Learning Strengths and Preferences

school for the animalsAn old story tells of the creation of a school for the animals. In this school, everybody took the same four courses: flying, swimming, climbing, and running. Among the students were a duck, a flying squirrel, a fox, and an elephant. These four were highly motivated, and wanted to get good grades, so they all tried very hard.

The duck did fantastically well in swimming and flying, but he lagged behind his classmates in climbing and running, so focused special attention on those two subjects. However, his feet became so sore from trying to run and his wings were so bedraggled from trying to climb that by the end of the year he not only failed both those subjects, but made C’s in swimming and flying, which had once been his two best subjects.

At the beginning of the school year, the squirrel was first in his class in climbing and running and was second only to the duck at flying. But as the months wore on, he missed so much school from catching pneumonia in his swimming class that he failed everything.

To make matters even worse, because the squirrel constantly squirmed and chattered in class, and had difficulty paying attention, he was diagnosed with a learning disorder. The squirrel eventually was placed in remedial classes and had to be medicated in order to continue with his school work.

The fox was a natural in his running class and scored well in climbing and swimming, but became so frustrated at his inability to get good grades in flying that he began assaulting his classmates. He even tried to eat the duck. His behavior was so disruptive he was expelled from school. He fell in with a rough crowd and eventually wound up in a center for animal delinquents.

The elephant, meanwhile, developed low self-esteem because he couldn’t do well in any of the subjects. When he sank into clinical depression, his therapist persuaded him to try a different school that focused on subjects such as lifting and carrying. The elephant was disappointed, because careers in lifting and carrying were not as prestigious as careers in flying, swimming, climbing, or running. Even though he always felt inferior, he managed to make a decent living and support his family.

Our Children are Individuals

The point of this silly story about a school for the animals is that modern education sends every child through a program of study that is targeted toward a “generic” child. It expects every student to be able to follow the same course of study in the same sequence, without considering innate aptitudes or individual differences that are crucial to children’s abilities to learn. Schooling does not take into account differing personality types or temperaments.

Parents who understand learning differences can be more sympathetic with the frustrations their children face in school and more helpful in finding alternative approaches. The two major learning differences among children have to do with learning styles and learning readiness.

Conditions that affect learning

Each person has a dominant or preferred mode of receiving information. People also have different ways in which they process input, different innate aptitudes, and different temperaments. These differences in learning modalities can profoundly affect their ability to learn. A Visual learner is one who learns best through visual images, pictures, diagrams, etc. and by watching others do something. Visual learners tend to be print oriented and can learn by reading about a subject. Some visual learners are strictly Print learners. Auditory learners do better with lectures, songs, stories and other oral material. Kinesthetic learners favor interacting with what they are learning by doing and touching. Most young children are kinesthetic learners, but oftentimes boys will continue to need “hands-on” materials even when they are older.

Social or Group Interactive learners learn best through group participation, conversations, and discussion.A child will give you clues as to which kind of a learner he is not only in his activities but also in the words he uses to express himself. If a child observes and remembers details, likes beautiful things and bright illustrations, and tends to express himself with phrases such as “Look at this!” or “I see what you mean,” that child is probably a visual learner. If the child often sings to himself or makes up songs, can remember what people say, and uses expressions like, “Listen to this!” or “I hear what you’re saying” to mean he understands, he may be an auditory learner. The child who likes to touch everything, take things apart, and uses expressions like, “I get it” is most likely a kinesthetic learner.

In addition to one or two favored learning styles, each person has a dominant thinking style dependent on whether he or she processes information with the right or the left hemisphere of the brain. Left hemisphere thinking is sequential, analytical, rational, and interested in details. Right hemisphere thinking is “whole concept,” intuitive, subjective, and artistic. Another component of learning is what scientists call The Seven Intelligences. Different people have various innate abilities that make certain studies easier for them. This innate aptitude may be musical, artistic, logical-mathematical, linguistic, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, or intra-personal.

Linguistic Intelligence is the ability to use and understand language; Logical-Mathematical Intelligence is the ability to use numbers and math concepts.Visual-Spacial Intelligence is the ability to understand the relationships of images and figures in space. Musical-Rhythmic Intelligence is the ability to hear tone and pitch and to sense rhythm. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence is the ability to move with grace and strength. Interpersonal Intelligence is the ability to work with other people and lead them. Intra-personal Intelligence is the ability to understand one’s own emotions, motivations, and goals.

People who have highly developed intelligence in one area may be weak in other areas.In addition, a child’s temperament and his spiritual gifting can have a powerful influence on his ability to learn. Profound differences in people’s personalities cause them to be more receptive to certain learning environments and methods.

Determining your child’s learning preferences can be important because traditional teaching methods and materials favor the serious and deliberate temperaments, visual and auditory learners, left-brained thinkers, and linguistic and logica-lmathematical intelligences.

Resources to discover how your child learns best

A Learning Self-Portrait. Developed by the authors of Discover Your Child’s Learning Style, this is the most powerful and user friendly learning styles inventory in the world and it is NOW ONLINE! A Self-Portrait™ Profile assesses several aspects of learning style, quickly and simply, in language that is easily understood by everyone. These aspects are: Disposition, Modality, Environment, Interests, and Talents. If you want help in understanding what makes your child “tick” and how your can help him or her learn easier and better (or find out more about yourself), take this easy, quick learning styles assessment test. For more about this learning styles assessment test, CLICK HERE>> 

The Way They Learn is a book you need. Period. It has more potential to improve your child’s education – and your family relationships – than almost any other book I have ever read. The authors of this book have developed a “Learning Styles Model” of education that helps you discern your child’s:
• Talents
• Interests
• Preferred learning environment
• Thinking Style
• Modalities
The book includes handy self-tests. Use these to find out just how each child in your family loves to learn… and what teaching approaches help or hinder his learning style. What a huge difference this will make in your homeschool… and in your family relationships!

How Your Child Learns Best: Brain-Friendly Strategies You Can Use to Ignite Your Child’s Learning and Increase School Success takes a little different approach. It explains learning styles, but focuses on the best way to prepare and teach the different kind of learners what they need to learn in math, English, history, and so forth.

Discover Your Children’s Gifts will help you uncover your children’s natural giftings and personality traits. It helps explain why their personality “quirks” are really evidences of their own God-given gifts. The theological foundation is very sound, making good sense of the main passages on spiritual gifts in a way very few others do. Gifts are broken into 1) Manifestation (sign gifts – 1 Cor 12-14; Acts 2) 2) Ministry (equipping gifts – Eph 4) & 3) Motivational (every-Christian-gifts – Rom 12).

Dreamers, Discoverers & Dynamos: How to Help the Child Who Is Bright, Bored and Having Problems in School. Every now and then a book comes along that fills in so many gaps in my understanding that I want to tell everyone about it. Dr. Pallodino suggests that one in five children is an “Edison Trait child,” meaning he or she has one or more of the following: dazzling intelligence, an active imagination, a free-spirited approach to life, and the ability to frustrate the you-know-what out of others. The heart of the issue is that these children think divergently, while schools generally reward convergent thinking. This book discusses the different types of approaches to life your children may have (dreamer, discover, or dynamo) and how you can most help each type succeed.

Picks for Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing the Right Curriculum and Approach for Your Child’s Learning Style] by Cathy Duffy. I’ve always recommended Cathy’s curriculum guides as the best out there for choosing teaching materials that “mesh” with who your family is. Now Cathy guides you through the process, offering her “Top Picks” from each subject area.

A major feature of 100 Top Picks is the charts showing the 100 Top Picks in relation to educational approaches, learning styles, and practical features such as prep time needed; design for independent, one-on-one, or group learning; and ease of use for the teacher. Complete reviews of each of the Top Picks provide parents the information they need to make the best choices for each of their children.

The first half of 100 Top Picks covers information that will help you decide your child’s learning styles, help you decide what your “Philosophy of Education” is, and help you figure what to teach when. The second half has reviews for all 100 of the top picks. You will gain a lot of insight into what curriculum is available by reading these reviews. She even tosses some extra “Picks” here and there that would’ve made the list if her book’s title was “200 Top Picks”.

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