“Watching a child makes it obvious that the development of his mind comes through his movements.” -Maria Montessori
In my early years of teaching Sunday School and other ministry classes, there would often erupt from my mouth a very common phrase, “Please sit down and be quiet.” If I had a dollar for every time I have said or heard someone say that phrase. . .
When I began to homeschool our oldest daughter the same issue would arise. I was constantly having to ask her to quit fidgeting, stop singing, pay attention and not doodle, etc. Rather than seeing this as a problem that needed to be fixed, I started to see her need for movement and action. I thought back to when I was in school and remembered all the times I just wanted to get up and do something, anything else. I remembered all the kids that constantly got in trouble for fidgeting or not paying attention.
It seems that modern education is designed to inoculate the brain with pure information. There is little, if any, whole body involvement, and when it is present it's usually segregated from actual instruction time.
Learning involves the body and the mind.
Observing my children over the years, I have come to understand just how important the entire body is to learning. Probably no learning happens without three things occurring – thinking, feeling, and doing.
They use their body in far more ways than we realize. When one of my girls is intent on a task, they often use rhythmic movements to keep themselves focused. If they need to clear their mind or reflect on something, they use exercise or imaginative play to sort out information.
Studies have shown that there is a link between physical activity and academic performance. Before we simply add exercise in between studies, however, I think we can take a step back and find a more natural approach.
I don't think it is really necessary to separate thinking from movement as far as learning goes. Kids like to move while they are learning. Sitting quiet in a classroom is more for the benefit of the teacher than it is for the students.
We need to put movement back into learning. After 1st or 2nd grade, it seems teachers and even homeschoolers focus less and less on the whole body during instruction time, and instead teach the mind and mind alone. Children as well as adults need the freedom to learn through play, games, song, dance, and working with their hands.
Check out the 10 ways my kids learn through movement.
Now when I teach Sunday School and I see fidgeting, I give the kids some playdough to manipulate. We go outside and play games, or we act out the stories. There are far less distractions and complaints when class involves their entire bodies.