At the beginning of my homeschooling journey, I noticed that my children didn’t learn the same way. Our oldest daughter took to reading like a fish in water and was devouring novels by the time she was four years old. “I’m so good at homeschooling,” I thought to myself. But then I tried to teach the next child, our son, and my ego got knocked down a few pegs. He couldn’t get the reading thing figured out. He didn’t understand the same math lessons that had been so easy for his big sister. This kid couldn’t even figure out which door on the house was the front door and which was the back door. EVERY time I told him to go to the front door, he ran to the back and vice versa.
Then I had more kids and it got more complicated. Just when I would figure out how to teach the second child to read, child number three didn’t connect with that curriculum and I had to start again. My confidence was shot and I often thought to myself, “I am terrible at homeschooling!”
Then I started reading about learning styles. It rocked my world. What if I could figure out the specific learning style of each of my children and stop being so frustrated?! This simple concept would change our world. It altered their ability to understand the lessons and helped me find ways to communicate with them. As it turned out, each of my three oldest kids had a different style of learning. Well, of course. God likes to keep me on my toes.
My research focused on three main styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. The first type of person, visual, is the most common. They learn by seeing. This is a person who sees how words are spelled in their head and love diagrams and charts for understanding concepts. They like to see the teacher writing things out for them.
Next is the auditory learner. Obviously, they learn best from hearing. They are likely to talk a lot in class because hearing themselves say it helps them remember. Reading or teaching out loud is a great tool for these types of learners.
Last is the kinesthetic learner. This person learns by doing. They act out a story in their mind when reading and remember the actions. Using your hands, letting them trace while listening, giving them something to physically connect to while learning helps a lot. They are often fidgeters because it’s how their brains take in information.
Now, everyone has a little of all three styles in them. Most people are stronger in one area, but that doesn’t mean they can’t learn the other two ways. In fact, it is healthy to try to use all three when teaching. That way if they miss a concept from the first presentation they can get it the next go ’round. For example, when teaching a child a Bible verse, we can offer them three ways to learn it. First show it to them (in the Bible or written down) and let them read it. Next read it aloud or have them read it aloud. Lastly, have them act it out or describe what is happening in that verse. Put a physical action to the verse. Now that child has three ways to connect with the verse!
After I identified each of my children’s learning style (there are simple tests online if you Google search) I was more equipped to help them. I stopped wanting to run away and started enjoying the challenge of figuring out what we needed to get the information to stick in each child’s mind. If they weren’t understanding a lesson I could step back and adjust how I was teaching. Many times, a slight change would make all the difference and they would get it.
There’s nothing like being right there when a child makes a new discovery to give you strength to do it another day.
It also helps to figure out our own learning styles. As parents, we will tend to teach (whether homeschooling or not, we are always teaching!) with our own style, so knowing will help us to remember to give the other two styles some extra effort. I am a kinesthetic learner, so I tend to tell a lot of stories and make everything an action. It’s fun, but my little auditory learner found it hard to follow. So, with her I just read the lessons and let her put her own spin on it. She did much better that way!
Books are the easiest thing to use for all three styles. Let the child read them, read them aloud to the child or retell the stories in small pieces to make sure they fully understand. A book basically does it for you! For the youngest learners, try Big Look Bible Book. It is touchable and fun shaped for the kinesthetic learner, bright and creative for the visual kids and has cute, simple stories for the audible child. It hits each area so beautifully you don’t have to figure out how to work it all in.
Today my oldest three kids are all grown up and finding their own way in the world. My son did learn to read (in fact he graduated from law school last summer) and our little auditory learner has a job that she loves. Even now as adults it helps me to know how to connect with them through their unique learning styles. It’s a tremendous blessing!
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Do you know your child’s learning style?
Let us know how your children (and you!) learn best. We’d love to hear from you in the comments.