Friday, January 04, 2013

What About Learning Styles

As a homeschool parent we sometimes need to come up with creative ways to teach our children.  I’m not very creative.  I need a little help in that department.  I remember a few years ago, when our kids were in elementary grades, we purchased an expensive curriculum that was all hands-on learning.  The kids were able to get very creative with it. They had a lot of fun acting out skits, building things, making recipes.  We used it for a few months, but it was a struggle for me because, like I said, I’m not very creative.  Fortunately, we worked through it with two other families.  Brainstorming with the other moms made it more interesting.   But getting three families together on a regular basis was not easy. So that didn’t last long.
I’ve learned there are three basic learning styles:  Visual, Kinesthetic, and Auditory.  Now, I don't know how much truth there is to this. Perhaps it's because I'm skeptic, or perhaps it's because I don’t like labels that I haven’t done a lot of research on learning styles.  I haven’t put a lot of emphasis on learning styles in our homeschooling.  I just teach what needs to be taught, using as many resources as I can to emphasize the concept when needed.  I guess we can say we practice eclectic homeschooling.  My kids are a bit older now, but I remember when they were little, it was much easier to show them how to bake cookies than it was to have them read the directions and follow them.  It was easier to build a small model car with my son, as well as more fun, than it was to have him follow the directions.   I don’t think it’s because they are kinesthetic learners.  I think all kids enjoy learning when it involves doing rather than reading.  
Words have power.  I think if I tell my daughter she is a kinesthetic learner and her best way of learning math is with manipulatives, then it may limit her.  She may not want to learn mental math because she cannot visualize it and touch it.  Or if I tell my son he is an auditory learner and his best way of learning is to hear lessons being taught on CD, then it limits him.  But what if my son does learn best by listening to a lesson rather than reading it himself?  What if my daughter does learn best with physical movement or hands-on interaction? These things may be true, but I do my children a great disservice by limiting them in this way.
If learning styles are real, as the experts have said, then we need to also develop their weak areas, don’t we?  I want my daughter to be able to do mental math when she needs to figure out what 20% off the marked price of a $43 dress is.  I want my son to develop a love for reading, not just listen to books on CD.  After all, doesn’t a love for reading translate into learning?   So maybe there is some truth to learning styles.  Maybe I’m not a Kinesthetic learner because I’m not creative.  I said maybe.  See, I still don’t like labels.

1 comment:

Kat said...

I had no idea what "learning styles" were when we started homeschooling, lol. I have gotten more familiar with them, and how they apply to my boys, but I am not really able to use just one when describing my kiddos. So, while I believe there is rational, scientific reasoning behind the different learning styles, we don't really apply any one style to our homeschool. We use a variety of styles, methods, programs, etc. :)

Great post, thanks for sharing!