Friday, July 18, 2014

L is for Learning Styles

I was very new to homeschooling when I first heard about learning styles, and I'm glad I discovered these concepts early in the game! I read a book called The Way They Learn by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias, and started thinking about what learning styles my kids tended towards. I also figured out what my own learning style was, because that would affect my teaching style. The more I discovered about learning styles, the more convinced I was that homeschooling was a wise choice, because it made it so much easier for my kids to learn the way they learn best, rather than forcing them to learn the way that's most convenient in a classroom setting.

Most people are familiar with the idea that some people learn best by hearing (auditory learners), some by seeing (visual learners), and some by doing (kinesthetic learners); and knowing which preferences our kids have can make the job of home educating much easier. In general, these are the way in which we remember best. My daughter and I both rely on visual for remembering - like picturing what a word looks like on the page to remember how to spell it, and needing to see a picture or diagram to help us understand a concept. One of my sons needed the kinesthetic approach to remembering - when he was little, I realized that he could recite plenty of memorized information if I allowed him to bounce on the bed or chair, walk around, or clap hands while reciting. But he often went blank when he had to stand at attention and say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Learning styles can also be described as the way we perceive and understand information. Perception - how we take in information - happens in two ways, and we all use both, but we each have a preference. Concrete perception takes in information directly through the sense and deals with what is tangible and obvious, without hidden meanings or relationships between ideas. Abstract perception allows us to visualize and understand things we can't see, using intuition or imagination and looking for more subtle meanings. The way we use the information we take in can also be divided into two general methods - Sequential or Random ordering. Again, although we use both, we will find one style more dominant than the other. Sequential ordering organizes information in a linear, step-by-step manner, using logic and following a plan. Random ordering organizes information in chunks without a particular sequence. This is the ability to skip steps or work in an unconventional order, and people who think this way may seem impulsive or as if they don't have a plan. These characteristics can be seen in four combinations, and I think all four are represented in my family!

Last year, we got to review a workbook called Perceptual Learning Styles from PeopleKeys. This gave us more insight into Landon's specific learning styles. We found out that his strongest learning styles are Auditory and Kinesthetic. He learns effectively by reading aloud or talking about the subject; and hands-on experiences help him learn and remember as well. This workbook helped us identify Landon's learning style, and supplied helpful suggestions for tweaking the learning environment, studying efficiently, and making adjustments when in a classroom setting where he's not in control of how the material is presented. Knowing that he is not oriented towards needing to SEE information reminded me to take it easy on him when we are working on a subject together. Kennady is Visual, so she will follow along if we are reading something together, or make drawings or notes about what we're reading; but Landon is far more likely to put his head down and appear as if he is dozing off, when in reality he is probably taking in the lesson just as effectively because he only needs to HEAR it. 

Want to know more about learning styles? You could try the Perceptual Learning Styles workbook I mentioned. (Read our complete review HERE) You might want to read one of the following books: The Way They Learn; Every Child Can Succeed; I Hate School - all by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias (and you can follow her on Facebook). I own the first two in one volume titled How Your Child Learns and Succeeds. The article "What is My Child's Learning Style?" at Hip Homeschool Moms offers some tips for recognizing learning styles. A quick google search will also turn up articles and assessment tools and websites to help you.

Do you know your learning style, or your child's learning style? Leave a comment and let me know!

This post is linked at Blogging through the Alphabet, hosted by Ben And Me.
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A Rup Life said...

Knowing your child's learning style is so important! I will have to check out those books. Thanks!

Jennifer said...

It does make a difference. I found it interesting comparing how my kids are similar and different from me.

Meg Falciani said...

I'm adding those books to my reading list! I know that things are still "new" but I've seen a 180* turnaround in Matthew since we started homeschooling a month ago. Being able to fit to him is making such a difference.

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