One of the greatest things about homeschooling is that you get to teach your kids according to their personal needs, styles, gifts, and interests. Your kids are free to develop in their own time, rather than forced by predetermined schedules to learn and be tested on things they are not ready to do and thus feel shame or learn to hate something they might have come to love. You are free to create learning environments that are tailored to the needs of your own children and experiment with a variety of methods to see which one your child responds to the best. If you plan and prepare and teach to your child’s needs and interests, you will find them happier, more motivated, and more interested and excited to learn.
It is also extremely important that your kids know how it is that they learn best. For if they learn how they learn, if they are free to develop their own interests and talents, and they experience the confidence that comes with having their own learning styles and personalities respected, they will be prepared for a life that is filled with learning and purpose.
So what do you do? Here are a few things I’ve done (or plan to do):
1. Educate yourself about the various learning styles.
I really like The Learning Success Institute’s system for profiling learning styles. They describe 5 aspects that make up each person’s individual learning style: Disposition, Modalities, Interests, Talents, and Environment. The learning disposition, or personality, forms the foundation for your learning style. It describes how the world views you as a learner. The modalities are the various ways we take in, process, understand, and remember information. Interests and talents will guide individuals in their focus and the environment where one learns best can provide the setting for success.
I recommend listening to the podcast Learning Styles: The Key to Confidence & Success or reading the book, Discover Your Child’s Learning Style. Then go through the process to discover your own learning style so you can see how you are similar and different than your children and your husband and therefore help you to respect and value the differences you find. It can also give you tips and techniques for getting more out of sermons or seminars, conventions or workshops, and so that you can learn better what it is you then need to teach your children.
2. Observe Your Child(ren)
After you have educated yourself about the various learning styles and therefore understand what to look for, watch your children as they learn, play, interact, and relax. Ask them questions about their interests, what they want to do with their free time or their future, and about how they like to learn. Watch to see what motivates them and what deflates them. Observe how they learn in different subjects, as a person’s preferred modality may differ from subject to subject.
If they are old enough to take an assessment, you may consider having them go through the learning style assessment at the back of the Discover Your Child’s Learning Style or on the Learning Success Institute’s website.
3. Use a Variety of Methods in the Various Modalities in your Daily Lessons
Regardless of anyone’s individual learning style, the more ways you present the information to your students, the more connections are made in their brain and the better they will know and understand the material. Then in using the various methods, you have more opportunities to observe your children to see the dispositions they possess and the modalities they prefer. Incorporating the students’ interests in the curriculum or lessons can increase their motivation and delight in their studies which increases retention and understanding.
The modalities include visual print and visual picture, auditory listening and auditory verbal, kinesthetic-tactile sketching, kinesthetic-tactile writing, kinesthetic-tactile hands on, and kinesthetic-tactile whole body.
Here’s what this looks like in our homeschool:
Bible: We sing a hymn (auditory listening and verbal). I read the story (auditory listening) while illustrating it with flannelgraph or occasionally a painting or illustration from a children’s Bible (visual picture). I allow questions at natural breaks in the reading (for those learning dispositions- such as the Thinker-Creator- who ask questions based on their seemingly randomly connected thoughts) and because I allow this, we will often discuss important theological or moral concepts which is perhaps the most meaningful and significant learning that we do in our homeschool as a whole. After the reading, I ask the kids to tell me back what happened (auditory verbal) and then I will occasionally have them draw a picture of what we just learned (kinesthetic-tactile sketching) or act out the story (kinesthetic-tactile whole body).
Language Arts: We review phonograms and their sounds (visual print, auditory hearing, auditory verbal). We play games to learn and review phonograms (kinesthetic-tactile whole body) and we do worksheets (kinesthetic-tactile writing). It is incredibly motivating to my Performer (disposition) son to compete but it is vital to my Relator (disposition) daughter that we do not. So I compete with my son- often humorously, which also motivates him, and my daughter and I cooperate together in her version of the game. Then they both learn!
Today we played a game where I put the phonograms and blends I wanted to practice on cards on the ground and gave instructions, such as, “Skate to the beginning blend in skate,” and “Hop to the middle sound in hop.” My son and I competed (and kept score), my daughter just joyfully followed the instructions. This game used the kinesthetic-tactile whole body and the visual print and the auditory listening modalities. After the game was over, they told me, “Can we do that again? That was fun!”
We do not yet do grammar, as they are both too young for that, but you could use the same ideas: obviously worksheets, interactive activities, conversations or games that use listening, speaking, pictures, print, writing or their whole bodies.
For handwriting, we are learning cursive and I show them the letter and how to form it while explaining verbally how it is formed (visual picture/print and auditory listening), then we form the letter in the air with big arm movements (kinesthetic-tactile whole body), they may trace it with their finger or in sand or rice (kinesthetic-tactile hands on), and then write the letter on a white board or on paper a few times (kinesthetic-tactile print). Finally, they look at their letters and select their favorite one (visual print).
For literature, I read them a picture book (visual picture and auditory listening) or a chapter or section from a book without pictures (auditory listening). We often informally discuss vocabulary, themes, or other questions as they come up (auditory verbal). Then they draw a picture of something from the book (kinesthetic-tactile sketching) and then they narrate the book or chapter or section to me and I write it down for them on their paper (auditory verbal). Sometimes, during or at the end of a larger chapter book, we will do an activity, such as making maple syrup candy when we read Little House in the Big Woods (kinesthetic-tactile hands on).
Math: We use RightStart Math, which means that our math lessons are full of manipulatives and games (kinesthetic-tactile hands on). Some problems are given verbally (auditory listening) and require a verbal response (auditory verbal) and there are some worksheets and visual aids (visual print, visual picture and kinesthetic-tactile writing). Often I will incorporate their interests (such as video games, mazes, baking, parties, friends) in the word problems I give them which has helped in their enjoyment and motivation in this subject.
History: I read the chapter, book or section to them and show them illustrations as I have them available (auditory listening, visual picture). They draw a picture illustrating what we just read (kinesthetic-tactile sketching) and then narrate to me what they remember from what we read (auditory verbal). We occasionally go on field trips or do hands-on projects (kinesthetic-tactile hands on).
Science: I read the selection for the day while they look at the pictures and illustrate what they are learning in their science notebooks (auditory listening, visual picture, kinesthetic-tactile sketching) and then they narrate to me what they learned (auditory verbal). We often to hands-on projects and experiments (kinesthetic-tactile hands on).
Foreign Language: We are using Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and Francois, so we learn a series every two weeks. We listen to the teacher say the series (auditory listening) while we act out what the teacher is saying (kinesthetic-tactile hands on/whole body). Then we practice saying the series while acting it out (auditory verbal, kinesthetic-tactile hands on/whole body).
Art/Music/Poetry Study: For art study, I show them a painting (visual picture), then we talk about it (auditory verbal). For music study, I tell them about the life of a composer and we listen to their music (auditory listening). I also read poetry that has been illustrated with pictures to them and they often request their favorites (visual picture, auditory listening).
Free Time: My kids are given plenty of free time in which they jump on the trampoline or climb the apple tree in our back yard or play dress-up (kinesthetic-tactile whole body), or play in the sand box or with the pebbles in our back yard (kinesthetic-tactile hands on). They often choose to create books or other artwork or work on crafts (kinesthetic-tactile hands on/sketching/writing).
Right now, I have a second grader (who can read, but doesn’t enjoy reading- and can’t easily comprehend what he’s read aloud), a first grader (who is not a fluent reader), and two preschoolers. Therefore, not much of my information is given via visual print and not much is expected out of them via kinesthetic-tactile writing. The opportunities to use these modalities will increase as they develop these skills in their own timing. Meanwhile, I am delighted to read to them, so they learn to love stories and to have them narrate to me while I write down their words so that their composition is not hindered in any way by their growing- but not yet fully developed- writing skills.
4. Talk to Your Kids about their Learning Styles
In the podcast, Learning Styles: The Key to Confidence & Success, Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis concludes with this message she wants her listeners to remember,”Teach your kids about how they learn: this is the most valuable thing you can do, because they will have that forever.” So talk to your kids about their learning styles. Help them to discover how they learn best. Not only will it make for a happier and more successful homeschool experience, it will help them later in college, in their workplaces, and throughout their lives.