Learning Styles—Your Blueprint for Homeschool LearningSuccess™
by LearningSuccess™ Coaches Victoria Kindle Hodson & Mariaemma Willis
Whether you’re a homeschooling veteran, a new start, or just thinking about taking the plunge into homeschooling, finding out your child’s learning style will show you the route that you need to take to ensure your child’s success!
One mother we met at a conference assessed her children’s learning styles and came back the following year to tell us, “This has been the best year ever! I gave my kids the profiles, bought materials for their learning styles, stopped trying to make them learn the way I learn best, and it made all the difference. I wish I had known all of this sooner!”
Finding out your child’s learning style has benefits for your child and for you. This kind of information can improve: 1) your child’s chances for success, 2) your ability to communicate with your child, 3) your ability to teach effectively, and 4) your chances of raising a competent, responsible, independent, creative adult.
If you want a sturdy, comfortable house, you wouldn’t try to build it without a blueprint. If you want to take an enjoyable trip, you wouldn’t go across the country without using a map. If a coach wants to bring out an athlete’s best, he wouldn’t recommend a training program for her without knowing her strengths and weaknesses.
Of course you want the best education possible for your child. After all, you’re so committed to the best possible education that you’re doing it yourself or thinking about doing it yourself. Yet, in the rush to get your curriculum together, are you attempting to educate your child without a blueprint of how he learns best, a map of where she wants to go, or a clear understanding of his/her interests and talents?
If your child’s individual learning needs are not your guide you’re likely to be setting up or buying a curriculum that is similar to the one you had when you were in school or a curriculum that you wish you had had when you were in school, or a program that was designed as a “one size fits all approach by people who know nothing about your child.
If you did well in math and you want your child to learn the same foundation skills that you did in the same way you did, you are destined for distress. If you had a terrible school experience and you are selecting materials and strategies that you wish you had had in school, you’ll have fun buying all the things you like and you’ll think that you have a perfect curriculum, but the kids might hate it. And, if you choose a curriculum because you’ve heard that it is a “good” one, or because your best friend used it, or because you liked the presentation made in the ad you read or by the sales person, that program probably won’t fit your child’s unique learning needs. For example, if it is a program for a child with a Producing Disposition (organized, linear learner) and your child has a Performing Disposition, (spontaneous, moving learner) your chances of success are about zero. Choosing a program that brings out the best in your child can make a world of difference.
Improved Communication With Your Child
When you find out about your children’s learning styles, you’re saying to your child, “Tell me about yourself.” Learning style information that comes directly from a child is a powerful message to a parent. And because you are asking for the information you’re saying “I want to know you better.” This may be the most powerful message a parent can give to a child.
If you are willing to make curriculum changes based on learning style information, you are showing that you are flexible and want to work with your child’s learning needs. Your actions are saying, “I care,” which is more powerful than simply saying the words, “I love you.”
The unexpected effect of listening to our children more carefully is that our children often are more able to listen to us. When you start working with your children, they start working with you.
Improved Ability to Teach Your Child
When you have the learning style results for each of your children, your chances of being a more effective teacher increase a great deal, and the chances that you will burn out on the job decrease!
Learning style assessment results are your child’s blueprint for success. For example, if your child has a Thinking/Creating learning disposition, you can begin to understand why all of those workbooks and fill-in-the-blank worksheets that you loved when you were in school don’t work, and you can allow your child extra time to daydream and wonder. If your child has a Visual-Picture and Kinesthetic-Sketching learning modality you can start looking for pictures to add to your Visual-Print phonics program, and you can get a roll of butcher paper and lots of drawing tools for doing math and reading comprehension exercises. If your child has an Interactive-Nature talent you might get prepared for doing lessons outdoors and taking field trips into nature for science, writing, and math.
You will no longer expect the impossible and you won’t feel frustrated and guilty when your child can’t achieve it. You won’t be comparing the “terrible” spelling scores of your child who has a Performing disposition and Body Coordination talent with the “wonderful” scores of your best friend’s child who has a Producing learning disposition and a Word-Language talent. You will be able to translate your child’s learning needs into a shopping list of workable, useful, fun, inspiring materials. You will be effective because you know the person you are teaching.
Improved Chances of Raising a Competent, Responsible, Independent, Creative Adult
So many of the homeschooling families we meet are doing what schools do—at home. They are using school expectations for when a child should read, write, learn the multiplication tables, etc. School methods that rely on textbooks and worksheets, and the school’s ways of assessing progress with book reports, research papers, and grades are deeply ingrained in those of us who have attended public or private schools. So, when it comes time for us to educate our own children, it’s only natural to draw upon what we know best.
However, homeschooling parents have chosen an alternative to the school system that allows them to individualize programs and give children the advantage of growing and learning at their own pace, in their own way, in terms of their own talents and interests. This is the way that people destined for leadership in our country have always been educated. In other words, if you want to grow an “individual,” you need to know the “bent” of that individual and individualize the curriculum to bring out the best in that person, rather than implementing the “one-size-fits-all” production-line system of education.
By finding out your child’s learning style you find out how your child is “bent” in terms of: learning disposition, talents, interests, learning modality, and most suitable learning environment. After all, we come into the world with some pretty stubborn hardwiring; we are without a doubt “bent” in a certain direction. How many of you did very well in art or music in junior high or high school? How many of you who did well in art or music couldn’t make any sense out of math? How many of you loved to read literature and poetry? How many of those who loved poetry and literature fell asleep in chemistry or vice versa?
When you know what your child’s hardwiring is, you can customize any curriculum to bring out the best in that child. By treating your child as an individual from the earliest ages possible, you will be ensuring that your child grows into a person with purpose—one who is competent in his/her field, who is responsible, independent, and creative.
We have worked for more than twenty years researching, writing about, and teaching the concept of learning styles. It is hard for us to imagine starting a homeschooling program without finding out a child’s learning style first. Think of it as your foundation for your program, your blueprint for providing successful learning experiences, or a map to your child’s successful future. We believe that learning styles assessment is the first step to your child’s success.
Here are the voices from some of our fellow travelers in academia and medicine. Arthur Levine, President of Teachers College, Columbia University, writes in the New York Times, December 22, 2000, “We are heading to an era in which schooling will change profoundly. The teacher will not be the talking head at the front of the classroom, but the expert on students’ learning styles, the educational equivalent of a medical doctor. Children will no longer be grouped by age. Each student will advance at his or her own pace in each subject area through individualized tutorials.”
Here is Mel Levine, MD, “Our society desperately needs all kinds of minds. So let’s make sure that every child is getting his or her strengths strengthened. Let’s not punish kids for the way they’re wired, but let’s celebrate and encourage that diversity. I’m trying to propagate a generation of optimistic kids, who will feel that they’ve made a contribution, that they are successful in their own ways. If you can show people how to believe in themselves when they’re young, then it becomes a lifelong process.”
And from teachers writing for Educational Leadership Magazine, February, 1996, “Educators are finally recognizing that unique learning needs are the norm rather than the exception.” (Cynthia Warger and Marleen Pugach, ‘Forming Partnerships Around Curriculum’)
With the information that you get from your child’s learning style profile you can strengthen your child’s strengths as well as celebrate and encourage his/her own way of learning. We have discovered that when we support the way that they learn best they feel optimistic about their possibilities in life. And, they are more likely to persist longer in the face of challenges and to want to make a contribution to society.
Just think, you don’t have to cut through any bureaucratic red tape to allow your child to advance at his or her own pace in each subject area! You’re a homeschooler! You can start today!
©2002-2008 by Hodson & Willis/Reflective Educational Perspectives, LLC
Victoria Kindle Hodson, M.A. & Mariaemma Willis, M.S., are the founders of theLearningSuccess™ Institute, authors of Discover Your Child’s Learning Style & Midlife Crisis Begins in Kindergarten, and the creators of A Self-Portrait™ Online Learning Style Profile. Their mission is to coach parents and teachers on how to coach kids for LearningSuccess™! For more information visit their website at www.learningsuccesscoach.com
Take the online learning styles profile now and find out how everyone in your family learns best! Use this link to get $5.00 off each profile!
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