Mindmeister: Brainstorming Connections to Your Child’s Interests

by ChristinaPilkington on January 21, 2012 · 12 comments

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Have you ever used a mind map to outline a piece of writing? Maybe you’ve even used one to plan a trip or a party?

What about using a mind map to help your children think about topics and subjects related to their current interests?

Well, I’ve found a great free program at Mindmeister.com that made it really easy for me to do that. (I don’t get paid or anything for mentioning this – I thought you might find it helpful, too J)  There’s also premium paid versions of the program, too.

You can get up to three free mind maps when you register for the basic edition (it’s a little tricky to find the basic edition – look at the bottom left hand corner of the page I linked to above).  This program has a great visual layout to it, and if you wanted to, you could e-mail the map to other people and have them work on creating it with you.  (I thought this might be a great way for parents and older kids to work on this together).

I think I should back up for just a minute and explain what a mind map is for those readers who may not have heard of one before. Basically, you take a word or phrase and place it in the middle of a sheet of paper or computer document. Then you think of another word or phrase that relates to the center word, draw a line outwards from the center word, and then write the new word at the end of that line.

So now you have line spokes radiating out from the center word with related words. Then each of the related words can have their own spokes radiating out from them with more phrases and words. You can keep doing for as long as you’re inspired (or until you run out of energyJ)

What’s really great about mind maps is that once you’ve developed a long string of these spokes, you can see how an idea or phrase that might seem totally unrelated to the center word does in fact have a connection to it.

Here’s an example: My son loves Superheroes, especially Spiderman.  I’ve been thinking about how I can introduce other subjects related to Spiderman that might interest him, too.

So after putting Spiderman in the middle, I have these spokes jutting out from my initial center word:  spiders, radioactivity, power and responsibility, Dr. Octopus, Sandman, DNA, criminals, Electro

Then from each of these spokes I can think of other words or phrases that relate to the second tier words.

Spiders – webs, habitats, venom,

Dr. Octopus – octopuses, habitats, what they eat

Sandman – how is sand formed, quicksand, types of sand

DNA-what is it? Who discovered it? How has the discovery helped us?

Power and responsibility- using our talents to help others, how we can help change the world,

Criminals – why laws are created, why might some people become criminals, people who help prevent criminal activity

Electro – electricity, power outages, lightening

I don’t want to turn each of these related topics into some type of lesson so that he’ll eventually stop sharing his interests with me because he knows I’ll turn it into something me must “learn,” but I’ll use this more of a tool for things he might want to discuss or to give me ideas for other books, DVDs, games or trips that we might take that might relate to his interest in Spiderman.  

I also wouldn’t want to go hog wild and start dragging up resources and ideas for every idea on the map either because he’d get a little sick of that, too.

Here are some other ways you might find Mindmeister or another computer mind mapping programs useful:

1) It might be a fun way to work with your child to create a more formal study of a topic.  Older teens might want to create a more structured way of studying a favorite topic. Or if you live in a state that requires you to turn in a “curriculum,” you might use a mind map as a way to brainstorm ideas with your kids that you can use to make up an outline of the plan you need to turn in. (Remember it’s just a plan, and in my opinion, 85% of plans are made to be broken anywayJ)

2) You can use it as a way to review a subject or topic. I’m not a believer in administering tests to kids, but if you’re required to take a state test or if your child has to take a test for any other reason (SAT, drivers, girl/boy scouts, special class) this might be a fun way to review for it.

3) Of course, it’s also a fun way to plan out stories or other types of writing. I think it’s a great way to plot out a story. When I taught public school, I’ve used this to plan out essays, but using it for fiction writing is much more fun….trust me :)

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I just wanted to add that I was pleased to get an e-mail that Interest-Led Learning had been given a top 100 Homeschooling Blog award at this site. http://www.teachercertificationdegrees.com/top-blogs/homeschool/.  I was really surprised because the site is aimed at people who want to get their teaching certificates – something I can’t really endorse anymore. But if you go to the link above, they’ve put together a really great list of some wonderful homeschooling sites/blogs. I was introduced to some great blogs I hadn’t heard of before.

Photo Credit: singing witness

Have you or anyone in your family ever used mind maps? What are your favorite ways to use them?

 

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  • http://twitter.com/Alternicity Stuart Dunstan

    We use mindmaps to map out goals, and subjects. There is a case to be made for using pencil and paper at least for an initial MM, but we’ve used freemind and vym, and even illustrator back in the day.
    You can also use MM software to learn UML which is a diagrammatic way of viewing computer programs. Pretty cool.

    • Anonymous

      You’re much more techno savvy than me! I agree with you about pencil and paper, too. I find I like some mind maps better on paper, like for outlining smaller writing, and computer mind maps for brainstorming bigger things like books and large trips.

  • http://www.kristaenglish.com/the-blog Krista English

    My kids have used mind maps to brainstorm interesting topics to learn about as well. They also use them as graphic organizers for writing. I’ve used them to help students I’ve tutored get over obstacles for writing papers…helping them generate ideas of topics to write about for long papers. I have used them personally to generate ideas when I feel muddled also!

    • Anonymous

      I like using mind maps because my thought about a topic are usually going in a ton of different directions. This lets me get my writing done quickly without having to organize it in the beginning. If I had to do that, I probably would never write!

  • Anonymous

    I am so glad to live in a state with no hassles too. This looks interesting. I can imagine using them for a lot of things. I have a hard time not turning interests into lessons. I am working on it. :)

    • Anonymous

      Me, too! I feel like when I’m interested in something, I have to learn everything I can about it. After I while I might feel like I’m done with it, but I still feel this silly urge to keep going and become and “expert” at it. It’s those perfectionist tendancies that I have to work on.

  • Tbcmc26

    My son is into superheroes and spider man too! I can’t wait to do this with him! Thx Christina!

    • Anonymous

      If you find any interesting or unusual connections, let me know!

  • http://thegettys.blogspot.com Susan

    This is an interesting idea…I’ll be exploring it.
    We do live in a state that requires us to submit paperwork about our “curriculum” (I HATE it!). Maybe this would help.

    • Anonymous

      That really stinks about turing in that paperwork. I’m so happy to be living in Illinois. We don’t have to turn in anything at all or even inform the local school district of our choice. The most we have to do is if we are contacted by the local school and they want to know what we’re doing, we just have to send in a letter stating that we are choosing to have our kids learn from home and they’ll get an education in the same areas as the kids in school – the areas being language arts, math, social studies, science, physical education and fine arts – areas we like to learn about anyways, plus dozens and dozens of areas that would never be “covered” in school at all!

      • http://thegettys.blogspot.com Susan

        Thankfully, our school district is supportive and not intrusive..that makes it easier for us. Your arrangement sounds good!

        • Anonymous

          I’m really glad you don’t get hassled about anything.

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