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.

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