children, merely as human beings, whether brilliant or dull, precocious or backward. Exceptional qualities take care of themselves and so does the ‘wanting’ intelligence, and both of these share with the rest in all that is claimed for them in the previous chapters. Our business is to find out how great a mystery a person is qua person.(meaning at their natural capacity)  All action comes out of the ideas we hold and if we ponder duly upon personality we shall come to perceive that we cannot commit a greater offence than to maim or crush, or subvert any part of a person.” (Vol. 6, p. 80)

 



 

Charlotte Mason works because it’s a method, not a system 

“In the first place, we have no system of education. We hold that great things, such as nature, life, education, are ‘cabined, cribbed, confined,’ in proportion as they are systematised. We have a method of education, it is true, but method is no more than a way to an end, and is free, yielding, adaptive as Nature herself. Method has a few comprehensive laws according to which details shape themselves, as one naturally shapes one’s behaviour to the acknowledged law that fire burns. System, on the contrary, has an infinity of rules and instructions as to what you are to do and how you are to do it. Method in education follows Nature humbly; stands aside and gives her fair play.” (vol 2/168)

 

“It is only as we recognise our limitations that our work becomes effective: when we see definitely what we are to do, what we can do, and what we cannot do, we set to work with confidence and courage; we have an end in view, and we make our way intelligently towards that end, and a way to an end is method. It rests with parents not only to give their children birth into the life of intelligence and moral power, but to sustain the higher life which they have borne.” (2/33)

 

HOW DOES MEMORY WORK

Memory is Dual process

System 1 is associated with memorization and recall of information

System 2 describes more analytical or critical thinking. 

  1. Encoding. Encoding refers to the process through which information is learned. That is, how information is taken in, understood, and altered to better support storage Information is usually encoded through one (or more) of four methods: 

    1. Visual encoding (how something looks); 

    2. acoustic encoding (how something sounds); 

    3. semantic encoding (what something means); and 

    4. tactile encoding (how something feels). 

  2. Storage. Storage refers to how, where, how much, and how long encoded information is retained within the memory system. 

  3. Retrieval. As indicated above, retrieval is the process through which individuals access stored information. 

  4. The testing effect. In most traditional educational settings, tests are normally considered to be a method of periodic but infrequent assessment that can help a teacher understand how well their students have learned the material at hand. 

  5. Spacing. According to the spacing effect, when a student repeatedly learns and recalls information over a prolonged time span, they are more likely to retain that information. 

  6. Interleaving. The interleaving technique is another teaching and learning approach that was introduced as an alternative to a technique known as “blocking”. Blocking refers to when a student practices one skill or one topic at a time. Interleaving, on the other hand, is when students practice multiple related skills in the same session. This technique has proven to be more successful than the traditional blocking technique in various fields (Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel, 2014).

 

HOW TO IMPROVE RECALL

  1. State-dependent memory. State-dependent memory refers to the idea that being in the same state in which you first learned information enables you to better remember said information. 

  2. Schemas. Schemas refer to the mental frameworks an individual creates to help them understand and organize new information. 

  3. Chunking. Chunking is the process of grouping pieces of information together to better facilitate retention.

  4. Deliberate practice. The final technique that students can use to improve recall is deliberate practice. Simply put, deliberate practice refers to the act of deliberately and actively practicing a skill with the intention of improving understanding of and performance in said skill.

source - https://bokcenter.harvard.edu/how-memory-works

Memory

  1. Short Term

  2. Long Term Memory

    1. Declarative Memory System

      1. Facts

      2. World knowledge

      3. Autobiography 

    2. NonDeclarative Memory System (where you find emotional responses)

      1. Procedural memory (skills and habits)

      2. physical/muscle memory




We have 3 tools at our Disposal

 - Atmosphere, Discipline, Life​ - these tools may take longer, more polishing than a typical learner, but that’s ok.

 

Atmosphere How are we cultivating an atmosphere conducive to learning for our neuro child? Timed lessons, soothing atmosphere, brain breaks based on activity, 

Additionally, what kind of emotional/physical atmosphere are they surrounded by?

 

What areas of Discipline can we slowly work on to build good habits, to lay a foundation for learning? Life skills, study habits, etc.

 

Life - what living materials are we offering our neurodivergent child that will spark a love of learning? (living books, stories, outside time) “The best public schoolboy is a fine product; and perhaps the worst has had his imagination touched by ideas; yet most of us recognise that the public school often fails, in that it launches the average and dull boy ignorant upon the world because the curriculum has been too narrow to make any appeal to him.” (Vol. 3, p. 24

STUDENT RESPONSIBILITY

- Therefore, children should be taught, as they become mature enough to understand such teaching, that the chief responsibility which rests on them as persons is the acceptance or rejection of ideas. To help them in this choice we give them principles of conduct, and a wide range of the knowledge fitted to them. These principles should save children from some of the loose thinking and heedless action which cause most of us to live at a lower level than we need. (CM, principle 19)

-Their chief responsibility is the acceptance or rejection of ideas.

To help them in this choice we give them:

  1.  principles of conduct, and 

  2. a wide range of the knowledge fitted to them.

 

“Let me add that the appeal of these principles and this method is not to the clever child only but to the average and even to the ‘backward’ child; indeed we have had several marked successes with backward children. Just as we all partake of that banquet which is ‘Shakespeare’ according to our needs and desires, so do the children behave at the ample board set before them; there is enough to satisfy the keenest intelligence while the dullest child is sustained through his own willing effort.” (Vol. 6, p. 245)

-Sometimes the material will sustain, but sometimes it’s only through WILLING EFFORT

 

TEACHER RESPONSIBILITY

“But the educator has to deal with a self-acting, self-developing being, and his business is to guide, and assist in, the production of the latent good in that being, the dissipation of the latent evil, the preparation of the child to take his place in the world at his best, with every capacity for good that is in him developed into a power.’ (1/9)


 

LESSON/CURRICULUM RESPONSIBILITY

“Four Tests which should be applied to Children’s Lessons.––We see, then, that the children’s lessons should provide material for their mental growth, should exercise the several powers of their minds, should furnish them with fruitful ideas, and should afford them knowledge, really valuable for its own sake, accurate, and interesting, of the kind that the child may recall as a man with profit and pleasure.” (1/177)

  1. Material for Mental growth

  2. Exercise several powers of their minds

  3. Should furnish them with fruitful ideas (not thoughts, but ideas)

  4. Afford them knowledge (accurate and interesting that settles in their long term memory)

 

“It is worth while to point out the differing characters of a system and a method, because parents let themselves be run away with often enough by some plausible ‘system,’ the object of which is to produce development in one direction…” (1/10)

 

What CM adaptations can we offer?

-audio books

-Timed lessons

-CM was not a fan of a reward system, but consider a GOAL based system that focuses on natural rewards.

-oral narrations/optional narration ideas (legos, drawing, have them narrate to you and you can transcribe)

-Outdoor time - adapting for sensory kids.

-Tutors



 

Is it an issue of Hill, Skill or Will?

Give the student a chance to surprise you and succeed.  We never want to see them fail, so we feel an obligation to present things that will make them successful.  Challenge them.

 

“A parent may be willing to undergo any definite labours for his child’s sake; but to be always catering for his behoof, always contriving that circumstances shall play upon him for his good, is the part of a god and not of a man!” (1/10)

We cannot always “fix” their situation, and if we could, we would be God, not men.

We allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and 'spiritual' life of children, but teach them that the Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their Continual Helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life. - CM’s 20th principle

Miss Mason's own words

“Take heed that ye OFFEND not – DESPISE not – HINDER not – one of these little ones.”  (Vol 1, p.12)

“Let me add that the appeal of these principles and this method is not to the clever child only but to the average and even to the ‘backward’ child; indeed we have had several marked successes with backward children. Just as we all partake of that banquet which is ‘Shakespeare’ according to our needs and desires, so do the children behave at the ample board set before them; there is enough to satisfy the keenest intelligence while the dullest child is sustained through his own willing effort.” (Vol. 6, p. 245)​

People are too apt to use children as counters in a game, to be moved hither and thither according to the whim of the moment. Our crying need to-day is less for a better method of education than for an adequate conception of children,––children, merely as human beings, whether brilliant or dull, precocious or backward. Exceptional qualities take care of themselves and so does the ‘wanting’ intelligence, and both of these share with the rest in all that is claimed for them in the previous chapters. Our business is to find out how great a mystery a person is qua person. All action comes out of the ideas we hold and if we ponder duly upon personality we shall come to perceive that we cannot commit a greater offence than to maim or crush, or subvert any part of a person.” (Vol. 6, p. 80)

“This is what we have established in many thousands of cases, even in those of dull and backward children, that any person can understand any book of the right calibre (a question to be determined mainly by the age of the young reader); that the book must be in literary form; that children and young persons require no elucidation of what they read; that their attention does not flag while so engaged; that they master a few pages at a single reading so thoroughly that they can ‘tell it back’ at the time or months later whether it be the Pilgrim’s Progress or one of Bacon’s Essays or Shakespeare’s plays; that they throw individuality into this telling back so that no two tell quite the same tale; that they learn incidentally to write and speak with vigour and style and usually to spell well. Now this art of telling back is Education and is very enriching.” (Vol. 6, pp. 291-92)

“The teachers underrate the tastes and abilities of their pupils. In things intellectual, children, even backward children, have extraordinary ‘possibilities for good’–possibilities so great that if we had the wit to give them their heard they would carry us alog like a stream in spate.” (Vol. 6, p. 52)

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