When teaching and learning styles conflict

A week and a half away from our formal start to the homeschool year and I’m feeling excited and apprehensive.  Excited because I’ve found some really good resources, the kind I’ve been lamenting the seeming non-existence of for four years.  Excited because who wouldn’t be excited at the door of a great adventure, especially one starting with an overnight trip to see a King Tut exhibit?  Excited because I think I am as eager to learn about what we’ll be studying as my children are.

And that is perhaps at the core of my satisfaction with homeschooling.  I homeschool for many and varied reasons, but I love it for who I am becoming as a result.  The idea of the teacher as a living text book, a model of the virtues and character traits we wish to instill in our children rather than simply a dictator of them, has inspired me to be more and do less.

While homeschooling, I am more intentional in my parenting, more inspired in my reading.  I am more consistent in studying scripture and reflect on it more deeply.  My days are more productive and my mind is more focused.

But I am also apprehensive, this year more than most.  At first, I wasn’t really sure why.  Last year was a tough year with the birth of a baby and a hospitalization with a long recovery.  Mouse is beginning the fifth grade, which is a pretty important year in my mind.  A transition year.  All things which work together to make me feel a little stressed.  I want my children to “be ready.”  For what is sort of ill-defined.

There is more to my apprehension, however.  We have been sort of playing at school while I read The Hobbit with the children and something is becoming readily apparent.  My daughter likes textbooks and workbooks.  She likes well-defined assignments, with clear direction as to the expected result.  Clear as in “fill in the blank” or “multiple choice.”  She doesn’t like open-ended assignments.  Opposite to me, she looks at the world from part to whole.

There is a lot of talk in homeschooling circles about learning styles.  One thing we don’t talk about that much (at least that I have seen) is teaching styles.  We all have one, and it is related closely to our own learning style. Mine doesn’t match my daughter’s.  We actually stand on opposite sides of the learning/teaching spectrum.

For me, that is a challenge.

16 comments
  1. Monica

    I feel the challenge as well. My tween and I are well matched with what I’ve come to understand as “left-brain dominate” learning style. We love language, words, communication and writing. My first boy is the complete opposite. What he learns from watching a video, amazing! What I’m still learning as a home schooling mom is that it’s okay to tailor each day to an individual child. Wish I learned it sooner!

    monica

  2. Shawna

    It was a huge challenge for us as well. And not only are our learning/teaching styles different, so are our approaches to life: introvert/extrovert. Thus, we chose a different course all together. In fact, we are still working it out 🙂

  3. Dana

    Yes, there is definitely that as well. She is much more the extrovert and I am much more the introvert.

    And I have to admit that I take it a little personally when she doesn’t like the stuff I’ve worked on for her and then happily goes about filling in worksheets. 🙁

  4. Julie

    Marissa much prefers the fill in the blank kind of assignments too. At first, this annoyed me. I saw it as a sign of a lazy brain. I would see her scanning a book for the answer rather than meditating on a passage. I have learned to be more accepting of neurodiversity. I have learned that when she fills in the blank, she learns what I want her to learn rather than focusing on an interesting, but (in the scheme of things) unimportant point. I could ask her a few why questions…

    And, every month or so, I had her do an open ended assignment that stretched her. Because, in real life, not everyone she comes into contact with is going to be as willing to accommodate her preferred learning style.

  5. Crimson Wife

    My oldest is a workbook lover too. I always associated worksheets with boring “busywork” from my experience attending a government-run school. But my mom made a very interesting observation when I was talking to her about the subject. She pointed out that the worksheets assigned to me by my teachers were always way too easy. She thinks I probably would’ve liked worksheets had they been appropriately challenging.

    In my homeschooling, the materials I’m giving my DD are at her own level regardless of what the suggested grade is. I’m not trying to force her to do a 2nd grade worksheet when she’s working at a 5th grade level just because her age places her in 2nd grade.

    I wish she liked the “hands-on” activities that look so fun to my eyes, but the whole point of homeschooling is to tailor instruction to what’s best for her. And if that’s workbooks, I’ll get her workbooks…

  6. Angela

    Interesting that you observed that your daughter is a part to whole thinker. I too am that way much of the time, I find that the whole at first overwhelms me and I love tiny details of information. I have learned as an adult to see the whole more especially as a parent as focusing on all the little parts can drive you crazy.

    I am starting homeschooling this year and I have a feeling you may have identified a potential “conflict” with my daughter and I as she tends to see the whole more and misses details which I have a tendency to believe is her being lazy.

    Thanks for all your thoughts on homeschooling. I really enjoy them.

  7. abby

    Ah, this is another way homeschooling is hard sometimes, isn’t it? I’ve realized over the last couple of years that while my older son learns well in my lang-based teaching style, he has a lot of visual learning gifts as well that I rarely utilize. It is hard to stretch ourselves- but being aware of it is a big step, right?

    And on the plus side, isn’t it easier to find a good workbook than spend hours putting together creative hands-on projects, or is that just my lazy bias talking?

  8. Rebecca

    I have workbook-and-clearly-defined-assignment lovers too. The Scientist, I’m learning, doesn’t like oral narration because she isn’t comfortable speaking out loud. She’s not crazy about written narration either. However, when I mentioned that I was putting study guides together for her to work on independently (because I want her to do some deeper thinking than plain old narration requires), she was thrilled. She doesn’t like when I draw spelling words from her ordinary, non-assigned writing, and she doesn’t want to write about her interests as part of lessons (even though kids are “supposed to” prefer that, aren’t they? Truth is, she does lots of writing about her interests). She likes knowing what I expect of her so she can comply and move on, keeping her own interests, writing, and projects as her own intellectual and creative territory. I’m learning to just determine what I think is most necessary for study, make some sort of well-defined requirement, and give her time and space to do her own thing.

  9. Kerry

    Have you looked at Cathy Duffy’s “Top 100 Homeschool Picks” (or something like that)? The first half of the book is a look at learning styles and she discusses how our learning style is going to also be our “go to” teaching style. She discusses the need to meet our children’s learning styles, but also recognizing that we have to take our teaching style into account.

    How this works out for me is that I just chose curricula with certain styles (mine or the child’s) in moderation: not all kinesthetic, nor all visual. And I tend to overcompensate in the area of each of our weaknesses (a good kinesthetic approach in the kinesthetic learner’s weak area; a good visual approach in my, the teacher’s, weak area).

  10. Dana

    I always feel like I’m being lazy when I feed her worksheets. OK, maybe that is because I usually am being lazy when I do that, but she loves them. Learning to let go is a long (life long?) process, at least for me.

  11. ChristineMM

    I think there are a few issues here that I’ve separated out that you have still mixed together in one pot.

    1. Homeschool method or style (unschooling, classical and so forth)

    2. Learning Style (auditory, visual, kinesthetic and the others).

    3. Brain dominance (concrete sequential = left brained or visual spatial = right brained)

    There is what works for mom and what works for the kids. In non-dictatorship home schools, IMO the learning is customized to each child as best as possible to give a unique learning experience which is a major reason why I am homeschooling (and why some others are too, for freedom in learning not just to escape being inside of a school building).

    It is not easy to let go of our own ideas to do what is best for a child.

    It is not easy if the family has more than one child and the kids are different, since sometimes radically different activities and learning experiences wind up being done with each kid (lots of work for mom).

    I should probably blog about this to go deeper into what I discovered and what my opinions are so I don’t hog up your comments space.

    If anyone wants more info on what the difference is between right and left brained learners see the article authored by Linda Silverman, just google her name and “visual spatial” and it comes up on her site (for gifted kids).

  12. Anita Tedaldi

    My kids are younger right now but I can already see that my older daughter an I can easily disagree on things. I like that she’s independent and so interested in finding her own way of studying and being involved with learning but sometimes it’s a tough balancing act 🙂

  13. Cathi-Lyn Dyck

    Opposite situation here…my oldest *hates* worksheets. Getting him to do any formal learning is like pulling teeth. But, likewise, although we do lots of unschooling, paperwork comes under life skills. And so does basic math. I haven’t answered for myself, satisfactorily, how I feel best dealing with that. I’m no example of engaging in math for the sheer fun of it.

  14. Jennifer in OR

    I have varied styles in my family, too. Sometimes it’s nice when my husband works with the kids like him, and I work with the kids like me.

  15. Centaur

    Thank you so much for this story! I love reading stories like this. I was homeschooled, and I know that Mom felt the same way about it when she taught us (two of us thought like Mom, three of us thought like Dad). Thank you for what you are doing for your children, even if your kids don’t tell you that for a few years. Thank you.

    Have a wonderful day!

    Centaur

    “I watch the stars, for it is mine to watch, Badger, as it is your’s to remember.” — Glenstorm

  16. HSCC

    One of the greatest benefits of teaching your own children is the fact you know them better than anyone else, and therefore are much better equipped to adapt your own teaching style to your students needs. This is huge! Since every kid is different, he or she will learn differently as well. It really isn’t any wonder why homeschooled students constantly out-test their public-school peers. I know I’m probably ‘preaching to the choir’, but it begs repeating over and over, because it’s so important!

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