Guest Post: When Teaching and Learning Styles Differ – A Homeschool Mom’s Story

Ever wondered about your learning style or your teaching style, and how it affects your learning or teaching? Today, I am honored to welcome a blog post from Cherie of Reminded Homeschooling, an experienced homeschooler who has had the privilege of homeschooling four of her children. 

By: Reminded Mom

 

One of the biggest challenges we have had in our homeschool is a mismatch in learning and teaching styles. My older children were more closely matched to my own learning style and so, the teaching methods that I used intuitively worked very well for them. Our homeschool days back then rarely challenged my educational ideology or stretched my thinking in the way homeschooling my youngest has. When there are struggles, one of the first places to think about evaluating is learning style.

 

At first, I truly had no idea why we were having certain struggles. I had attributed most of it to my daughter’s sensory processing and brain integration challenges. However, through these challenges, I was lead to, and ended up doing a learning-styles assessment on her. This revealed that she is primarily a Visual-Spatial learner with a strong preference for Kinesthetic learning as well. I am a strong Logical Learner but also have Kinesthetic Learning fairly high on my learning styles inventory. I was teaching somewhat intuitively and my style of teaching, for the most part, matched my learning style, not hers. Thankfully, the one place we have some commonality is in our secondary preference for kinesthetic learning.

 

Why does it matter what my learning style is if I am the one teaching?

 

You may ask, why not choose a curriculum that is written to teach a variety learning styles? While there is truth in that idea, unless you recognize your bent toward learning, as well as your child’s, you will naturally gravitate toward selecting curriculum and teaching it in a way that suits your own style. It is just natural and intuitive to do it this way.

 

Seriously, why would I choose visual-spatial curriculum and techniques when I completely prefer a more logical process? I did not even know about visual learning techniques much less know how to teach a visual learner. Give me that outline and diagram, let’s analyze it, what fun we will have! {Daughter rolls eyes}

Not recognizing that I lean toward a particular learning and teaching style that differed from my child’s, and one which makes her eyes cross, led to many days with folded arms and shouts of, “I can’t do this!” When I finally had her do the learning styles assessment, it opened my eyes to a whole new world. I realized that I needed to make some changes but first I decided to learn about her learning styles and what worked for her.

 

I began with our common ground of kinesthetic learning and incorporated some of the learning techniques that enhance kinesthetic learning. I did this easily due to the fact that I could relate to this type of learning. To start, I primarily chose curriculum that used manipulatives, and had plenty of hands-on activities. I also bought a balance ball for her to sit on during lessons and I allowed her to have some clay in her hand to squish while I was reading or teaching. This gave her the movement she needed to stay focused while learning.

 

In the meantime, I began to research and learn about visual-spatial or “Right Brian” learning. People who learn this way are very unique, and their learning style is in direct opposition to the mainstream teaching methods, which have prevailed for decades. Navigating the waters of visual spatial learning was uncharted territory for me. Thankfully, there seem to be endless resources online for visual-spatial and right brain learning, as well as other learning styles. I ended up turning to Dianne Craft and her Right Brain Learning resources as well as Child 1st Publications. I had amazing results in teaching spelling to my daughter using the visual techniques taught by Dianne Craft in her materials.

 

As I incorporated these right brain learning techniques, I was amazed at the results I was seeing. My daughter, who has dysgraphia, went from a child who struggled with spelling, (she could spell words orally but could not write them down correctly), to being able to create a visual picture of the word in her mind which enabled her to spell it both forward and backward orally. This did not solve her writing challenge but did make it a little easier. She could see the picture of the word in her mind, allowing her to use her mental energy to write, rather than concentrating on the spelling of the word.

 

There are various learning styles models, each with its own critiques and skeptics. The important thing to think about is that there are many ways in which an individual learns and is able to, “cement” information into their memory. Each person is unique in how they do this, with some leaning more strongly to one particular style and others having a mix of various styles. Discovering your own learning style as well as that of your child or student should be looked at as a tool and guideline rather than a label or diagnosis. The goal is to recognize your own strengths as well as those of your child and work with those strengths to create ease of learning.

By discovering my own learning style, I was able to recognize the ways in which I was inclined to teach, based on the way I learned, and this was not always the most effective way to teach someone else. I was able to recognize the areas in which I would need to spend extra time and energy in my teaching style and learn to do the things that did not come naturally to me.

 

Do you know your learning style or your child’s learning style? Share your experiences with us in the comments below. Each of us is unique and it is always good to hear from and learn from the experience of others.

Cherie

Reminded Mom

My Virtual Math Guide

11 Comments

  1. This is such a great, informative post! As a teacher and a mother, I know how important it is to understand a child’s learning technique. Not all children learn the same way, and as teachers (and homeschool moms👍) it is our job to adapt to a child’s learning style.

    • Thank you for your comment Anitra. I do agree with you. It is easy sometimes to overlook the fact that we all have different learning styles.

      Eliza

    • Thank you, Anitra. I love your comment about it being our job to adapt to a child’s learning style. I watched my daughter struggle so much both in school and homeschool. When I changed teaching methods to more closely match what was shown on her learning styles inventory, I was amazed by the results. I hope that more teachers will look at it the way you do.

  2. We homeschooled for a few years and struggled with our second oldest son. We learned he is a visual learner and once we adapted to his learning style, things ran much smoother!

    • That is wonderful Jenny. It is always such a great feeling when we identify these differences and get on the path of success. Kudos to you!

      Eliza

    • Jenny, that is fantastic! Not only does it make your job easier but it will also make it easier for your son throughout his life. He will learn ways that best suit him for the retention of information and will naturally do these things in any learning situation.

  3. There is big issue with the thinking in this post: science has debunked learning styles for quite a while now. There are however learning preferences, but according the way you teach to those preferences doesn’t have any positive learning effect.

    • Yes, some research has debunked learning styles and it’s effect on learning outcomes. However, other research have also supported it. From my experience as a college faculty member who has taught various levels of math, I do believe that students learn differently, and teaching to their learning style (or learning preference) makes a difference.
      What has been your experience Pedro?

      Eliza

    • Pedro, Yes, there have been studies that claim to debunk the idea of learning styles. However, just as Eliza mentioned there are legitimate studies that back this up also. I have not conducted my own double blind studies on this but I can surely attest to the results I have experienced with my children. I have read a bit about the split brain studies and how the transfer of of information between the two hemispheres of the brain is important for learning and retention of information. Certain activities facilitate this transfer and some things actually interfere. It is fascinating. The brain is complex and we are still learning so much about it. For the teacher or homeschool parent, this is a tool, meant to help identify techniques which would make learning easier for the child.

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