Why Knowing Your Own Learning Style Will Make You A Better Teacher

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(This post contains affiliate links, see my full disclosure here.)

Why Knowing Your Own Learning Style Will Make You A Better Teacher - The Musings of Mum

As a brand new homeschooler, 3 years ago I set out to create the ideal school at home. I read through countless books and articles. Watched way too many TED talks and devised the perfect “home/school” plan. I literally mapped out the next 12 years of home education, with a complete list of curriculum, projects, field-trips, etc. If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time you know I’m a planner. And a little very obsessive at times.
Math Geek Mama

How I Managed To Frustrate Everyone

Before we even began homeschooling, I did some research on learning styles, multiple intelligences and personality types. I even had most of the kids take online tests to confirm my suspicions and the year before we started, I attended a couple of lectures on learning styles.

I was well informed, and armed with a flawless plan. I was ready.

The perfect plan worked for two weeks. Maybe less. You see, the twelve year plan was so amazing that 90% of the expensive curriculum I “had to have”, was out the window before we finished our first semester. My husband was thrilled.

We tried all sorts of curriculum and homeschooling philosophies our second semester, only to finish the year late, frustrated and very confused. I felt like a complete fool!

Then, I remembered the learning style lectures I attended the previous summer. I pulled out my notes (obsessive note taker here), and this is some of what I had written down:

Pay attention to their interests, pay attention to how they misbehave.
Offer opportunities to strengthen.
Watch how YOU react, avoid your own perfectionism. 
Focus on specific correction 
** Allow them the freedom to explore!!

Then, I had a note about each of the girls learning styles.

It took me an entire school year to figure out that what went wrong was that I was trying to teach my kids using great curriculum and the ideal plan for me. As I browsed through catalogs, websites, and read reviews the year before I searched for what appealed to me, not realizing that my own interests had influenced every decision.
That first year, not only did I fail at teaching according to their learning styles, but I also failed to find out my own.
Below are some more notes I took at one of the lectures. Do these sound like you?

Learning Style Characteristic

I. Visual Learners

Ways They Learn:
Tend to often look up, use images, colors, shapes
Learn best from visual queues
Prefer pictures, colors and maps
Focus on traditional textbooks and workbooks
Tend to like visual arts, painting, drawings and collages
Learn using telescopes, microscopes and binoculars
Like checklists, visual organizers, and flashcards
Prefer movies & photos
Think in pictures
Challenges They Face:
Difficulty working in a visually messy or distracting environment
Difficulty taking action if they can’t see it being done
Difficulty listening to lectures without visual pictures
Sometimes lack auditory skills
Ways We Can Help:
Memory: visual memory is accessed by looking up from the normal eye view
Mnemonics: teach using memory tricks that involve visualization
During reading comprehension, ask the student to tell you what they pictured
Spelling help: have them create pictures or write the letters in different colors
Math facts: show them the problem with the answer before saying it.
Clutter free learning environment

II. Auditory Learners

Ways They Learn:
Learn from verbal instruction, music and sound
Learn by discussion and debates
Learn through audiobooks or being read to
Auditory repetition
Love music and sound effects
Tend to think in words
Challenges They Face:
Difficulty reading quickly when not allowed to vocalize
Difficulty reading silently for long periods of time
Difficulty following only written instruction
Difficulty taking timed written and written tests
Ways We Can Help:
Memory access for auditory: looking to the sides (near the ears)
Memory games
Memory lists to music or a rhythm
A quiet place to work

III. Kinesthetic Learners

Ways They Learn:
Characterized by doing & moving using the whole body, particularly the hands
Prefer hands on activities
Large motor skills
Art requiring movement-sculpting and woodworking
Fields trips & experiences
Spelling & math work done on large whiteboards, big movement is the key
Skits & role playing
Take breaks to move
Challenges They Face:
Difficulty interpreting non-verbal communication
Often have illegible handwriting
Difficulty sitting still
Difficulty recalling what seen or hearts
Ways We Can Help:
Memory: looking cd down when thinking about  touching something else
Have them physically create thins
Physically allow them to move

How Will Knowing Your Challenges Make You A Better Teacher?

I want you to focus on the challenges of your particular learning style.

Now ask yourself how often have you shied away from a great learning opportunity or social activity, because it didn’t make you comfortable? How many times did you like me try to impose your point of view or opinion on how-to, and which steps to take on a specific assignment or project?
When we can look past our own comfort zone, and open up to alternate teaching philosophies and scenarios, we can truly customize our childrens’ education. We now can give them the individualized learning experience they need.

Understand Strengths and Challenges, Then Adapt

I’m a visual learner, and it took me too long realize that my auditory and kinesthetic learners just didn’t function the same way I do. For example, though I have no problem sitting and reading in complete silence for hours at a time, my girls need ‘noise’. They need to move and have variations in their day. They CAN work when their desks are a complete mess (this one drives me crazy).

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We now play music throughout our day, we listen to audio books on the way to basketball practice or to field-trips. We read out-loud, we cook together when learning about different cultures. Last semester we built a castle while learning about the Middle Ages.

Now that we’ve found ways to work according to our learning strengths and with realistic expectations (on my end), our days have been more productive and a whole lot of fun.

For more on learning styles posts check out the Homeschool Blogging Network bloghop!

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