I wanted to talk a little bit today about learning styles and homeschooling methods as they relate to planning. There is a ton of information both in books and online about learning styles and there are several good books and sites that cover homeschooling methods as well. I will have some links for you to check out at the end of this post. What I want to talk about today is how to use this information in our planning.
One of the biggest educational advantages to homeschooling is the ability to be flexible. We are able to tailor our curriculum to match our children’s spiritual, emotional, and educational needs. For a small percentage of children the workbook-and-worksheet system used by most schools works just fine. It actually MEETS their educational needs. For many, many children, however, this system is at best working okay for them and at worst is utterly failing them. Because so many of us parents who are currently homeschooling went to a public or parochial school as a child we find comfort in the familiarity of workbooks and worksheets and making our children sit for six hours a day. It’s okay to think outside the box. Your home does NOT need to look like a miniature school. Ours doesn’t at all. There are no bulletin or marker boards on our wall. Our children move all over the house to do their school. We work at the counter, the kitchen table, the floor, the living room couch, the family room, and in our bedrooms.
There are many theories on learning styles. When I was studying at teacher’s college I personally liked the theory of multiple intelligences as proposed by Howard Gardner. At the time he had identified eight intelligences: linguistic, logic-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic. I use these learning styles to help me plan my lessons in a couple of different ways. First of all, I have observed my children and know what their learning preferences are. When I am teaching just one child something I rely most heavily on whichever learning styles that child prefers. For example, my daughter is linguistically intelligent. When I am helping her to memorize her AWANA verses I can send her off to her room to read and practice them for a while and then she can come back and recite them for me. She usually has them memorized very quickly. My son, on the other hand, tends to learn best using bodily/kinesthetic and spatial intelligence. When he works on his AWANA verses I usually make up hand motions or draw little pictures for each part of the verse. He uses them for awhile, but by the time he goes to AWANA he can say the verse by simply thinking about the motions or the pictures.
For certain topics, usually when I am working with both children, I make sure to include activities that cover most or all of the intelligences. If you have done a unit study, you probably covered a topic using many different learning methods. For example, if we are studying astronomy we might read and write about the planets, learn number facts about the planets, use a pneumonic device to learn the planets in order, sing a song about the planets or make up a chant using our pneumonic device, look at and draw pictures of the planets, use balls of various sizes to represent the planets, make a model of the planets, plot the planets distance to scale out on the sidewalk, visit a planetarium and talk to an astronomer, keep a nighttime journal, pick a favorite planet and make a poster about it, and use a telescope to observe the sky at night. Those activities will cover all of the intelligences and I guarantee both children will have learned more than they would learn in a classroom where a science book is read aloud paragraph by paragraph and students fill out a worksheet or two.
If you have spent some time thinking about how your child/children learn best, you are ready to think about homeschooling methods. There are many different homeschooling methods and curriculum. Many new homeschoolers choose their curriculum based on what the person they know who homeschools is doing. Don’t. What works great for your best friend may not be what is best for you and your children. This site has a wonderful overview of several popular homeschooling methods/curriculums. Homeschooling Methods: Seasoned Advice on Learning Styles is a wonderful book that covers these methods in detail. Spend some time becoming familiar with these homeschooling methods. Think about how your child learns and then compare that with the various homeschooling methods.
In my next post for this series I am going to talk about choosing your curriculum based on this information. In the meantime here is a free worksheet for you to use as you think through learning styles and homeschooling methods. At the bottom are several links to get you started.
(I do not receive any compensation if you order through Amazon.com. I am simply providing the links for your convenience.)