We may never return to the old normal–now that this spiked ball of fear is infiltrating our lungs, our psyches, our daily intake of news. You may be one of the millions self-isolating at home and now, newly responsible for educating your children. Even if they are receiving online instruction, the following tips will help them store what they are learning for later retrieval.


Have your child–no matter the age–stop after about 15 minutes of acquiring new knowledge. Then, have him make immediate use of it. For example, he could transform it into a visual image. Or, she could write a synopsis. (Review with her to see no major points have been omitted.) Or, he could tell you what he has learned. Ernest Boyer, former United States Commissioner of Education and Chancellor of the State University of New York, once remarked that if your child cannot teach you what he learned today, he didn’t learn it. (Of course, your child can always teach another child.)

Another way to have the student internalize the material is to approach a large piece of paper you have affixed to the wall. The paper should have a simple drawing of a human being, with the words “Heads,” “Heart,” and
“Hands,” and “Feet” clearly written in the appropriate places.

The next time he moves away from the fifteen-minute block of knowledge, have him go to the paper (with or without his notes) and write one sentence in the head section, suggesting this factoid is something he wants to research further or think more about. In the heart section, she will write a sentence about something from the preceding lesson that she really liked. When it comes to hands, she should write a sentence related to something she might make or create to represent some new knowledge. And, with the feet, she should explain how she intends to get going with the information she has just learned.


After the 15-minute ingestion of information from a book or an online instructor, have your child take a mental break, preparing him to concentrate even better on the next segment of information he will encounter.

There are numerous ways to take a mental break. Of course, there are physical alternatives: Go outside and take three gulps of air, play with the dog for two minutes, run around the house, get a drink of water, wash your face. But here are some brain-challenging exercises to help your child focus better.

Depending on her age, explain that the word “dog” is pretty easy to recognize, even when it has a bracket in front of each letter: [d [o [g.

The same is true if the brackets are on the other side: c] a] t]. When the two words are combined, however, recognition becomes much more difficult. The words would look like this: [d c] [o a] [g t].

Make a number of these and use them before your son or daughter turns to the next segment of information. For older children, use challenges like this one:

1.         [c a]     [a  s]      [r  s]      [p  u]     [e  r]    [t  e] 

2.         [r  p]     [e  e]     [c  n]      [o  c]     [r  i]     [d  l]

3.         [d  h]     [a  o]     [n  u]     [c  s]     [e  e]    [r  s]     

4.         [a  f]      [n  i]      [k  n]      [l  g]     [e  e]   [s  r]  

Another way to pause and let the knowledge sink in is to have your child make lists of body parts that are spelled with only three letters: arm, leg, toe, et cetera. Next, body parts spelled with four letters: face, hand, palm. Note: she cannot simply put an “s” at the end of a three-letter word. The exercise can go on, depending on the age of the child, all the way up to seven-letter words: stomach, eyeball, bladder.


Your child no doubt has an action hero, a singer, a movie star, a famous athlete, even a fictional character or animal or inanimate object that she enjoys or relates to. When she “breaks away” from a fifteen-minute exposure to instruction, have her put a synopsis of what was learned in the mouth of that favorite person or character, using words the person would use or singing the synopsis in the style of the famous person, or using props an action figure would use to combat evil characters such as “forgetfulness” or “boredom.”


Alfred Mercier asserted that “what we learn with pleasure, we never forget.” If you want your child to have better retention skills, help him by bringing pleasure to the learning process. Your days of quarantine will be lighter and brighter for both of you.