Monday, January 27, 2014

Learning Styles, Part 1

This past Saturday I led a homeschool conference session on Learning Styles.  Honestly, it's a hard topic to talk about in an hour.  I'm going to break it up into several posts and post the information on this blog....

Learning Styles, Teaching Styles: Meeting in the Middle

Copyright 2014, Reproducible only for personal use and not for resale

Main Points:
  • God gave you to your child and your child to you—you are the parent and teacher that your child needs. You know them better than anyone else and will understand them better than anyone else—they are a part of you.
  • Observing your children's learning styles and your own learning style (and teaching style) can help your children learn more efficiently with less frustration and with more success.
  • As my mother in law puts it, homeschooling is a calling. It's tough. God works on our children and us in the process of homeschooling. We need Him.
  • Continually be a student of your students. Observe them. Ask what's working and what's not.
  • Get help when you or your child needs it.


Have you ever written down why you are homeschooling?

Here are my priorities:
I want my children to learn--
To gain life and academic skills so that they will be able to live independently as adults.
To enjoy reading.
To love others well and serve others with the gifts God has given them.
To pursue their interests and enjoy the life God has given them. (Eccl. 2:24-25)
How to learn.

My husband always puts it this way: We homeschool because we believe it is the best thing for them. We are concerned about their spiritual, academic, emotional, social, intellectual, and physical development. Our society values social and/or academic over all the rest. Whenever I say I homeschool, these are what people always immediately ask me about.

School has two basic components: What children learn and How they learn. Curriculum and Methodology. There's so much that goes into that.

How our children learn is a complex process. Honestly, it amazes me every day. I fluctuate between amazement when they grasp and assimilate new concepts and impatience when they don't grasp what I think they should easily. That is my humanness. I fall into a mindset of impatience when I shouldn't. I realize that I am often most impatient when my kids are frustrated and can't master what they're working on. I know it should be the other way around, but if I'm honest, it isn't.

So, how can I help them be less frustrated and me? How can I help my children learn better-- more efficiently, with better retention?

One way is to think about the whole picture...
In 2003, Information Processing Theory was expounded by Feden and Vogel. They explained that input (receptive) is the information that comes in, then we process that information into our working memory and long-term memory and finally, it comes out through Motor Output (expressive). Our children can struggle with processing input information, memory, or the expression of what they have learned and know.

(Here's a link to a chart someone else made that's easy to read.  Scroll down on the page to find the chart. I lump short-term and long-term memory together and call it processing, the second portion of the theory.)

Learning styles and other educational habits focus on the first two parts of that cycle (what inputs we provide and how they are processed). A helpful place to start is to make a Learning Style Profile for each of your children. A profile is based on their observations and yours. Why right it down? I'm sure you observe your kids all the time and notice things. Well, it's the same reason that we do Bible studies. We write down our answers, because it helps us process what's in our head in a succinct way. It also helps us remember when we can go back later and read what we've written. I don't know about yours, but I just can't keep everything in it!

So, a Learning Style Profile can include a bunch of different information. It can cover the modality they best learn from, their learning personalities, their talents and interests, natural strengths and weaknesses, character, best learning environment, and love languages. These are different options. The point is just to get a picture of how your child best learns. I've put together a sample packet of forms and list of resources to help you do this if you'd like to. Today, I'm going to focus on learning styles and just touch on the other topics.

But, just as importantly is how you learn. There are learning styles and there are teaching styles. So, first I'm going to talk about learning styles and then about teaching styles. This is really a huge topic, so I'm just going to touch the surface.

Part 1:
What are Learning Styles? A learning style is the term used to describe how one prefers to learn.

Visual learners learn by seeing and looking.
Auditory learners learn by hearing and listening.
Kinesthetic learners learn by touching and doing.

Some people break it down farther than that into 6 or 7 different learning styles. But, these are the three primary learning styles people focus on.

In Melinda Boring's book, Heads Up Helping, she tells a story of going to a Christmas Bazaar with her daughter. Before going in, she tells her daughter not to touch anything. She can look and see everything, but not touch. Her daughter's face fell as she explained to her mom, “But, Mom, seeing is touching.”

65% of the population are Visual learners
30% of the population are Auditory learners
5% of the population are Kinesthetic learners

The traditional model of teaching was to hand a child a book. Let the child read a passage silently and then complete a worksheet on the material. This an entirely visual way of learning. Then, there's the high school and college classroom model-- A lecture, which is auditory, along visual aids. Assessment is done with reading and written assignments (visual).

I thought of an easy example of how this can be applied.
Math Flash Cards:
Using xtra, a visual learner looks at the cards and types in the answer using 10 key
Using flash cards, a parent quizzes a child orally to the auditory learner.
Using cds with music like Multiplication Mountain or 100 Sheep and Counting, a kinesthetic child learns to count multiples and their multiplication facts by singing along to the music.

I am a visual learner, so it worked for me when my third grade teacher handed me the math book and told me to work my way through it. But, it didn't work for me with my third grade daughter who is kinesthetic, full of energy, and needs to be taught explicitly.

This summer, I realized that how I had been teaching my middle daughter wasn't working for spelling and writing. She was very frustrated and so was I. Frustration, I think, is the biggest clue that there is struggling afoot. Teachers and parents alike want answers when teaching and learning isn't working. Everyone wants children to learn and enjoy what they are learning. So, I knew it was time for me to step back, think, and pray. I needed a remedy. I needed to understand. I needed to love my daughter better than I had been by understanding her better. So, I stepped back and assessed what was working and wasn't. How does my daughter learn best? be continued.

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