Hi! I’m Wendy, and I’d like to talk with you about learning styles. Many homeschooling moms have questions about learning styles. How do I figure out my child’s learning style? Why is it important? What do I do once I’ve figured it out? What exactly is a learning style anyway?
A learning style is simply a way of learning. More specifically, it’s a way that a particular person learns best and probably enjoys most. Most of us have one dominant learning style. However, just because a person has one dominant (or favorite) learning style doesn’t mean that that’s the only way that person can learn. It’s possible for most of us to learn in a variety of ways. In fact, it’s not necessarily a good idea to try to teach your child using only his or her favorite style. In fact, most of us learn best when exposed to more than one style. But it is a good idea to expose your child to new and difficult material using his/her dominant learning style, and it’s great if you can, in general, allow your child’s dominant learning style to influence your curriculum and teaching methods. (We’ll talk more about curriculum next week.)
Another important thing to keep in mind is that children’s learning styles may change as they get older. For that reason, it’s a good idea to think again about your children’s learning styles before you choose curriculum for the next school year. And even if their learning styles don’t change, they do often become more proficient using other methods of learning that aren’t their favorites.
There are three basic learning styles: kinesthetic, auditory, and visual.
What does it mean?
Children who are kinesthetic learners like to do things in order to learn. This learning style is also called tactile or hands-on.
What are the characteristics of a kinesthetic learner?
These students like to paint, draw, build, dance, turn pages in books, do science experiments, write, play with play dough, and help cook or clean or do other active things. Because they learn by doing things, they need lots of hands-on activities.
How do I teach my child who is a kinesthetic learner?
- Practice spelling words by chanting the correct spelling as you and your children toss a ball back and forth or as they jump up and down on a trampoline. Older students may even enjoy writing out their spelling words over and over as practice. You can have them practice math facts and even dates in these ways too.
- Let your children chew gum while they “do school.” Older students who don’t do as much active play-based schooling may benefit from being allowed to chew gum while they do their school work and while they study.
- There are also some really neat fidget toys available that might help your older students pay attention to lectures/lessons that they need to sit still and listen to.
- Some children enjoy bouncing on a large bouncy ball while studying or reading.
- Many children who learn this way enjoy doing school work while standing up rather than sitting down. I still do a lot of my work standing instead of sitting. In fact, I really want to try out one of these treadmill desks or one of these adjustable/standing desks!
What does it mean?
What are the characteristics of an auditory learner?
These students like to talk to themselves. They may lose concentration easily–especially if they’re trying to do school work in a room in which people are talking or making noise. They like to read out loud or may whisper or do lip movements as they read. They enjoy singing and telling stories, and they are usually good at remembering people’s names.
How do I teach my child who is an auditory learner?
- Allow your children to read out loud instead of reading silently. (This may mean that they have to take turns reading or do their work in separate rooms.)
- When your children need to follow instructions, have them read the instructions out loud. (Or give oral instructions to them.)
- Allow your children to listen to soft music (especially instrumental music so that they aren’t distracted by words) while they do their school work.
- Let your children repeat what they’re learning or discuss what they’re learning with you.
- Let them sing their multiplication tables, states and capitals, etc.
- It may be helpful to read test questions orally to auditory learners. They may also do well when answering questions out loud.
What does it mean?
Children who are visual learners need to see things in order to learn.
What are the characteristics of a visual learner?
They may notice details that others miss. They probably love watching television or looking at pictures or picture books. Visual learners may be easily distracted by other children in the family. When they’re bored, they like to have something to look at. They enjoy watching others do things they want to learn to do. These children may like to have clean rooms, and they may enjoy being in neat and orderly environments. Oral instructions may be hard for these children to follow.
How do I teach my child who is a visual learner?
- Show your visual learners how to do things as you demonstrate.
- Use pictures, flash cards, or short videos to teach new skills, spelling words, math facts, or other information.
- Use color coded charts.
- Allow visual learners to work in a room or area that isn’t too near a window and that doesn’t have an overwhelming color scheme, lots of pictures or photos on the walls, etc.
- Show them how to draw pictures or charts to organize new information.
- Older students may learn best by taking notes.
- Both older and younger students may be taught to “see” things in their minds as they listen to stories, new information, etc.
More About Learning Styles:
It’s important to note that many (if not most) young children don’t have one particular learning style. Some children develop specific learning style preferences fairly early, and others don’t develop a dominant learning style until much later. In general, very young children (preschoolers through at least 2nd or 3rd grade) enjoy learning by doing things. They like to make messes, create things, move around a lot, and talk and sing. It’s pretty safe to assume that, if you have very young children, they will fit into the “kinesthetic learner”category.
Most older children (and adults for that matter) have a dominant learning style and one or more less pronounced learning styles. Your children may have two learning styles that are both very pronounced. These situations are all normal. It takes some children until they’re about middle school aged or even a bit later to define their dominant learning styles.
You might want to try some activities that conform to another learning style to see how it goes, but I would suggest being very careful and not completely changing your methods or curriculum–at least not all at once. And keep in mind that, if what you’re doing with your child is working well, then no matter what you think your child’s learning style is, I would keep doing what you’re already doing.
Studying about learning styles is really very interesting! You may want to study up on it a bit just for fun. There are some great books available on the topic of learning styles! One of my favorites is the very first learning style book I ever read. It’s called The Way They Learn by Cynthia Ulrick Tobias. Also, if you have a basic idea of each of the 3 main learning styles, you’ll be better able to gauge your children’s learning styles as they grow older.
Next week I’ll talk more about choosing curriculum with your children’s learning styles in mind. If you have questions related to learning styles, please be sure to leave it in the comments below!