How to Homeschool: Determine Your Child’s Learning Style

Posted:
Apr
23
2012

One big step toward homeschooling successfully is determining your child’s learning style. Most kids have a natural bent toward one of four main learning styles, which means they take in and retain information more effectively when it is received in one of four ways to which they are naturally inclined.

Like personality styles, few people are 100% any given style, but most lean heavily toward one or two than toward the others.

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There are four main learning styles: kinesthetic, visual, auditory, and tactile.

Kinesthetic

Kinesthetic learners are your active, hands-on kids. They learn best through movement and activity. These are the kids who learn through doing and tend to be good at sports, dance, and drama.

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They will have a hard time sitting still and may fidget while working. They often like to do two things at once, like listening to music while they study. Kinesthetic learners may be able to focus better sitting on a stability ball while they work.

Being active can help their memorization. For example, these kids may do better practicing their spelling words while bouncing on a mini-trampoline, rather than trying to sit still. Sitting still may actually make it harder for them to pay attention.

Visual

Visual learners take in information best through ways that they can see – images (videos, plays), drawings, diagrams, maps, and colors. Drawing pictures to remember vocabulary words or making diagrams to cement math facts are helpful tools for visual learners.

These are the kids who learn well by taking notes, making lists, highlighting key concepts, and sketching out ideas. They need it to be quiet to study and learn. I found it interesting that reading is not a key method of learning for visual learners. Reading happens in the language center of the brain, making it auditory, rather than visual.

An interesting note from Learning Abled Kids:

“Not all visual learners have dyslexia, but all children with dyslexia are visual learners.”

 

Auditory

Auditory learners learn though – you guessed it! – sound. These are the kids who do well with lectures and read-alouds. They probably like to talk and listen to music. They’re the kids who do well putting facts to music to study for a test and who respond well to oral directions.

Auditory learners may read out loud to themselves when trying to understand something. They tend to be good with words or language and are abstract, conceptual thinkers.

Tactile

Tactile learners are often lumped with kinesthetic learners because they, too, are hands-on. The difference is that tactile learners learn best through exploring with their senses.

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Tactile learners are the kids who like to manipulate things – blocks, math manipulatives, models, and puzzle pieces.  These kids learn by doing and touching. Good tactile teaching tips include letting a child “write” out their spelling words with their finger on sandpaper or in shaving cream, using beans as counters when practicing math skills, or building salt-dough maps when studying geography.

Learning Style Assessments

Now that you are familiar with the four basic learning styles, you probably have an idea which one best suits your child. However, if you’re still wondering, The Way They Learn is a highly recommended book.

There are also several online learning style assessments, such as the Vark assessment for kids 12-18 years old and Abiator’s online assessment tool.

I hope this gives you a bit more insight into how your child learns best. Next we’ll tackle one of the big hindrances to new homeschoolers – the naysayers. Those skeptical friends and family members can make even the most independent-thinking person doubt herself. We’ll talk about how to handle the questions with grace and confidence.

This post contains affiliate links.

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Kris

"Kris Bales is the classically eclectic, slightly Charlotte Mason homeschooling mom to three amazing kids, the Christ-following, sweet tea addicted wife to one unbelievably supportive husband, and the formerly obese, couch-potato-turned-healthy runner of a bunch of 5K races and two half-marathons."

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13 thoughts on “How to Homeschool: Determine Your Child’s Learning Style

  1. Lisa

    This is very informative and condences all that information into one, easy to read & understand article.  I have one primarily kinesthetic learner and one primarily visual learner.  One might wish for children that all possess the same learning style.  But I enjoy teaching in different ways. :)

    Reply
  2. Sally

    I just wanted to say a quick (and heartfelt) thank you for these wonderful posts.  I am loving the 10 days of homeschool 101, especially since we will begin our first year of homeschool next year (grades 3 and 5).  Eek!  I have been using your blog as a resource now for a couple of months and am so thankful for bloggers like you. 

    Reply
  3. Kris

    Thank you so much, Sally! It means the world to me to receive comments like yours. Good luck next year! I pray that homeschooling is an incredible blessing for your family.

    Reply
  4. Lisa M.

    I am 99% sure my son is auditory listener. Learns very quickly thru music. i can read a book out loud -picture book or chapter book–and he can easily give me back LOTS of details without any pictures to help him. He talks a mile a minute and asks a bazillion questions. He likes to sing while he works. LOL!

    Reply
  5. gwyneth

    I want to add a note of caution about this subject.  First – there have been studies showing that while children definitely have preferred methods of learning, it does not always follow that they learn better than with other methods. More recent research has suggested that teachers (in this case public school, but I think it applies to homeschoolers as well) change up modalities frequently to maintain interest, and to pick  styles of teaching to suit a topic rather than to suit a child. 
    Second – it is important that your child is able to learn the material you are presenting, but it is also very important that your child learns to learn, learns to be adaptable in any situation and learn a topic despite difficulties. This was a pet peeve of mine when I was a public school teacher, and when I was a tutor in college. Where students complained that their teacher doesn't adapt all their lessons to their learning style, or their prof didn't explain things like they did in high school. I don't want my kids to fall into that industrial education mindset – that they are a widget on a conveyor belt being filled with knowledge, and if they are a kinesthetic learner, they are slightly different from the other widgets and the teacher will need a different adapter to properly fill them. I want them to own their education, to know that _they_ are the learner.When they have profs (as I did in college) that barely spoke english, when they may have training courses on the job taught by someone who has all the organizational skills of a hamster, when they have a project at work with no guidance on how  to do it, they will not be cowed because it is not presented to them in a way they find fun or easy. My hope is that they will adapt, and they will learn, and I want to homeschool with that goal in mind.

    So, when you inevitably come across a topic, and you cannot think of any cool way of presenting it other than in a lecture format, don't worry. They will need to learn that way too sometimes, it is as good a time as any to teach them how.

    Thank you for this series, by the way. I have very much enjoyed it so far.

    Reply
    1. Gisela Daniel

      This is helpful. As a new homeschooling mother, I keep trying to figure out which way is best for my son to learn and getting so frustrated! I’m finally realizing I can’t put him a box and choose curriculum based on one style because he is a complex kid.

      Reply
  6. Kris

    Thank you. I'm glad that you've enjoyed the series.

    I understand what you're saying. I agree that it isn't profitable — or, in my opinion, even possible — to teach 100% in any learning style. However, it is a good idea to be familiar with the various learning styles and your child's tendencies, particularly when you have a child who learns differently than the norm. Being familiar with the styles allows you to switch things up when a child isn't learning in a particular way. I know, for example, for my very visual learner we had to use lattice math, something I had never even heard of before, to help cement the idea of multiplying multiple digits. However, once she saw how it worked using this very visual method, she was then able to work the problems the traditional way.

    I don't think it's a matter of not allowing children to learn in a variety of ways, but rather, being willing and able to adapt and show your child different ways of learning. From our experience with math, for example, my daughter learned that just because something doesn't make sense the way it's being explained, doesn't mean that she's not smart or that there isn't another way to figure out the same problem. I think exploring learning styles can be a great way to encourage out-of-the-box thinking, rather than being a way of restricting learning.

    Reply
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