By Kimberly Miller
If you are a parent of more than one child, you know firsthand that each child is unique. If you are homeschooling multiple children, you have probably observed that your children have varying tendencies in the way they take in new information. They may have differing preferences for how they learn. Even if you only have one child, you have probably noticed that your child picks up new skills and information in a different way than you do.
Maybe your daughter likes to read about a new subject to learn about it, but your son likes to dive in and use a more hands-on approach to learning. Maybe one of your children learns more quickly through pictures and images than through verbal instructions, while another loves to listen to sounds or music in order to integrate new knowledge. If any of these sound familiar to you, then you have been observing different learning styles in action.
Learning styles are, quite simply, the ways in which individual people learn best. Everyone has a mix of learning styles, varying to one degree or another, with one learning style usually dominant over the others. Learning styles can change throughout a person’s life as they grow and mature and develop other, less dominant styles.
Knowing about learning styles can be helpful for a homeschooling parent. Understanding learning styles and how they affect your child can go a long way toward aiding you in making your teaching—and your child’s learning—more effective and efficient.
The Four Types of Learning Styles
There are generally considered to be four main learning styles, and each person is dominant in one learning style, with other styles coming into play to varying degrees.
Visual learners prefer the use of images, maps, and graphic organizers to access and understand new information.
Auditory learners accumulate new knowledge best through the use of sound, music, discussion, and oral repetition. They often benefit from the use of mnemonic devices.
Verbal learners have a strong preference for reading and writing as a primary way of obtaining knowledge. They are often avid readers and extensive notetakers and generally do well at translating ideas and concepts into words.
Kinesthetic learners understand new information best through tactile representations of it. They are hands-on learners and they prefer acquiring new knowledge though physical interaction with the subject they are learning about.
Learning Styles in Action
Now that we understand what the four major learning styles are, let’s take a brief look at how an understanding of them can be applied in our day-to-day homeschooling.
A visual learner is often drawn to pictures, graphs, and maps. Providing lots of visual stimulation can help a visual learner to integrate new information more effectively. If you have a visual learner, be sure to provide him or her with plenty of visual aids as you introduce new concepts or work on acquiring new knowledge. Graphs, diagrams, pictures, charts, and other visual aids are especially useful for helping the visual learner succeed in homeschooling. Replace important words with symbols or colors in emphasize areas you want your child to focus on. Fill your environment with lots of colorful, eye-catching, and interesting stimuli that will help your visual learn gain and retain what they are learning.
An auditory learner loves music and sound and is drawn to the spoken word as a primary means of learning. Audiobooks, music, and mnemonic devices are all great ways to help an auditory learner progress in his or her educational efforts. Discussion can also be an important and effective way for the auditory learner to integrate new information or formulate new ideas. Talk with your child, listen to good music together, read aloud to them—all of these are important means of acquiring new knowledge for the auditory learner.
A verbal learner is centered on words as a primary source and expression of information and ideas. Verbal learners are usually book worms. They often like to express themselves through writing. Encourage your verbal learner to read and provide good quality books for them to read and learn from. Writing and other forms of verbal expression are important ways for the verbal learner to assimilate new information, so have your verbal learner do plenty of writing and help them develop their skills in expressing themselves through the written word.
A kinesthetic learner needs real life experience with new knowledge in order to be able to ground their understanding of it. They love to dive in to a learning opportunity and prefer to gain practical knowledge by actually doing a thing and developing a skill. Provide your kinesthetic learner with plenty of hands-on instruction and a chance to apply that learning. Include some kind of physical interaction into the subjects they are studying. Let your kinesthetic learner move around during school time—these children often need to participate in some sort of physical movement in order to engage the learning center of their brains.
This is just a brief overview of the four major types of learning styles. Much has been written about learning styles which we do not have room to cover here. Let this be a springboard to learning more and enhancing your homeschooling experience with a fuller understanding of how your child learns best. Whether your child is a visual, auditory, verbal, or kinesthetic learner, there is a curriculum available that will aid you in catering to your child’s educational needs and preferences. Armed with a better understanding of his or her learning style, you can be well equipped with the knowledge of how best to tailor your child’s education to his or her individual style.
Kimberly Miller is the mother of nine children and has been homeschooling them for over twenty years. She has served HOME for almost fifteen years as the Publications Coordinator and a Regional Representative. In addition to those roles, Kimberly is also a freelance editor and a published author of several books, both fiction and nonfiction. In her spare time, she loves reading good books, sipping tea, working in her garden, and enjoying the animals on her family’s hobby farm in Western Maine.