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    Home Education

    Drill Time by Design (A Planning Post)

    July 13, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    In my Average Day Chart for this coming year, I still have half the morning blank. I decided to turn my attention (when it wasn’t focused on my grand office overhaul) to planning our drill time. Drill is the Charlotte Mason lingo for physical education, if you feel a little out of the loop on this one. This is because Charlotte Mason used mostly Swedish drill (along with a bit of folk dancing) for her physical education curriculum.

    Planning our physical education time for our Charlotte Mason education with a focus on physical therapy for learning issues.

    Last year, I actually downloaded The Swedish Drill Teacher to my Kindle (and now there is a 50+ page PDF available), and used it as our guide for the year. How did it go? I’m glad you asked. 😉 I would say it went fine. I would also say that I had some issues with consistency. The reason for this, besides plain old lack of will power, ahem, is that I had a lack of routine, and I really do work best with routine. For me lack of routine equates to a need to make decisions and decisions quickly pile up into Decision Fatigue.

    When push came to shove, I was willing to count other physical activities as drill credit, rather than try to muster the energy that more consistency at actual drill required.

    By lack of routine, I don’t mean routine in the sense of doing it three times a week as I planned. What I mean was that each time, I open the Kindle and we did some old things and then learned something new. There was never a complete routine that we learned — there was always something new. Now, that isn’t a bad thing, except that I would have to decide what the new thing was and how to teach it and so while Term 1 went swimmingly, as it usually does, in Term 2 when it was cold outside and I came down with a bug, I didn’t have the energy for that.

    So. This year, we’re going to do it differently.

    A Little Background

    When Kathy told me once that she was struck by the similarities between Swedish drill and Brain Gym, and then she later sent me a copy of the Brain Gym teacher’s guide, I became intrigued. I didn’t make time to sit down and figure it out, but my mind kept chewing on it throughout the year. A couple times we even learned some of the Brain Gym exercises on a drill day.

    At the same time, I was constantly researching for things to help my less academic child. While she reads quite well, she has some other difficulties that I think would be helped by therapy, and I’ve been on the lookout for therapy programs that we could do at home.

    Somehow, I stumbled upon Intelligence Integration. The author is not a Christian, so I’ve had to be careful with the book (some of it is a little New Agey or something — can’t quite put my finger on the exact right term for it), but when I did the screening test with my children, two of them had extreme difficulties (one of them being said less academic child), which gave me hope that the therapy program suggested in the book could be helpful for both of them — and wouldn’t hurt the rest of us.

    While not cheap, Intelligence Integration is way cheaper than therapy, so I considered it worth a shot. I was a little intimidated when it arrived, so thick and heavy, and was delightfully surprised that it was not full of big words in professional therapy dialect, but rather written as a manual for parents. It was designed for someone like me, who wants to do what professionals trained in this method would do, at home on my own.

    The Plan

    Okay, so I can’t exactly share my actual plan, because all of the exercises I’m going to use are the intellectual property of the authors of the two books I mentioned above. But I can explain how I plan to plan (ha!) and how I envision it all working out.

    My first step has been figuring out exactly which Intelligence Integration exercises each of my children need — only one of them completely passed the screening test. After that, I’m going to go through and note which Brain Gym exercises I think would be of most benefit for our situation and particular weaknesses. On top of that, I’m also going to add in a bit of running, something my father mentioned to me as a big benefit from he was in school because it builds leg strength.

    I have set aside 25 minutes, three days per week, for our drill time. I envision it this way:

    1. I’ll send the two older children out to run around the block.
    2. While they are gone, I’ll do a pre-designed therapy routine with the younger two.
    3. When the older two return, I’ll send the younger two out to run. They won’t be running around the block, but just up and down the street and back.
    4. While the younger two are gone, I will do a therapy routine with the older two.
    5. End with one or two Brain Gym exercises all together. I’ll probably have a loop schedule of these so that they aren’t the same ones all the time, but I still won’t have to make any decisions.

    My goal is that they all have their routines memorized and perfected by the end of Term 1. This means that when Term 2 starts, and I have my inevitable sick week, they will be able to manage themselves. I have noticed that if I can keep us from falling off the horse at the beginning of Term 2, we do much better for the rest of the entire year.

    A Few Parting Thoughts

    Obviously, I could have just built a Swedish drill routine. That would have been fine, and also free since the resources are easy to download and use online. But considering my specific concerns about some of my children — one in particular — I think this will be more useful for us. Swedish drill, for example, does not have eye tracking exercises, while Intelligence Integration does. Make sense?

    Honestly, if we didn’t have any issues at all, I’d be tempted to just find some sort of exercise video that wasn’t too girly (because boys, you know), and just memorize it. Or even two videos to alternate. I think Pilates, for example, has a lot of therapy-type benefits.

    Early on, I didn’t really believe that planning a physical education time was very important, but over the years I very much changed my mind. Intelligence Integration and Brain Gym in particular have convinced me that some if not many of the problems we see with learning are directly related to a lack of control of muscles systems, and that targeted exercises can make a real difference. Plus, hyperactive little boys will have a chance to blow off some steam, and that smooths the school day, too.

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  • Reply delightfullyfeasting September 8, 2017 at 10:29 pm

    Wow…this inspires me. Sweedish Drill is my “dark lands” (you know, in the Lion King…what is that over there. We don’t go over there.) of CM. I avoid training on it, I avoid studying it, I avoid reading about it…except for sometimes when I DO read about it, and then get totally overwhelmed and then stop. It is my one thing that I just haven’t implemented in any way. My dyslexic, dysgraphic, ADD is in karate, and I believe it does amazing things for his brain. But, at home, during our school days…. I am ashamed to say that all the “drill” that is happening is a bit of yoga (we love yoga, but I am not consistent enough with them) and ABC exercise cards that they mostly use to “randomly” pick J-Jump Over Pillows….and spend 20 minutes jumping over pillows. Sigh…. CM Mom of the Year over here…
    THIS…however, inspires me. A planning post, of all things…speaks to my type A soul. If I can have fun planning drill sessions….I might actually implement them. Adding to my list of things to geek out over…

  • Reply Christa September 19, 2015 at 12:46 am

    Oh my goodness Brandy, I just read the first pamphlet of Intelligence Integration for free on my Kindle. This book is amazing! I’ve been reading The Highly Sensitive Child and have been focusing a lot on high sensitivity, so the first pamphlet was the perfect hook. It is definitely worth spending so much money on. Have you been doing the exercises with the kids? If so, have you noticed any differences? Also, it is hard to tell from just the pamphlet, but is there an actual test you can give to each child to determine where the problem areas are? And while I am at it, how are the Brain Gym exercises working out?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 21, 2015 at 12:34 pm

      I planned about 20 minutes per day, and unfortunately that means I can’t fit in all the exercises I wanted to — at least not if I’m also asking them to do a bit of running. So, for now, I’m only doing parts of it. That means that over all I can’t say whether it is working or not. I will say that I see definitely coordination improvement over all, so I have high hopes for when I start the exercises that should specifically help with writing. Two of my children need writing muscle help.

      I was able to work out a test by just having my children try the exercises and seeing how they did. In the end, I decided to start with the intro basic strength training with my two littler ones, and that is working really well.

      Brain Gym is great, but I feel like it has to be done every day to help — I feel like Intelligence Integration is more of a long-term fix, while BG offers us shorter term help. Not sure that is actually true, but it is how I’m experiencing it…

  • Reply Laurie Hawley July 14, 2015 at 9:00 am

    The charter school my boys go to has a time each morning where they do Brain Gym….one of the things that drew me to the school because I have heard other therapists recommend it for children with Down syndrome, like my son.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 14, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      Laurie! That is so awesome! I could tell by the Brain Gym teacher’s guide I have that it was being used in schools, but I haven’t ever known any school where it was actually happening. I love that! ♥

      • Reply Dawn July 14, 2015 at 4:10 pm

        I, too, was intrigued by Kathy’s comments on Brain Gym. I found several youtube videos to try to learn some of the activities and believe the principles behind them to be magnificent. I would love to learn more about them, actually, but haven’t invested in the Teacher’s Edition yet. I wonder if I can get it from my library?? Hmmmm….off to search now.

        • Reply Brandy Vencel July 14, 2015 at 4:16 pm

          You will have to let me know what you think, Dawn. I’d be curious to hear.

          I see many similarities between Brain Gym and Intelligence Integration, but I think Intelligence Integration is more comprehensive — for example, the eye exercises I mentioned.

        • Reply Kathy July 17, 2015 at 8:57 am

          I’m so glad that Brain Gym book was helpful to you! Probably we should have stuck with it longer, but we took up tae kwon do instead. 🙂 I may need to look at that Intelligence Integration book.

          • Brandy Vencel July 17, 2015 at 9:09 am

            Well, I don’t know how similar tae kwon do is to karate, but the author of Intelligence Integration got started because he was a troubled youth who couldn’t read a book until after he received karate training in his 20s! He is a big fan of what martial arts can do for the brain, if I’m understanding him correctly. 🙂

            With that said, I’ve been working with my littlest guy, who is probably my most athletic child, and it’s been very eye opening. He has a number of issues that I think were covered up by his natural abilities and I’m so glad that I’m getting a chance to work with him over the summer before starting Year One! Thank you again for sharing your book with me, Kathy. ♥

  • Reply Jennifer July 13, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Just thought I’d mention that the Intelligence Integration Kindle book is free for Kindle Unlimited members. For those who are interested, the Kindle option might be a good way to sample the book before investing in a physical copy.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 13, 2015 at 1:38 pm

      Jennifer, can you explain to me how Kindle Unlimited works? I keep putting off checking into it and so I’d love for someone to just tell me. 🙂

      • Reply Jennifer July 13, 2015 at 2:59 pm

        For $9.99 a month, you get access to additional Kindle titles that you can read for free. Sort of like the Kindle Lending Library, but with Kindle Unlimited you can have as many as 10 (I think) books out at a time (and there is a larger variety than what is available through their Lending Library). I think there are audio books, too, but I haven’t used that part of it. I go back-and-forth about the value but every time I decide I’m going to cancel my membership to Kindle Unlimited, I stumble across a book that I want to read but our library doesn’t have and it’s available with Kindle Unlimited. They get me every time 🙂

        And I have to correct myself, it doesn’t look like the entire book, Intelligence Integrated is available. After I downloaded it to my Kindle, it seems to be just a portion of the book. They refer to it as a pamphlet. Maybe it would still be useful to someone, though.

        • Reply Brandy Vencel July 13, 2015 at 3:18 pm

          I considered buying the Kindle version until I realized they had sliced it up into those booklets! It added up so much that the book wasn’t as much more as I’d originally assumed. So are ALL the booklets on Kindle Unlimited? Because, if so, that is probably still a good deal…

          I don’t think I use my Kindle enough to make Unlimited worth it for me at this point, but I’m sure that could change!

          • Jennifer July 13, 2015 at 6:19 pm

            It does look like all 17 volumes are available through Kindle Unlimited! At least for the moment…what is available one day is not always available another.

          • Brandy Vencel July 13, 2015 at 8:19 pm

            That is way cheaper than buying the Kindle books, then!

        • Reply Jennifer July 14, 2015 at 6:07 pm

          After reading the entire Vol 1 pamphlet, I’m thinking the pamphlets available through Kindle Unlimited are not complete. There are several times where it says something along the lines of “refer to main book for specifics”. It makes it difficult to get a feel for the book.

          • Brandy Vencel July 15, 2015 at 3:11 pm

            Bummer! I was hoping that it at least was the complete book, just chopped up into pamphlets. That is really disappointing. 🙁

    • Reply Christy July 13, 2015 at 1:59 pm

      I also saw that it’s free to borrow on Kindle for Prime Members – or buy for $2.99 on Kindle.

      • Reply Brandy Vencel July 13, 2015 at 3:19 pm

        Christy, I didn’t add up all the Kindle booklets, but each chapter/section is $2.99 — I’m just warning you because I don’t want you to think that you are buying it all if you go that route! 🙁

        • Reply Cecilia July 18, 2015 at 8:27 am

          Note though that since borrowing parts of the book for Kindle is free it is definitely worth it for someone who just wants to get a feel for the book before buying it for fifty dollars (a lot of money for a book around here!)

          • Brandy Vencel July 18, 2015 at 9:07 am


          • Brandy Vencel July 18, 2015 at 9:10 am

            And I totally agree it is a lot of money for a book. I didn’t mention this in my post, but I went through my office and listed a bunch of stuff for sale. My goal was to earn enough money to pay for the book by the time the book arrived. I had a bunch of old review curriculum Timberdoodle had sent me that had value on Amazon, so I listed all of it there. Anyhow, I barely made it — the final sale that put me over my goal happened two hours before it showed up in the mail. 🙂

  • Reply Tanya Stone July 13, 2015 at 8:32 am

    P.E. has fallen by the wayside for me too. 🙁 I’ve now blocked out one day a week this next term, and we’re going to work on things like jump roping–that’s right, none of my kids can jump rope yet. Even my daughter barely has it figured out. I plan to keep them all in swim lessons on the weekend during the year, so in my mind that counts as another day of P.E. I like the idea of the older kids running together though. Maybe a morning family walk while I send them to run ahead. In our neighborhood we are on the end of three different cul de sacs, so that could work. But I get concerned about driveways–none of my kids are really good at spatial awareness, something we need to work on. Still, this is inspiring. I look forward to more of your planning posts. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 13, 2015 at 8:55 am

      Do kids still jump rope? My mom recently bought some because we realized my kids had never been around a jump rope. When I was a child, we regularly jumped rope — especially double dutch — right out in the front yard, I didn’t realize until right now that I have never seen a child in my neighborhood doing that. I’ve seen riding of bikes and skateboards, but that is about it.

      Anyhow, good for you!

      And about driveways: We used to have a rule with our tiny ones that they had to stop at a driveway and cross with us. It worked well. I like to go outside the neighborhood where there are long stretches to walk without interruption because I personally don’t like driveways. 🙂

  • Reply Nelleke from P.E.I. July 13, 2015 at 7:45 am

    This is very interesting! I have been considering adapting some Pilates for my children, as it seems to have some similar goals to CM’s drill (visualization and control). I will have to look into this more.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 13, 2015 at 8:52 am

      You know, Nelleke, I feel like I once saw a video or series of videos that were basically Pilates for children. You might want to google around and see what you can find. Well, unless it is easy for you to do the adaptation. I need all the help I can get on these things. 🙂

    • Reply Dawn July 13, 2015 at 10:34 am

      Pilates – when properly done (ie not just via video without proper instruction in the foundational principles) – is amazing and would be a wonderful thing to implement with children. When I first underwent my training to become a Stott Pilates Rehabilitative Instructor I was blown away with every new thing I learned because to me it was physical therapy ideally implemented in a preventive manner. As I prepare my talk on Swedish Drill for the upcoming At Home conference I keep wanting to throw in bits of my pilates instruction to make it something new, actually. I think the combination of attention and perfect execution with exercises to negate the negative impact of a seated environment found in Drill and the stabilization and muscle activation principles of pilates would be an ideal combination.

      • Reply Brandy Vencel July 13, 2015 at 12:41 pm

        So how would someone go about learning all these basics about Pilates? Is there a book or instructional video that you would suggest?

        • Reply Dawn July 14, 2015 at 4:07 pm

          Sorry, Brandy, I missed this comment before now. Honestly the best way to learn them is to have one on one time with a skilled instructor. This is expensive, of course, but only necessary for learning the basics. It is a wonderful investment in what could become a lifelong commitment to optimal health and body alignment.

          However, I do know this is not feasible for everyone. If you must do it as a “video or nothing” then I suggest videos produced by Stott Pilates. The owner (Maria Stott-Merrithew) was a ballerina who developed chronic musculoskeletal injuries to the point of requiring surgery. She adapted Joseph Pilates exercises to fit with a rehab model so that they were all performed in light of current knowledge of optimal body alignment and stabilization. I could not recommend Stott Pilates highly enough. It is hands down the safest and most effective commercial pilates product in the business.

          • Brandy Vencel July 14, 2015 at 4:13 pm

            Wow! I’m glad I asked! Thank you, Dawn. 🙂

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