This is yet another Brainy Fridays post that was written with both Busybrains and Calmbrains in mind, as identifying your particular child’s learning style/s can be a huge help in the building of both Landingpads and Launchpads. If you have a Busybrain it is likely that his particular learning style is not your traditional classroom method anyway. If you have a Calmbrain who is struggling at the moment, than it is possible that researching different learning styles and methods of teaching, and making necessary adjustments, will be a huge help in launching them forward.
As you read, keep in mind The Equuschick can only write from her own particular experiences, and in fact, more of this is written from her own experiences than the Dread Pirate Grasshopper’s, with exceptions where their learning styles have clashed. He is strongly visual and OCD, The Equuschick is not. (Case in point? They were playing with marbles in egg cartons, and practicing counting, when the DPG became discombobulated when The Equuschick failed to put the exact same marbles in the exact same place in the carton each time.) The Equuschichck calls her own particular learning style the Sink-or-Swim method. She has frustrated her mother, her piano teachers, and a good half dozen horse-back riding instructors her entire life because following instructions of any sort are incredibly difficult for her. She needs to be told the GOAL. And once she’s been told the goal, she’ll throw herself in and mess around until the goal is accomplished. It isn’t pretty. But when you are blind in your brain when it comes to math, directions, physical coordination, and have a serious case of ADD, you have to learn to compensate for your difficulties until you get to a point where you can overcome them.
Compensation HAS to happen first. Lots of folks teaching other folks who have unusual learning styles very badly seem to want to override and/or overcome the difficulties/preferences/blind spots first, and refuse to make the necessary compensations for fear of handicapping.
Nothing is as handicapping as chronic frustration. Nothing is as chronically frustrating as never being permitted to use the tools you’ve developed to help yourself function. When Slow Is Fast Enough: Educating the Delayed Preschool Child is a good book on this topic, though geared specifically to learning difficulties.
That doesn’t mean some difficulties can’t be overcome. Remember the 3 Step Launchpad? Meet them where they’re at, first. Then take them forward.
Two other things to remember are as follows: One, in this area as well as all other areas of personality categorizations, most of us are varied combinations. A few of us are probably very unevenly balanced at best, however. And two, watch your child’s interests for clues into their natural learning style. If your child is interested in something they are probably doing some self-directed learning (always the best kind), so watch how they direct themselves and interact with their subject.
Remember that inherent interest means intrinsic motivation which translates into the brain as dopamine, and dopamine translates into learning efficiency. For that reason, The Equuschick personally suspects there’s some sort of natural link between a child’s interests and a child’s learning style.( If your child is not interested in art until you let her fingerpaint, for instance, than chances are her learning style more kinesthetic than visual.)
Which leads us to Types. There are varying names for the three or four basic variations of learning styles, and different writers and educators have varying preferences.
We all know the four most common, right?
1. Audio Learners- Self-explanatory. They learn best by listening.
2. Visual Learners—Also Self-explanatory. They learn best by observation of visual cues.
3. Kinesthetic Learners- A fancy term that means “They have to touch it.”
Notes on the Above: If you are a visual learner, and you’re raising a non-visual child, you are really going to drive them nuts if you say to them: “Now, do it like I just showed you.” Believe them when they say, “They can’t.” They need more information, or they need the information presented in a different way. Likewise, if you are an audio learner, and you’re frequently telling your non-audio child to just listen harder, listen better, etc., you’re going to drive them nuts. If they aren’t able to do it the way you’ve told them to do it, that doesn’t necessarily mean they weren’t paying attention.
Again, does this mean that a child who is born “blind” in particular learning style can never learn *to* learn in another way? Of course not. Just as in all areas of life, it is acceptable and even beneficial to train a child to learn more than their one preferred way. But it will take time, and you’re going to need to meet them where they’re at.
The best solution, and one that is blessedly available in a homeschooling environment, is to use all of the learning styles, at the same time. If you have one particular child who truly struggles in all forms of learning than their first preferences, than you may have to rely exclusively on that first preference for a while until they begin to remember again the inherent rewards of learning, than start gradually “weaning”, if you will, them off the first learning preference.
Cynthia Tobias categorizes yet another set in her excellent book The Way They Learn. Her categories are:
*Dominant Concrete Sequential: This child is driven by facts, hard data, and things that they can see, touch, hear, smell, and experience themselves. They are very literal and do not function well in the abstract areas of life. They order their lives, and thus their learning, in a very logical order and prefer to treat everything as a step-by-step process.
*Dominant Abstract Sequential: This child, obviously, thrives on the abstract. They do well with theories and other points of view, are not necessarily good at the concrete facts of life. But they still prefer things in a logical and step-by-step order
*Dominant Abstract Random: Still abstract, but no longer sequential. They see the big picture, take life chunks at a time, and do not do well with a step-by-step order.
*Dominant Concrete Random: Still Concrete (see above) but, again, without the need for steps and processes. They prefer it as experiences.
Cynthia Tobias took her information on this topic from Dr. Anthony Gregorc and his work, this site has an easy reference and explanation.
Now, there are some who are a bit skeptical of these sorts of sciences, and The Equuschick is not in fact saying that the skeptics are wrong. Anytime you classify anything too specifically, there’s a chance you’re overstating the case. But for the purposes of this discussion, the classification of differing personalities helps. Labels can help identify certain characteristics, but remember when you put that Label on a box, you’re not just putting something in a box. You’re keeping other things out.