Learning Styles


Here I will discuss learning styles of children and parents. It is divided into 3 parts because it was first presented in my newsletter in 3 segments. If you have any questions or need help finding resources, please don't hesitate to drop me a line!

LEARNING STYLES PART 1

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Learning styles, what are they and why do they matter? Well that is a good question! The Learning Styles approach to teaching developed as a result of research showing that each child has a specific way in which he/she learns best. Any parent who has more than one child can tell you that no two kids are alike in the same home let alone a whole classroom full! I have 6 children of which are all different. Luckily for me, at least two of them have the same learning style but more on that later.

Depending on whom you read, there are three to five different learning styles or teaching styles. Cathy Duffy happens to be whom I tend to agree with the most. She describes 4 different learning and teaching styles. Okay you say, what exactly is a learning style? Is this some new teaching approach like Charlotte Mason or Unit Studies? NO! Then what is it exactly then? Well, first let's say that you will be able to take the information you learn about yourself and your child/ren and apply it to whatever teaching method you prefer. Next let's describe what is a learning style.

Here I would like to describe the four main types of learners and the key characteristics for each as Cathy Duffy has so wonderfully done (1). I want you to read each one through completely before deciding which learning style your child may fall under. Remember that we all will have a little of each of the characteristics, but some will be more dominant than others.

Cathy has classified the four main learning styles as follows: (Note: It is only namesake - Boys can be Social Sue's and girls can be Wiggly Willy's)
Wiggly Willy - This is our Hands-On Learner
Perfect Paula - This is our Typical Learner
Sociable Sue - Our Social Learner
Competent Carl - The Independent Learner

Wiggly Willy
Wiggly Willy's are those children who learn best by doing - the hands-on learner. These children are usually not interested in deep thinking or analysis. They like to be free to act spontaneously, without restraint, and they like planning and organizing. However, they do very well with hands-on projects. These are carefree children who live for the moment. They have short attention spans (unless doing a task of their choosing), are difficult to motivate, and can be disruptive in groups. They learn through visual images, pictures, diagrams, etc. and by watching others do something. They also do better with lectures, songs, stories, cassette tapes and other oral material. Sometimes these children are labeled as having Attention Deficit Disorder, although the real problem is that, because of their age and temperament, they really need to be moving around. More than is allowed in a typical classroom. (Thank God for homeschooling these children!)

Prefer:

  • Variety in methods
  • Audio-visual aids
  • Short, dynamic presentations
  • Construction activity
  • Hands-on activity
  • Freedom to act
  • Physical involvement
  • Full control of his own project (with supervision)
Does Not Like:
  • Long range goal setting
  • Complicated projects
  • Planning
  • Paper & pencil tasks
  • Workbooks
Needs Help Developing:
  • Study habits
  • Self-discipline to persevere

Perfect Paula
This is the responsible child who likes to see things done correctly. She likes to be clearly structured, planned, and organized. Perfect Paula's seldom act spontaneously and are uncomfortable with creative activities that lack specific guidelines. They follow rules and respect authority. They like to follow a typical school curriculum and feel that they are accomplishing the same things as other children their same age. They prefer to be part of groups, and they need approval and affirmation that they know that they are doing what is proper.

Prefers:

  • Workbooks
  • Consistent structure
  • Routine
  • Lecture following an outline
  • Repetition and memorization
  • Drill and review
  • Time to prepare for any discussion
Does Not Like:
  • Creative activities such as role playing, dramatization, or imaginative writing
  • Changes in planned schedule
  • Constant changes in the curriculum
Needs Help With:
  • Creativity
  • Thinking skills that stretch beyond the obvious

Competent Carl
Likes to be in control of himself and his surroundings. He tends to be analytical, constantly trying to understand, explain and predict. Problem solving is something he enjoys. Competent Carl's are self-motivated and enjoy long term independent projects. They value wisdom and intelligence. Subject areas that tend to be strong are math and science. On the other hand, social skills tend to be a weak area. Often they have difficulty understanding and relating to their peers. Because of this, and sometimes simply by choice, they enjoy solitary activity.

Prefers:

  • Talking rather than listening
  • Logically organized lessons
  • Long term projects
  • Clear sense of purpose for lessons
  • Independent work
  • Problem solving
  • Debate
  • Brainstorming
Does Not Like:
  • Listening to peer group discussion
  • Wasting time on excessive written work or previously mastered material
  • Repetition
Needs Help With:
  • Social skills
  • Non-technical creativity

Sociable Sue
They are of course sociable. They often have warm, responsive personalities. They are interested in people, ideas, principles, and values. Because of this they tend to look for meaning and significance in things. Concepts are more interesting to them then details and technicalities. They can be very excited about a new project or assignment, but easily loose "steam" once the novelty has worn off. They like to be known, recognized, and acknowledged, and because of this they will often will be over achievers, putting out extra ordinary effort to impress people. They are vulnerable to conflict and criticism. They dislike competition, preferring cooperation so that others feelings are not hurt.

Prefers:

  • Small group discussion
  • Social interaction
  • Enthusiastic presentation
  • Creative writing
  • Role playing
  • Situation where she is personally recognized and valued
  • (needs but does not necessarily enjoy) repetition for details
Does Not Like:
  • Boring drill
  • Competition
  • Being ignored
Needs Help With:
  • Attention to detail
  • Perseverance and follow-through

Okay, you have read this through and in your mind can see that you child/ren can and do fit into several categories! Great! I want you to use this information while you teach this month and watch closely. Make a mental note of which subjects were learned the quickest, had the most interest from your kids, and HOW you presented the material. Perhaps the science lesson will stick in their mind forever because of a song you made up. Or the math lesson that came alive for a hands-on learner because you used an everyday application to show it! Example: "Why should I learn fractions?" Have pizza for lunch and determine the slices…voila! Fractions are important to pizza and hence important to kids! (At least at my house…lol) The point is that once the difficulty is seen, you can try a different approach based on your child's learning style, then teaching will become the joy it is meant to be.

Whatever you do keep in mind that God did not make us all to fit in tiddy little packages that can be described or easily defined. You may find that your child learns one way with literature but another way with math. Knowing these different learning styles will give you some options to teaching a child that you feel you just aren't reaching. Perhaps changing your approach and style will open up that little mind and their light bulb will go on! God's grace and I hope that this has helped you a bit. Leslie

(Next month: Parents teaching styles is part 2. Are you teaching so they can learn?)

LEARNING STYLES PART 2

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Are you teaching so they can learn?

Did you notice how your children learned things this month? Did you see the difference between each child or even between the different subjects? Just knowing what to focus in on is half the battle! Now, let's a little about how we teach. Yes we are all mothers but we are not alike when it comes to teaching. Our personalities are unique and not like our children's. (At least not the same as all your children. Here at my house, we have a mommy clone according to friends and relatives! ~ oh no!)

Ok, for just a second let's imagine that you have 4 kids each with a different learning style: a Perfect Paula, a Wiggly Willy, a Competent Carl, and a Sociable Sue. Now let's assume that since you knew what your children's learning styles are that you have observed how they learn best, etc. However, if you don't consider your own teaching style and how it can react to one of the above type children's learning style, you could still be pulling your hair out!

The following should help you determine your own teaching style. You will find that you have qualities in each area but one will seem to stick out more. Remember that the type names are just that, namesake only. Don't decide which area you are in until you red through all the descriptions - keep an open mind and be honest with yourself.

ADULT LEARNING STYLES

Wiggly Willy -- These parents tend to follow a more unschooling and more flexible method of teaching. These are highly creative people that like to use art, objects, and outside exploration etc. for learning something new. They do well with unit studies if they are kept to a short time period. A unit study that would require months of time would bore this type of person. These are typically excitable fun people who can spread their energetic attitude to others and to their kids about learning something new. If they get off any schedule that they may have, it is no big deal. Flexibility seems to come much more easily to this type of parent who is teaching. On the other hand, if the mom is not too hyped on a subject, they will avoid it or only cover it briefly. It really takes the parent's interest in order to teach a subject. Somehow their interest and excitement in that subject will most of the time get the kids jump-started.

Characteristics:

  • Has trouble organizing or on the following through
  • Would rather play and have fun
  • Tends to do thing impulsively - on the spur
  • Probably did poor in school (often to lack of interest or boredom)
  • Looks for creative and efficient ways to get things done
  • Dislikes paperwork and record keeping
  • Can motivate kids through enthusiasm
  • Prefers activity over reading books
  • Prefers to teach the fine arts, physical education, and activity orientated units

Perfect Paula -- If you love having a lesson plan that is filled out a month or so ahead then you may tend towards this type. A parent who is teaching with this style likes following the schedule and can actually panic if the kids are off by even a day or two. They probably know what a scope and sequence is and uses it as a guideline. They feel insecure doing without a teacher manual with all the lessons laid out in order. This type of parent would never think of going off an outlined schedule without a good reason. These parents use workbooks, all the tests, quizzes etc. that comes with a typical textbook program on a regular basis. They also struggle with understanding a parent that does not follow a strict schedule or one that doesn't use all the supplemental materials. Unit studies, Charlotte Mason, or the Moore's methods etc. would not interest a parent like this.

Characteristics:

  • Likes everything to be planned ahead of time
  • Likes following a schedule
  • Struggles with coming up with creative ideas
  • Is comfortable with memorization and drill
  • Gets upset easily when kids don't cooperate
  • Worries about meeting requirements
  • Often prefers to work under an umbrella program for homeschooling
  • Prefers to teach with a preplanned curricula
  • Uses teacher's manuals for everything and every grade
  • More comfortable with cut & dry then those that require explanation

Competent Carl -- Now this parent will use the manuals and schedules but feels secure enough to go off the track or to make adjustments as needed. They tend to lay things out logically in teaching their kids. They do not like dealing with the abstract or emotional side of things. They can use textbooks or very organized unit studies. They do not feel the need to absolutely belong to support group but will take whatever advice comes their way that is appropriate. They tend to point out the relevance of things when teaching and how all things are related logically. Math, science, and other subjects with high order and logic come easily to this parent.

Characteristics:

  • Likes to be in control
  • Think and acts logically
  • Has to understand the reasoning behind ideas
  • Has good organizational skills
  • Likes to work alone or independently
  • Is impatient with those who are slow to grasp concepts and those who are disorganized
  • Uncomfortable in social situations and has trouble understanding other's feelings
  • Tends to avoid difficult social situations
  • Likes making long-term plans
  • Tends to be demanding in studies
  • Usually is organized
  • Prefers to teach math, science, and other logic related subjects rather then
  • language arts and social studies

Sociable Sue -- Now this is the parent who would be lost without a good support group. They tend to worry way too much about what their relatives & others think of their homeschooling decision. This parent will also be more inclined towards yearly organized testing of their kids to make sure they are on track. They tend to be too hard on themselves if they think they are not meeting the ideal homeschooling family picture they have set in their mind. This parent will also re-evaluate their curriculum and themselves regularly to make sure everything is being 'covered'. They are sure to cover all the basics but will not dig deeply into any one area. They look for ways to make sure that problem areas are taught and seek advice from others regularly. Communication skills are a strong point and making new friends comes easily.

Characteristics:

  • Enjoys social interaction
  • Likes to belong to groups, especially for activities
  • Worries about what other people think
  • Tends to be insecure about how well she/he is doing with homeschooling
  • Is idealistic about expectations and goals
  • May or may not be organized - level of accountability
  • Is more interested in covering general concepts then details
  • Prefers to teach subjects related to language arts, social studies, and fine arts

As you can see, you probably have been all these types at one time or another. In fact, you may see that your first year of teaching you were more like Sociable Sue but now are more like Competent Carl. Once you discover which style you are more dominant in, then you can then start to focus in on other areas. This will help you to build up in areas that you might be lacking in and gently remind yourself of what you need to concentrate on. The ideal here would be the mom that has all the best qualities that each style offers, but that is unrealistic. God made each of us different and even those who are within one style or another will never be the same. So, what I am saying this - don't not set yourself up with an unattainable goal of achieving this perfect homeschool teaching parent. However, you can use this to work on areas you know you are lacking in.

Last month you examined how your children were learning and what they best responded to. For this month, you should try to catch yourself and see how you are teaching. Do you prefer using a textbook all the time? Can you switch your schedule and take a day off without panic? If you are studying about bugs and leaves, can you stop what you are doing and go outside to find some leaves and bugs with the kids? Do you feel more comfortable using tests and quizzes to know where your kids are? Can you skip the science textbook chapter on weather and instead build a unit study at the library? Do you feel guilty if you did not cover all 8 subjects everyday this week?

Take some time and write down different situations and what you are comfortable with. It may even take several weeks before you can pinpoint which style you truly are more dominant in. Why is it so important to evaluate your teaching style? Because your presentation of materials can be the difference between learning because you have to or learning because you want to. A child that feels that it is learning because it has to is not going to be one that is easy to deal with. They more than likely will be a problem when it comes to schoolwork. They will not want to cooperate or study just about anything before them unless it is something THEY are interested in. For many of you that have brought their children home from public school, you may quickly find out that your child has lost that love of learning. You will need to work to get that back…

Try to remember at least one teacher that left an impression on you or a class that you really enjoyed because the teacher reached you. It was fun, and you liked going, and can probably remember things that were taught in that class. Now remember the classes that bored you to death, the ones that you dreaded and wished would be over so your punishment would end? Ah….now it is sinking in isn't it?

Next month I will conclude by discussing ways to help bring together our teaching styles with our children's learning styles. I will also discuss ways to help teach our children to learn things out of their style/comfort zones. Also, ways to bring us out of our teaching style/comfort zones. Finally, I will give you ideas on how to bring together that mom who teaches completely different from the way her kids learn. Teaching can be fun!

Hang in there and God Bless…Leslie Final Part 3 of 3 next issue

LEARNING STYLES PART 3

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Putting it altogether

By this point most of you can see the differences and similarities between the way you teach and the way your children learn. You have seen whether or not your child learns better by reading alone, hands on, physical interaction, etc. from part 1. You now have a better insight to how you prefer to teach and what you are comfortable with from part 2. Now, here comes the tricky part where we must utilize methods that may or may not be common to our children or us. We must find a way to balance the way we teach with the way our children learn. Hopefully I will offer some suggestions to come up with a plan that will open some blocked areas and spark some interest in 'tired' subjects.

Realize that when it comes time to choose curriculum, we as parents tend to evaluate and review materials using what tends to appeal to us - the teacher. You choose curriculum based upon whether or not you believe that you can use it effectively, if it will cover all necessary information, and if your children will respond to it. What appeals to you, with your teaching style, may not appeal to your children so keep that in mind when choosing future curriculum.

It is also very common with families that have more than one child to find that what worked great for child A just isn't clicking for child B. You scratch your head and say to yourself, "This worked so well when little Susie used it, I am experienced with the material, so why is little Johnny having such a hard time! AH!" You are hit with the shock that your children learn completely differently and Johnny needs a new approach. So be prepared that your wonderful Saxon math program which you thought you could use for all six of your kids (um, like I did) may not come to pass.

You do not want to handicap this child to only being able to learn new information in limited forms. It is not wise to totally cater to a child's strengths and ignore his weaknesses. However, you should utilize the strengths in the way he/she learns to help your child to experience success and thus stay motivated. Weak areas can then be developed and encouraged by you by presenting materials in new ways, in small increments and with gentle challenges.

You may want to use your child's favorite learning style to your advantage to encourage him/her in their least favorite subjects. You can also use the less-preferred learning style with success by incorporating that method into the more favored subject areas. For an example: Your child loves workbooks and drill, math and geography, but dislikes creative activities and language. Use workbooks and drill for teaching language and include some creative projects for math and geography. This can be accomplished by:

  • The choice of curriculum for each subject
  • By supplementing any curriculum with activities and projects you do yourself
  • By using a unit study curriculum that includes a variety of projects to choose from

Your goal as a teacher should be to make your children eventually comfortable with all means of gathering information. After you have presented a new idea in the child's preferred learning style, review the material with some of the other learning methods to increase your child's flexibility. Remember too that every child should be solidly trained in self-discipline to achieve the end result of being an independent learner. This may not happen until later years of college or could be attained very early, but in any case, should be and end goal to be sought after.

Some children need to digest things in smaller chunks and others need the whole concept presented in order to process the information. Once you realize which way your child 'needs' the input you can adjust accordingly. For example, you may choose to teach science for only 15 minutes a day every day for a child who needs small chunks of info. For the other type, you might only cover science once or twice a week for an hour each time. With those needing shorter lessons you could try following up with something active like retelling the story, drawing a picture, play acting it, or doing a craft or experiment. For your whole concept type learner try assigning a long-term assignment, a research type report, a science fair type project, or a complete unit study approach encompassing all areas etc.

This all sounds good but what about mom? You have to teach your children science but because of lack of interest or the way it was presented to you in school you just do not like science! You don't like teaching science for 15 minutes a day let alone 1 hour a week, so what do you do? First you go about assigning lessons in the science textbook and hope that a spark will ignite somewhere. The kids become bored with the subject and can sense your aversion to this loved topic. This apprehension to a particular subject will most definitely show through in your teaching style. Take time to review which subjects you just don't have a flame for and think about why you don't like that subject. Once you determine why you don't like it, you can start to find reasons to like that subject. Okay, you say you still can't stand science? Try teaching it with different methods applying the information to the many ways that we learn. After exposing yourself to different teaching styles, you may very well come to find out that you can find an interest in that problem subject! Also, with that newfound interest you will spark your children's interest as well.

What about the moms who just don't understand why things are not computing? Take for instance a parent who is blessed to have a logical mind where math skills flow like a river. She explains it quite simply, but still the kids can't grasp this simple concept. While you have the interest level there to teach the subject, and it flows so easily for you, your children may not be able to learn like you. You will need to use different methods, that you may not be so comfortable with, to get those light bulbs turned on in their heads! This is where I find most parents really struggling to be creative or to come up with some alternatives in teaching out of their comfort zone/styles. You will have to go back and refer to those teaching styles from part 2 and try to incorporate those into your lessons.

Finally, just the fact that you now know the many ways that kids learn and we teach should help us when we are explaining a new concept or idea. We now know that when we see our kids struggling or having that puzzled look to immediately try a new approach. (This alone should save on the stress levels for mom & kids!) Start trying to include a well-rounded approach of teaching styles in all subjects. You are bound to hit on one item that will 'click' for your child. The seed you plant today, even if they don't comprehend right away, could be the one thing they remember later. Learn together and most importantly, remember that when all else fails, the best answers will come on bended knee. God Bless and I hope this has helped you in some way. Leslie

Learning Styles Resources for further review:

In Their Own Way by Thomas Armstrong about $9.95
Learning Styles & Tools by Robin Scarlata around $15.95
Brain Powering Your Child by Sharon Smisek around $14.95
Christian Home Educator's Curriculum Manual by Cathy Duffy $19.95 

T(1) Excerpts taken from 'The Christian Home Educator's Curriculum Manual' by Cathy Duffy. To find out more please check out her book at your local library or purchase it here on my bookpicks page and order it now for $14.95. Cathy has written out her 'Learning Styles' articles which I agree with so much. The wonderful thing about this book is that she suggests different curriculum and/or book suppliers based upon some of the learning styles. Learning Styles cassette tapes by Cathy Duffy run about $14.95 and are from her seminars. This 3 cassette tape series deal directly with learning and teaching styles. Cathy Duffy is also available for your next homeschooling conference or seminar. I heard her a few years back and she is just great!

 

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This 'Learning Styles' article is copyrighted @ 1998-2008 by Leslie J. Schauer and may not be reprinted without permission. I am very open to sharing info so please contact me if you desire to reprint this article in whole or part by writing to Leslie Schauer at: 'usteach@aol.com'.