When I first began officially homeschooling, I read all the how-to books I could get my hands on. At the time, I had only one child, age 5. I studied methods, education theories, curricula, and took a scientific approach to teaching. I wanted to be thorough and efficient. Once I actually started “teaching” my daughter, I realized that following a teaching textbook was not the ideal situation for us. I discovered that we had more joy in learning with a heavy emphasis on reading because that is how she learned best. Books of all kinds on all subjects, fiction and non-fiction. If she had a question, we found an age-appropriate book to answer it. She developed an early love of reading and that still works for us to this day, 7 years later.
So when I had my second daughter (my first was almost 7 years old at the time), I assumed I’d just continue that style with her when the time came for official homeschooling. She’s 6 now. She likes books. However, she learns best with a multi-sensory approach, combining auditory-tactile learning styles. That means that the DVDs, computer educational games, and flashcards that I’d eschewed as frivolous are exactly what she needs to learn best.
Wait, what? Not all children learn the same way, even siblings?
Yes, that cookie cutter classroom approach to learning that I had wanted to get away from by homeschooling had somehow wormed its way into my teaching anyway. It would seem that Mama has to learn a few lessons in homeschooling, not just the kids!
After learning this lesson the hard way with my first two daughters, I’m determined to be more relaxed about finding the best learning style for my youngest daughter, age 4.
What does a unique learning style look like in practice? The first thing is to define the three major types of learning styles:
1. Auditory ~ prefers to listen to instructions out loud, rather than written instructions; remembers best by hearing information; may talk to themselves out loud while learning new concepts.
2. Visual ~ prefers to read instructions; good memory for visual details; prefers to “see” what they are learning rather than listening to lectures.
3. Tactile-Kinesthetic ~ learns best by touching and moving around; prefers hands-on learning; needs more sensory input to learn new concepts.
These are the very basics of learning styles and multiple intelligences. They only scratch the surface of possibilities. Edutopia offers a simple online questionnaire to help you determine both your own and your child’s learning styles if you aren’t quite sure where to begin.
Not every child fits neatly into one category. Big surprise, right? The key word here is unique. Some children may do best with observational methods while others need hands-on experiments and activities. It may take some trial and error, patience, and a combination of styles to find what works for your child. The extra investment is worth it because it can make the difference between an eager student and one who dreads learning time.
Isn’t that the beauty of homeschooling? Finding what works best for your child in a way that encourages a lifelong love of learning while shoring up their God-given abilities ~ that is a real celebration of unique learning styles!
Sara is a homeschooling mama of three girls, ages 12 and under, married to her high school sweetheart since 1995. She has been blogging at Embracing Destiny since 2008 and has recently become the owner of The Homeschool Post, home of the annual Homeschool Blog Awards. You can connect with her on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook.