I sat watching my child do a math worksheet and it was taking forever. It wasn’t making either of us excited at all. I knew my child’s learning style was visual and hands-on, but what that meant in practice, I wasn’t so sure yet. I was frustrated, and so was she.
Then, I tried using blocks for math. It helped some, but even better was when I only spent five minutes explaining the work using the manipulatives, and then let her do it on her own without actively watching.
She would pause every few sums to ask for affirmation that she was doing it right, and then continue. Next, I tried using Reading Eggs (not affiliated) which has a section on Math called Mathseeds. Instant hit. My daughter doesn’t seem to mind the repetition or the quizzes and can work through a number of lessons on her own!
Now, I combine the two because I believe that being able to do math on paper is still an important skill (for both handwriting and math itself), so she does a few sums on paper and then gets to do MathSeeds when she’s done. No fighting, no whining, and I can see she’s making progress. Win!
Why your child’s learning style is important
I share this story above to show you that if you feel like you have a gap between your child’s learning style and knowing how to USE it, you’re not alone.
If you’re a new homeschooling parent, figuring this out is especially important before you go buy that curriculum you’ve been drooling over. Wait! Save your money first!
You need to explore and take note of the approaches, activities, materials and methods that work for your child, so that you can choose your resources accordingly.
Knowing your child’s learning style means you can help to keep learning fun in a way that’s relevant to your child. Wouldn’t you rather have your son’s face light up when he discovers a math principle while playing games rather than have him fight you over a textbook?
Think about your own learning experiences as a child. Maybe you had a grumpy music teacher who rapped your knuckles with a ruler, forever ruining your desire to study it any further. Or you had a math teacher who singled you out and made you feel stupid. Did you have a language studies teacher who made the subject as dull as dust? All those experiences can become a mental block, making it a lifelong struggle to study a certain topic or subject. But if you know your child’s learning style, you can help prevent these mental blocks by teaching them difficult things working WITH her, rather than against her style.
What if your child’s learning experience could change absolutely everything?
Here’s the secret: It can.
Understanding how your child learns best lets you optimize the way you homeschool. In turn, your child(ren) will respond better, learn better and excel beyond what might’ve been possible in school.
What are children’s learning styles?
Learning styles are the different ways people retain, remember, understand and process learned information.
Children’s learning styles theory
One of the most popular theories to explain learning styles is called the VARK-model, standing for visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic learning styles.
What are the 4 types of learning styles?
Kinesthetic learning style (hands-on)
These learners need to learn by doing, touching with their hands, making things and experiencing things. Use project-based learning, arts and crafts, unit studies, and experiential learning as much as possible. Another fun way to incorporate movement into kinesthetic learning is to encourage role play of the information you’re working through. Any method that helps the child hold what he is learning about is best!
Visual learning style
These learners learn by seeing – they want to see demonstrations and visually grasp the connection between different concepts. Use graphs, charts, pictures and videos that illustrate what you’re teaching to make their learning experience effective. Drawing and other art activities are also helpful for these learners. Visual learners may struggle with listening skills and prefer to be shown what to do, rather than told. Aim for a balance between the two since both skills are important!
Auditory learning style
These learners learn by hearing, so for them, listening to audiobooks and podcasts is a very helpful method. Use music and make up silly songs to cover information they need to memorise and understand, and they’ll never forget it! They are good at responding to verbal instructions and remembering the lyrics to songs, for instance.
Reading/writing learning style
Some learners are naturally drawn to text-based learning – wanting to interact with information by reading and writing. Encourage them to make their own summary of what they’ve learned. These learners enjoy quizzes, books and logically-sequenced learning. This is the child who will read what they want to know.
How to find out your child’s learning style
There are a few different ways you can figure this out. Choose one method or a combination, whatever fits your family’s needs best. If your child has learning challenges, this will help you even more.
Observe your child learning
This may sound overly simplistic, but it’s a realistic answer. Watch what happens when your child is busy figuring something out on his own.
- What method is he drawn to?
- What types of toys does she like? Books, blocks or craft supplies?
- Does your child ask questions and seek interaction or pursue the answer independently using YouTube or books?
- Is your child interested in numbers and patterns?
- What types of activities get the most response?
Take the time to pay attention and you’ll soon learn more about how your child thinks.
A professional assessment by an educational psychologist
An educational psychologist can help provide some insight into your child’s learning style, interests, career aptitude, and the way your child thinks and feels about their education.
A consultation may include some recommendations, suggestions to explore and practical approaches that may help you in home educating your child.
Make sure to find an educational psychologist who will encourage and support your goal to homeschool your child
Learning style quiz
Sometimes, all it takes is a couple of well-articulated questions to give you and your child that AHA-moment you’ve been looking for. The following quizzes may help point you in the right direction (and won’t cost you a cent!).
- Homeschool On – Learning Style Quiz
- Homeschool.com – Online Learning Styles Quiz
- Education Planner Self-Assessment
- HowToStudy.com – Learning Styles Quiz
Learning style activities
Another way to figure it out is to explore different approaches and kinds of activities (as mentioned under learning styles above) with your child and observe the response. This is useful if your child is still very young, non-verbal or struggles to tell you what they like best.
Note the expressions on your child’s face, whether he/she looks interested and happy or bored and frustrated. Does your child ask you questions about the activity? Would he/she like to do the activity again or do something similar? Does your child want to modify the activity in some way?
How does your child learn best: examples that make sense
To illustrate this, I’ll share a bit about my own children. My daughter Tillea likes to learn hands-on, by doing things. She wants to make things, see pictures and see in person how something works.
She asks questions and wants conversations. She likes to be helped rather than to figure it out independently (age is still a factor here as she’s only 7). For her, it’s as much about interpersonal connection as the learning itself. She learned how to make playdough with my help this weekend, for instance, and enjoyed watching the ingredients form into dough in the pot.
My son Eliezer is almost 3 and will figure things out on his own. He hates it if you interfere unless he asks. He loves repetition and exploration, listening to music and repeating it over humming. He will take dominoes (or just about any other items he can get hold of) and arrange them or build complex towers as high as he can. In the pic below, he was using items from my nightstand!
Both children are attracted to patterns as well. I can use these traits in their learning styles when I homeschool them by repeating sequences, using activities that take them through a process and by simply explaining and demonstrating the answers to the questions they ask. We’ll probably get to more reading-based learning later!
Learning styles for parents
Another way to look at it is to evaluate how you learn best and what your favourite memories of learning are when you were a child. Are there certain methods and processes you apply when learning that work for you? Does your child have any traits in common with how you like to learn? Your child may have a combination of your learning style and your partner’s learning style, or a completely different preference altogether.
For example, I’m very much a visual learner and I love reading about things and then try to do or create what I’ve read about. I enjoy language and the articulation of ideas. My daughter gets her grasp of language and her interest in looking things up from me because she sees me do it all the time.
My husband is a hands-on learner, figuring things out as he goes along. She has this trait as well when she’s engaging in imaginary play and consolidating information. My son is the same, watching every single thing his daddy does in the garage and attempts to copy him.
Children may change their learning style preferences as they grow and face different challenges. Developments in technology also offer many new methods of learning that were not available when I was a child!
The beauty of learning is that the brain is neuroplastic – there are many ways to learn and with training and practice, there are many new pathways that can be built to achieve learning.
All learning styles are great
One style is not better than or inferior to another style. Work on the weaknesses, use the strengths. Teach your child historical examples of people who learned in different ways and accomplished great things. (Examples?)
Understanding your child’s learning style is a big key in your choice of homeschool approach, curriculum and planning. Roll with it – you’re going to learn a lot too and maybe strengthen some of your own weak areas along the way too!
Your child is capable of learning. It’s just a matter of figuring out what works best. If you feel like you’re doing everything wrong and screwing it up, please don’t give up. It’s normal to have those days.
Reach out and talk to another homeschooler. Get some encouragement, then keep going and trying different things. Mistakes and struggles and tears along the way are not failures. They bring you closer to what WILL work.
Before you know it, you’ll start having more good homeschooling days than rough ones.