Saturday, January 29, 2011

Learning Styles

In my writing and speaking on the subject of reading, I've often discussed the importance of recognizing learning styles.  Today I'm not focusing on the learning styles of the children, but the personality, interests, and learning style of  the mother.  So often, during the years when we are swamped with attending to the needs of others, we fail to pay adequate attention to our own needs.  That's why my cd called, "How to Avoid Being a Mommy Martyr" is the most frequently requested talk I give!  None of us wants to completely lose ourselves in the quest for being a successful homeschooling moms.

No matter how much we may try to focus on the needs of others, especially our children, our own subconscious needs and learning styles will always influence our interactions with others.  That's why it is important to take the time, once in awhile, to think through what those might be.

When I first starting talking about learning styles, many years ago, no one knew what I was talking about. Nowadays, most people recognize the differences between the visual learner, the auditory learner, and the kinesthetic one.  When talking about children, I have stated that you can begin to figure this out by observing your children when you read to them.  The auditory one will be staring into space; the visual one will demand to sit next to you and look at the page, and the kinesthetic one will be over in the corner playing with his trucks, or bouncing next to you acting disruptive.

One thing people forget, though, is that all of these learning styles can sometimes co-exist in a single learner!  You can overlap, you can change from one to the other, or you may find that one predominates in some circumstances, and another one in a different circumstance.  I'm a perfect example of this.  I clearly have some auditory learner inside me.  That's why I can stand up and give a 6 hour talk without notes; it is also why I rarely make hand-outs, and don't particularly like working with overhead projectors or other visual aids.  On the other hand, when I'm asked to spell a word, I write it out in the air. When my husband tries to give me directions, I have to have him make a map or write it out, which are both characteristics of visual learners.  When I was in college, I would make copious notes on every lecture.  However, I never read them or studied them later!  What appeared to be a visual need, (making notes), was probably actually a kinesthetic need...the need to be physically doing something in order to pay attention in class.

In order to get in touch with your own personality, interests, needs and learning styles, I suggest you take a trip back down memory lane and think of what you were like in the elementary years, before high school.  Once you get to high school, there are so many other influences, including the expectations of others, that you may have let your own needs get pushed down too far to recognize.

When I think of myself as a young child, several things come to mind.  I'm a nature girl, not exactly a tomboy, but definitely with tendencies in that direction. I always preferred "guy" things, like woodworking, to "girl" things, like sewing.  I always preferred being outdoors, and related better to plants and animals than I did to people.  My best friends were often boys. Observing my own needs, I recognize that I have a tremendous need for balance.  I've got to have some time alone, but I also need time with others.  When my children were young, I was often out of balance because I didn't have enough "alone time". Now I'm facing the opposite challenge.

Thinking about your own needs may seem a bit selfish....but it is one of the best things you can do for your family.  If you are a visual learner, you will tend to drive one of your sons crazy asking him to show you his math work.  If you are an "in-your-head" math person, you will drive somebody else crazy using the word, "just"...You just multiply the blah blah blah blah blah and then blah blah blah blah blah." Understanding how you think will help you to finally realize that everybody else does not have the same needs, wants, desires, interests, modes of thinking, or learning styles that you do.  Once you are clear what your own needs are, you will finally be freed up to focus on the genuine needs of your children.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Math and Science

The other night, at a small workshop, the following question was posed:  "I have a son who is good at reading, writing, and science, but bad in math and spelling.  People have suggested "math dyslexia".. Is there really such a thing?  Will it stop him from doing well in science?  What about spelling? How do I encourage him in the areas he is good at and help him in his weak areas?"

Well, kind a big question!  Let me try to answer at least part of this.  First, there is such a thing as math dyslexia. I know, because I obviously have it!  It was one reason I was pathetic in math when I was young. (The other reasons had to do with lack of motivation, frustration, self-fulfilling prophecies, and ultimately, giving up.) I didn't get better at math until I was an adult and had need to do so.  Since I've started working on it, I managed to teach through pre-calculus, run a business and then a non-profit corporation doing most of the bookkeeping myself, and be a statistics teaching assistant when I did my Ph.D.  Obviously, it can be overcome.  However, it takes a lot of motivation and determination, which are often not present in childhood.

Nowadays, for example, whenever I have to copy numbers (like from a checkbook to a ledger), I have learned I need to say them out loud and do them in groups of 3.  Otherwise, I'll have all the numbers, but the order will probably be wrong.  I'm appraising a house right now with the house number 2170...each time I use the number I have to look at it first.  I know there is a 2, a 1, a 7, and a 0...but it is 2710?  2107?  I've learned I have to check it EVERY time to be sure.

As far as the science connection goes, there is no need for math in the lower levels of don't need to know math in order to make a leaf collection, raise animals, study seashells, etc. (Of course, in some cases, it might be helpful....but it wouldn't prevent anyone from getting involved. ) If somebody later decides to become an actual scientist, and needs a degree, at some point the math will become important.  In order to get a degree in geology, for example, you need to take math all the way through calculus. As in my own case, I believe that the motivation will be strong enough later to overcome whatever real problems are present.

Also, I'm not sure how old the "son" in question is.   If he is still younger than 12 or so, it might not be a real learning problem at all. Perhaps it might be a question of poorly chosen curriculum materials (based on his learning style), lack of motivation, or other factors.  I have written extensively about this in the booklet, "Taking the Frustration out of Math" (also available as a cd)...For more info go to our website,

I'll tackle the "spelling question" another time.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Speaking Engagements

If anyone could help me get the word about about the following, I'd appreciate it!  I'm speaking in Austin TX at the Trust in Learning Conference on Feb 11-12. This is a small-ish conference with two main speakers, of which I am one.  For information, go to  (That makes way too much sense!). Also, if anyone is near where I live, around the Cartersville, GA area, I'm speaking at a home fellowship this coming Thursday.Jan. 20. Being a home,  attendance is obviously limited.  Email to see if there is still room and get directions. It is up towards the Euharlee area.

In other news, our ice finally melted!  I'm in the middle of writing a new article for "The Old Schoolhouse Magazine" on our mentoring program, and looking forward to finally getitng out to go running after a week of being a couch potato! 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Waiting for the Snowstorm

All of Atlanta is waiting right now for our promised 6 inch snowstorm. If it really hits, it should be interesting. As a former northerner, I'm always amused by how little snow it takes to shut everything down. However, to be fair, they have very little snow removal is usually "wait until it melts". Anyway, we have food and a wood stove, so we should be good to go. If we have electricity, I'm hoping to spend the time writing an article on "Relaxed Homeschooling" for a project that The Old Schoolhouse Magazine is doing this spring. If no electricity, maybe I'll have to get a yellow legal pad and do it the old-fashioned way....kind of looking forward to the snow, but I get cabin fever really fast when I can't go running. Hope we can get around enough to have our board meeting on Tuesday. Time to get some of our projects up and running for the year!