Now that we’ve covered the importance of understanding your child’s learning style and what it means to truly teach your child, it’s time to dig into the deeper question:
How do my children actually learn, and what can I do to better teach them?
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The Four Main Learning Styles
Before we explore the different learning styles, it’s important to note a couple of points.
First, realize that the learning styles described here are foundational guidelines, not concrete molds.
Each of us – and this includes each of our children – are unique individuals, not robots.
You might notice that your children fit into more than one style, or they might not fit every indicator. This is ok.
It’s perfectly normal. Promise!
You should, however, be able to see some patterns coming to light that will help you better understand how to teach your children.
Second, it’s important to understand that learning styles don’t often solidify before age 8 or 9, and that the traits will continue to become more clear as your children get older.
You may be able to see some emerging traits in your younger children, but most young children learn best through a combination of hands-on activities and discovery.
Ok, now on to the good stuff!
The Challenging Learner
This is the child that seems to defy any sort of focused teaching method…no matter what you try, it just.doesn’t.work. Schools may classify this child as defiant, hyperactive, or lazy (whether or not this is true).
On the contrary, this child often doesn’t fit any of these descriptions. Rather, these are the traits they tend to display when they’re forced to sit through instruction that makes no sense to them, that doesn’t come close to causing them to learn.
They want to learn…they simply don’t learn in ways that are typically used in classrooms.
Rather than sitting quietly in a highly structured system, reading a text and filling out worksheets, this child thrives on action and variety.
When taught in a way that he or she understands, impulsiveness shows its true face as quick-witted creativity.
Hyperactive tendencies transform into the ability to take risks and adapt to changing situations.
Defiance and laziness start to take a back seat to a competitive, resourceful nature.
However, this learning style comes with some inherent weaknesses that you, as the parent and teacher, will need to help your child compensate for or overcome.
The Challenging Learner tends to be distractible, to have a short attention span. This child tends to be disorganized, focusing on the present rather than planning for long-range goals.
While that may be par for the course at age 10, it can be pretty detrimental as an adult.
The Compliant Learner
This is the child that, on the surface, seems to be every teacher’s dream.
This student writes down the assignment, reads all the instructions, pays attention to all the details, does all the reading (and takes notes), and completes the assignments correctly – all with a great attitude.
His or her day is often sectioned out into blocks, and those blocks are adhered to meticulously.
Don’t get me wrong – these are all very good things. (Oh, that we could all be so organized!)
However, as with anything, there are inherent downsides to this learning style that must be addressed.
Although the Compliant Learner tends to excel with a tight structure and traditional learning methods (making him or her seemingly perfect for a classroom), there is often a pretty tight comfort zone as far as teaching methods go.
This child wants to know the schedule and expectations up front (so they can be met well and in a timely manner) and can become very uncomfortable as soon as the situation or subject matter veers out of the objective, highly structured comfort zone.
While this child’s natural traits can make him or her a dream to instruct, actually teaching and preparing them can be more difficult.
It’s not our job as parents and teachers to just produce strong grades and test scores…it’s our job to prepare our children for whatever life holds for them.
Oddly, life doesn’t tend to be highly structured and objective, giving us clear expectations from the start.
(Although admittedly, that sure would be nice!)
When teaching this student, it is often necessary to slowly move him or her from that tightly structured zone into the world of subjectivity and creative thought.
While formatting much of the instruction to meet your child’s learning needs, intentionally work in activities that require skills like creative thought or expression, deeper analysis, and persuasive writing or argument.
This will be uncomfortable for your child at first, but in the end, it will better prepare him or her to take on the challenges that life hands out after graduation.
The Competent Learner
The Competent Learner
This is the child that will practically learn in spite of your efforts, but will also keep you on your toes.
My son falls into this category, and let me assure you: homeschooling the Competent Learner is amazing in many ways, but it’s also one heck of a wild ride.
The good news is, you almost can’t mess up with teaching this child – at least not for long.
He or she will simply find ways to learn independently if instruction isn’t causing them to do so.
A quick note, though…you don’t want to just set them loose and record the results as grades. They need guidance and discussion in their learning, even in the upper grades.
The not-so-great news, especially in the younger years…your child will pretty much exhaust you with his or her intensity, questions, and insatiable desire for learning.
It’s important to understand this up front and to plan in whatever downtime you need. (Ask me how I know…)
Whatever best recharges you, do it. Ignoring it will only cause burnout.
That said, the Competent Learner is amazingly fun to teach!
This child truly wants to learn, understand, and apply whatever is being taught at a fairly deep level.
Seriously – this is the child that will take whatever instruction you come up with, devour it, and come back for more.
The Competent Learner tends to analyze information quickly, applying it wherever it seems to fit.
This is both a pro and a con; on the upside, this child will learn. You almost can’t prevent them from doing so. On the downside, however, your child is a child – meaning, he or she will likely not see all the connections to be made.
This is one of your main jobs in parenting and teaching this child: guidance.
Without guidance, this learner can tend toward becoming arrogant and demanding, discounting the ideas or actions of others who don’t make the same connections.
With guidance, however, this child can come to understand grace and humility on incredibly deep levels, learning to apply the patterns and ideas they see in ways that will both challenge and benefit others.
The Creative Learner
This one is easily the most difficult style for me to write about because…well, because it’s me.
It’s amazing how hard it is to write about your own traits, strengths, and weaknesses! Nevertheless, here we go.
This student is very people-oriented, creative, and ambitious; he or she tends to be a natural leader. (More on this in a moment.)
Dramatic, perceptive, and popular, this child also tends to be forgetful, careless, and have a huge array of interests.
The Creative Learner tends to gravitate toward group activities and away from instruction that consists of dry lectures or standard, routine activities.
He or she tends to be a “big picture” person, but one that wants to do everything in that picture at the same time.
The Creative Learner shares some traits with the Competent Learner: both are creative, abstract thinkers, visionaries, people who see what others don’t.
However, the Creative Learner sees the potential in people whereas the Competent Learner focuses more on concepts and ideas.
He or she loves to be part of a group, functioning as a performer or communicating in creative ways.
This child is flexible and tends to like out-of-the-box learning and life activities, but also tends to be weak in areas that require attention to detail (if that detail doesn’t result in a creative outlet).
Therefore, as the parent and teacher, you will need to slowly nudge your Creative child toward activities that require learning to work with technical details, as this is a necessary life skill.
One thing to be aware of…Creative Learners tend to be high achievers, since they love to be out in front of the crowd, but they also tend to tie their self-worth to the success of whatever they create.
This means that when their work is not well-received (or does not receive a strong grade), they will often perceive it as a rejection of themselves.
This is something to understand up front, to patiently guide them through; all of us face failure and rejection sometime in life, and how we react to it makes all the difference.
Bringing It All Together
In an upcoming post, I’ll discuss how to take what you’ve learned about your child’s learning modality and learning style to better decide on their curriculum, learning activities, and schedule.
In the meantime, think through what you’ve read so far. Make some notes. What new things have you discovered?