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When Your Teaching Style and Your Kids’ Learning Styles Don’t Mesh

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In homeschool circles, there is a lot of talk about teaching styles and learning styles – but what if your teaching style and your kids’ learning styles don’t mesh?

For a long time, I would have called us a kinesthetic family. I love teaching with hands-on learning and the kids enjoyed learning that way. Even learning style quizzes – including the survey in the Victus Study Skills program we used last year – would peg them as hands-on learners.

When Learning and Teaching Styles Don't Mesh

However, in a moment of frustration last January, I suggested we try workbooks. My teens both jumped on the idea. They immediately saw the benefits of working independently of each other and at their own pace, rather than me working with them at the dining room table.

Even though the homeschool section of our local used bookstore makes me break out in hives, filled to the brim as it is with used workbooks, I’ll admit that I recognized the same benefits the kids were seeing, along with a decrease in teaching time for me. So, we gave workbooks a try.

They are a surprisingly good fit for my teens. I’ve since talked to a handful of homeschooled teens and grads who admitted that they preferred workbooks, as well. Both my kids like working at their own pace – my boy likes to sit down and get it done while the girl is not opposed to frequent breaks and rabbit trails.

They also like the fact that the schedule of one of them doesn’t affect the other now that they’re working on their own. Josh can do his work while I take Megan to gymnastics, for example (though she’s not currently doing gymnastics). She can do some of her work late at night when the house is quiet and her friends aren’t online.

And me? I miss learning alongside them, but I’m not going to lie – having the day open for whatever I need to be doing around the house or with my work is kind of nice. I still get called in to help throughout the day, but I’m not needed constantly.

So, what do you do when your kids’ learning styles don’t mesh with your teaching style?

It’s pretty simple: Make adjustments and deal with it.

When Your Teaching Style and Your Kids' Learning Styles Don't Mesh

If you’re in a situation like I am where you have independent learners working on their own, it’s easy (mostly) to just move on and consider yourself retired from that season of teaching – unless a great opportunity arises for a science project or something.

Generally speaking, I’d say to try to work within your kids’ learning styles as much as possible. However, that saying “if mama ain’t happy, nobody is happy” is true. If you’ve got younger kids who need you to be actively involved in their day-to-day education, it’s not wise to cater to them to the point of making yourself burned out and miserable.

Besides, kids need to learn how to learn and process information in a variety of ways because that’s just the way life works. Not everything is going to be taught with hands-on projects – or boring workbooks. {grin}

I have a friend with a large family and a wide range of ages. She was not a fan of unit studies, so multi-level teaching was pretty much out, and she couldn’t physically work with each child individually all day long. They have been a workbook family for as long as I can remember. Still, she made it a point to do group projects with them throughout the year. For example, they often participated in things like our Around the World Day.

Two of her kids have graduated and they’re doing just fine – no lasting trauma from years of workbooks and lack of hands-on learning. (Yes, that last bit was said with humor.)

That same principle would work if your kids were the workbook fans while you’re the hands-on one – let them them use workbooks the majority of the time, but plan a related, hands-on project once a month or so.

If you have auditory learners, but the thought of reading aloud throughout the day makes your head pound, try audio books. If you feel a strong need to teach lecture style, do it for a subject or two. It’s good for kids to practice note-taking skills.

Also, remember that homeschooling goes through seasons. In the 12+ years that we’ve homeschooled we’ve used unit studies, hands-on learning, games, an extremely eclectic mix of curriculum, an all-inclusive curriculum, and now workbooks. Each was the best fit for that particular time in our homeschool. It’s important to be willing to recognize when it’s time to make adjustments.

In all honesty, changing to workbooks was probably one of the best things we’ve done for our homeschool since switching to Trail Guide to Learning a few years ago, because it fits well with our current season.

Don’t get too wrapped up in teaching styles and learning styles. It’s good to recognized them and make them work for you as much as possible, but it’s fine to experiment until you find the right blend for your family and adjust as needed. As long as everyone is learning without being completely frazzled, it’s all good.

In what ways has your homeschool changed over the years and how have you adjusted when your kids’ preferred learning methods didn’t mesh with your preferred teaching style?

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12 Comments

  1. Brilliant advice, Kris. I recently noticed that, although we were getting on great as a family, the ‘homeschooling’ bit of our days wasn’t as much fun as it used to be. Luckily we have quite a relaxed style, so we’re able to take a few weeks’ break. I’ve already noticed the benefits of this breathing space – for example I’m having some great conversations with my 11 year old about the direction she wants to take her learning in. I’ve seen you write before about not being afraid to stop doing something that’s not working, and I completely agree. Sometimes we need some space to accommodate little (or big) changes in learning style as our kids grow up.

    1. I love when kids start taking ownership of their education. It’s hard sometimes when it doesn’t go the direction you’d prefer, but so good for them and fulfilling to watch.

  2. I learn so much from you! My kids are still all 8 & under so the idea of seasons is so important for me. Homeschool is not always going to look the same – that’s the beauty of it but I love consistency (…to the point of complacency sometimes…) so this is a great reminder.

  3. We did workbooks more this year due to my work schedule, and we really missed learning together. We are going back to more hands on next school year, but I totally see why workbooks are great for independent learning. I think we will be going back to them in a few years!

  4. Hi Kris,
    sometimes this is a message we don’t want to here. Thanks for the bravery to write it.
    We can get so obsessed about our method and we try to make sure our kids stay within our system. Having CM leanings I found the introduction of more textbooks in the upper elementary years a little guilt producing. However I can see that I need to do what works for them and not just stick to me ideologies when it’s obvious a more eclectic mix of resources suit them.
    Michelle

  5. I was so “gung ho” about doing CM this year but quickly implemented workbooks. Now that I started blogging I needed them to work independently. I really appreciate this post because I do have guilt over not being able to work with them with hands on projects or discussions as often as I’d like to. It’s good to hear that what we are going through is normal and that other people are in the same situation.
    I decided that next year we would plan more discussions and hands on projects but not every week.

  6. I am constantly having to remind myself of this. I LOVE hands on learning. The idea of teaching math while baking and knitting makes me giddy. My daughter, on the other hand, just wants worksheets. My heart broke a little the first time she told me that. But we’re both much happier now that I have learned to go with her lead. We still do some hands on learning too. It’s a nice compromise! 🙂

  7. Hello!
    My children learn best with DVD’s (SOS). Have you all done DVD’s Kris? How do you feel about them?

    1. We did SOS for my oldest. For my kids, I’ve found that it’s best if I can keep as much of their school day off the computer as possible. There are too many distractions when their laptops get turned on.

  8. Where do you find workbooks? I’m a homeschooled fifteen year old and I’ve been looking for workbooks but haven’t been able to find any for high school.I’m not a Christian, but I have used several Christian- based textbooks before, such as Mystery of History (which I’ll be using again this year) and Apologia.

    1. Alpha Omega, A Beka, BJU, ACE, Basic Christian Education, and Landmark Freedom Baptist all sell workbooks for high school. All of those are Christian companies. I can’t think of any secular workbook publishers off the top of my head, though I’d guess there probably are one or two. Hope that helps.

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