Friday, April 3, 2009

Discovering Learning Styles

After our homeschool offsite in January, it occurred to me that perhaps part of Theo and my struggles as a student-teacher pair has to do with learning styles.

MamaPeep recommended Discover Your Child's Learning Style.  The book really surprised me. First of all the authors seem to share my attachment principles and their vision for what education can be and should do for children closely mirrors my own. I took careful notes for a fawning review, but I've since lost them. Anyway, the book is now one of my favorites in regards to children and learning.

The bigger and more important surprise centered around Theo and my learning styles. Turns out my best learning situations are his worst, meaning my plans and strategies make great sense to me and seem fun, but they are often torture for him.  Theo's numbers clearly put him in the inventing/discovery style, mine were equally strong in the producing/organizing style. Imagine my dismay when I realized Theo (and Bill) rated in the negative numbers for my predominant way for approaching the world.

Even in the areas we are similar, my son and I have different tendencies.  For instance, we are both kinesthetic learners.  My version of kinesthetic tied with my highly aural tendencies and knack for organizing means taking notes while listening to a lecture is a near perfect learning environment for me.  Theo's version of kinesthetic means drawing intricate battle pictures or building a lego fort while listening to the lecture is his prime way of absorbing the information. It was so hard for me to trust this idea to let him do what seems like unrelated work while he listened to his history lectures. His recent results from the classes recent tests were phenomenal. Now his art portfolio grows daily at history time.

Taking the information in the book to heart, I've started to apply the ideas to each of our subjects.  Probably our biggest source of strife each day centered around spelling.  I knew the work wasn't too hard for him, so clearly the *way* we were working was.  Falling back on the idea of letting him use his body as broadly as possible, I assembled a list of 13 really different ways we could work.  I'm feeling quite proud of the list, so I thought I'd share.

Spelling Tactics for Theo
1. pen and paper
2. spell with Scrabble tiles
3. word scramble with Scrabble tiles
4. word search and write found words
5. write on white board
6. make the letter shapes with body
7. type words on the computer
8. trace letters in carpet
9. make cards of the words and sort by rule
10. spell the words as a cheer (give me an r, give me an i, give me a t, give me an e, what does that spell? RITE)
11. do a jumping jack as he says each letter (or a hop or execute a cool ninja pose)
12. write in flour on a cookie sheet
13. write in the bathtub with tub crayons

I still have a ton to learn about working within Theo's learning style. There is but a wee part of me that can imagine how "discovery" might look in the most general sense - never mind finding ways to apply "discovery" to specific subjects that I expect Theo to learn in order to rate this home education excellent. And the changes in enthusiasm and progress that we have seen here in the past 2 months invigorate me to learn more. I can't wait to see what we're doing a year from now.

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