Different Learning Styles in Children- Does It Affect Your Homeschool?
You picked all your curriculum out for the year and are very excited to start. Shortly into the new school year, you realize something isn’t working right. Maybe your child is bored or complaining about the work. Perhaps he is struggling with all the writing it requires. Maybe sitting in the chair for long periods of time makes him antsy. Even though you’ve had him write his spelling words ten times each twice this week, he just can’t seem to remember them. He wants to touch everything you put in front of him and do anything except his work.
These situations could be that your child just doesn’t want to do his work. But what if that wasn’t it? What if the curriculum you chose isn’t right for him? The different learning styles in children can play a large role in how they respond to the curriculum you choose.
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What are the different learning styles?
There are four primary learning styles that children can have.
Look at the way your child reacts to the environment around him. Sometimes you can start to see the characteristics of these styles at a very early age. However, all children go through different stages that may display any of these four styles so it can take a while to actually know for sure which one is the most dominant. Children are naturally curious and active so they all are tactile and kinesthetic learners in infancy and as toddlers. Eventually though, especially once they reach school age, one will surface as their distinct way of learning.
The Auditory Learner
The auditory learner is going to acquire information through hearing. You may notice that he repeats things he’s heard. He remembers the words to songs or stories very easily. If you give him a set of directions, he can easily follow them. This child does well in a learning situation where someone is lecturing to him. Sitting down to read long passages by himself is going to be a chore.
The best curriculum choices for an auditory learner will involve listening to read alouds, audiobooks, and discussions. Look for products that incorporate narration as well. This can be the magical solution to getting questions answered. Putting things to music such as math facts makes learning like second nature to him.
Some suggestions to help with the curriculum you already have is for an older sibling read to him. If there isn’t an older sibling, you can dictate and record passages into an iPod or smartphone for the child to listen to and follow along in the book if he likes. Some homeschool history companies out there sell an audio CD version of their books and those are wonderful to use. Sometimes just having the child read out loud to himself is helpful.
Something else to take into consideration when you are dealing with an auditory learner is that he can be very distracted by the noises going on around him. I have found that using a pair of noise-canceling headphones while doing school work helps tremendously.
The Visual Learner
The visual learner grasps new information through writing. This type of child likes to take notes and copy things from the board. He likes to look at pictures and remembers them easily. He can easily distinguish the difference between shapes, numbers, letters, and colors. He has a hard time following oral directions.
The best curriculum choices for a visual learner will involve writing, copy work, photos, and illustrations. Educational videos are a great way for this child to take in information. Charts and graphs are very memorable and matching games make learning a breeze. They often tend to like workbooks as well.
As with the auditory learner who is distracted by noises, the visual learner can be distracted by any movement going on in the room. An easy fix for this is to buy a tri-fold display board like the ones used for science fairs and put it on the table in front of him to block out any motion.
It’s not unusual for him to enjoy having a visual checklist nearby where he can see his work being completed as he checks it off throughout the day.
The Tactile Learner
The tactile learner is the hands-on child. He learns by doing. The more he can touch and feel as he learns the better. This is the child that has to reach for everything in the store. It’s not that he is being bad, he literally needs to touch things to get a better understanding. He needs to feel how cold the ice is or perhaps he may even try to touch a hot stove after being told it could burn him. He is attracted to objects with different textures and shapes. He likes to play with blocks or Legos and build things. He can have difficulty following directions.
The best curriculum choices for a tactile learner will need to include hands-on activities. He will remember information best by playing games, building models, writing in the sand or shaving cream. He will usually like to do crafts and art projects. Building and creating things is where he will excel.
I have found in the homeschool world there is a lot of curricula out there that offers these types of activities. What I have also found is that most parents don’t enjoy having to do them. Sometimes it’s worth the extra money to find a curriculum that includes all the materials needed or where most of the work has already been done for you if you can afford it.
The Kinesthetic Learner
Kinesthetic learners have to move! They use their whole body to take in information. This is the child that doesn’t just walk. He runs, jumps, skips or glides across a room. You know the kind of kid I’m talking about. He finds it extremely difficult to sit still for long periods of time. He almost can’t think without moving and there is research out there to prove his brain works better when he is. This is the child who is sadly labeled the troublemaker in school. He is not wired to handle a traditional classroom setting and therefore will suffer and continue to fall behind as time goes by. It is assumed he is not as smart as his peers when that is just not the case.
The best curriculum choices for a kinesthetic learner will definitely involve some movement. Sometimes it can be hard to find products that present information in this manner but thankfully it’s the easiest one to adapt to any curriculum.
For example, if you are teaching spelling words, have the child jump up and down for every letter as he spells it out. Or perhaps clap out each letter. Even hanging a small basketball hoop on the back of a door in your house where a shot can be made when questions are answered correctly can be quite motivating. Trust me I’ve used this! Put problems on index cards on the floor and let the child hop on the correct answers. Make a fishing pole with a dial rod, string, and a magnet on the end. Attach paper clips to index cards on the floor (they can even be cut into fish shapes) and let him fish for the right answers to the questions you ask. A favorite in my house is a fly swatter. Put cards with answers on the table and let the child smack the correct answer.
Are you seeing a pattern here? Hopping, jumping, smacking- they are all effective. While teachers in the regular classroom fear this type of learner, it’s actually quite easy to accommodate him in a homeschool setting. Once you understand how he learns, the ideas are limitless.
Curriculum Suggestions for Different Learning Styles
Because some learning styles don’t work with traditional methods, a child can appear to have learning difficulties because he doesn’t seem to learn like the rest of the children around him. Yes, there can be learning disabilities. I am not trying to say this solves every problem, but often it can just be that he needs information presented to him in the correct modality. If your child doesn’t seem to be grasping concepts as well as he should, it’s definitely worth it to observe him and identify his learning style. Then take a good hard look at the materials you are using to see if they best fit the way he learns.
I know it’s frustrating to spend hard-earned money on products, especially when they are costly, only to realize they aren’t working. Sometimes we have to decide to change directions in the middle of the year. I can assure you though if you take the time to learn about the different learning styles in children and discover your child’s specific style, you will be able to choose an appropriate curriculum. This is a step in the right direction and you and your child will be much happier for it!
Hi, I’m Heidi!
I have been homeschooling my three children for 14 years now. It's my mission to take the fear out of homeschooling so you can confidently teach your children as well.
Have you discovered your child’s learning style? Do you know your own? Let me know in the comments below.