Learning Styles – How Does Your Child Le
by: Nada Rothgaber

Learning Styles – How Does Your Child Learn?

By Nada Rothgaber

As parent-educators we have the blessing to teach our child as he/she learns best. Over the years there have been multiple studies on the learning process. There are many ways that educators say we learn, but there are three general classes of learning styles that most educators agree with. It has the acronym VAK: 

Visual learners – “Lookers” 

Auditory learners – “Listeners”

Kinesthetic learners – “Movers”

One only has to do a Google search on the Internet to find a wealth of information on learning styles. Even though I was a professional educator for many years before becoming a homeschool mom, I did not know anything about learning styles. When I became a homeschooling mom, I started searching for answers as to why the curriculum and teaching aids I bought for our son were not working as I thought they should. It was through an all-day workshop I attended that I learned I was a visual learner and my son was a mix of a kinesthetic/auditory learner. All those cute little workbooks and writing lessons I had bought at my first state homeschool convention were for someone who learns like I do, not someone with the learning style of my son. So my husband sent me to the next homeschool convention with these directions: “Buy only what you think will not work and anything you like, don’t buy!” So whether teaching one or ten children, we homeschool moms have the opportunity and blessing to teach our children in the format that is best for them to learn. One homeschool mom that I know said it best by saying we teach the hard stuff in their God-given learning style and review it in the other learning styles to give them that experience and stretch them out of their comfort learning method.

The three groups of learning styles are not cut and dry divisions. God is not obligated to divide the population into three learning groups! Many children do very well with two of the three styles or are a mixture of two of the styles. Our goal, as mature adults, is to be able to compensate and learn by all three access areas. An example is my own situation. I am definitely a visual learner. If I see it, I know it. On the other hand, a few minutes after hearing something I can’t tell you what I heard unless I have seen it somehow. I learned to adjust to my form of learning in the typical lecture format of public school and college by taking copious notes compared to many of my classmates. If your child is not learning as you think he/she should, try a different method and adapt the materials. For example, change multiplication tables on a worksheet (visual learner) to multiplication wrap-ups (kinesthetic learner), or to singing them to a catchy tune (auditory learner). 

I don’t pretend to be an expert in the field of learning styles, but let’s take a few minutes and cover an overview of these three general categories to determine what kind of learner you are and what type your child is (remember this is not cut and dry). I’ll list their general characteristics, how they flourish in learning, and how they struggle in learning.

Visual learners - “Lookers”

Characteristics:

Visually organized 

Quiet

Avoids taking risks if they could be wrong

Observant of details

Takes copious notes even when the teacher promises a handout

Can assemble anything from printed or pictured directions

Will catch typos

Tends to doodle on notepaper when talking

Very aware of spatial relationships

Vivid imagination

Large sight vocabulary at early age

In spare time: watch TV or read a book

Easily distracted by visual stimuli

Flourish when:

Taught with books and pictures

Teacher demonstrates the skill - “show me”

Taught with: 

Flashcards

Matching games

Puzzles

“How to” books

Workbooks

Charts, maps, pictures

Written directions, wall strips, desk tapes

Timelines

Well-defined assignments

Tend to struggle with:

Creative writing - reluctant to take the risk

Reading beyond the literal meaning of a passage

Applying arithmetic to word problems

Forming a hypothesis and testing it with experiments

Thinking beyond the obvious

Adjusting to changes in curriculum

Auditory learners - “Listeners”
 

Characteristics:

Love to communicate - Can “talk your ear off”

Remember jingles, poems, & TV commercials effortlessly

Continual rhythmic pattern going by tapping or sounds

Usually sing beautifully and have excellent pitch

Generally remember names of people

Easy to express themselves verbally

Tend to read aloud or sub-vocalize

Often sound older than their chronological age

Tend to sort out their problems by talking about them

Tend to sound out words therefore are phonetic spellers

Tend to be poor test takers - can’t sort out the choices fast enough

Enjoy listening to radio in spare time

Easy to follow oral directions

Easily distracted by background noises

Very sociable - want to have others around

Flourish when:

Told all the steps

Allowed to move lips & sub-vocalize to increase comprehension

Memorizing

Taught with:

Recordings

Music

Rhymes

Clapping/keeping beat

Field trips with interviews

Integrating content

Tend to struggle with:

Reading technical or non-fiction

Rewriting and editing written work

Paying attention to detail for accuracy in math, science, and history

Developing perseverance

Kinesthetic learners - “Movers”

 Characteristics:

Tend to live in perpetual motion

Try to touch everything they see or walk past

Use lots of gestures and facial expressions when talking

Messy appearance, untidy room, cluttered desk

Show anger physically (stomping feet & slamming doors)

Prefer to play, jump, run, or wrestle in spare time

Can maintain balance while blindfolded

Distracted when they must be still or if it is “too quiet”

Dislike long range goal setting or complicated projects

Excellent at taking gadgets apart & can even put them back together

Find listening difficult

Highly competitive

 Flourish when:

Learning experiences allow them to do or touch

Allowed to demonstrate or model a task

Allowed to point with fingers to follow or anchor words when reading

Activities keep them moving

In full control of projects (but they still need supervision)

Taught with:

Finger plays

Tracing motion 

Tactile experiences

Travel/field trips

Math manipulatives (blocks, chips, play money)

Plays and drama

Making their own timelines and maps

The key to help the kinesthetic learner is a variety in the methods used with lots of hands-on learning.

Tend to struggle with:

Rules for math, phonics, grammar

Reading for information

Doing analytical work

Proofreading

Doing research-related writing

Attention span for pencil and paper work

Completing long-term projects in science & history

When you read over these styles, could you see yourself falling into one of these styles? Could you see your child’s learning style? As homeschoolers, we have the blessing of being able to present material in a style that makes it easier for our child to learn. Remember when buying curriculum: Think about whether it is appropriate for your child’s learning style, not yours. It will make your job much easier as a homeschool teacher and it will make learning fun and successful for your child.