Discover Your Child’s Learning Style

I recently re-read Discover Your Child’s Learning Style by Mariaemma Willis and Victoria Kindle Hodson.  I first picked this book up about three years ago when DD#1 was only three-years-old.  I figured that she was overdue for a clearer assessment since a lot of development can happen in three years.  Plus, assessing learning styles at age three is a little tricky.  For instance, my husband and I separately went through the Preschool Assessment for DD#2 and came up with totally different answers.  So, I mainly focused on DD#1 since she is our school-aged child.

DD#1 and I spent about 30 to 45 minutes going through the different questionnaires to asses her Disposition, Talents, Modality, and Environment.  I was not too surprised to learn that her primary disposition is what they call “Performing”. She had two secondary dispositions that were “Thinking” and “Inventing”.  Her primary modality (which people often confuse with learning style) is Tactile-Kinesthetic, but I was not able to distinguish a specific sub-modality (hands-on, whole body, sketching, or writing).  Again, her environmental needs were not too big of surprise:  quiet, while working in an up-right position at table or desk.  I think the talents section was a bit of a bust, though.  There were so many things that DD#1 has not had the chance to experience to know if she is talented at them, and to be honest I’m not sure how self-aware she was about some of her talents.

I felt that the next thing that I needed to do was assess myself.  So, I went through the various questionnaires and was again not surprised to learn that I have a “Producing” disposition and a Visual modality.  That’s why I excelled so well at school without really trying…traditional schools are perfect for people like me:  schedules, step-by-step instruction, and lots of books and workbooks.  I also scored high on Spatial and Word-Language talents, explaining why I kick butt with maps and word games (especially word games that include spatial distortion like Boggle).

Then I started comparing my results with those of my daughter.  I noticed that our disposition scores were somewhat opposite.  And except for a sub-modality of “writing” that is somewhat placed under Tactile-Kinesthetic, that modality wasn’t even a blip on my radar.  This alone made me aware of what DD#1 was really missing from her educational experience and that I will have to push myself outside my comfort zone some in order to provide her with what she needs to learn.

So, what does all of this mean?  How do I, the homeschooling parent, apply this information?  Well, the book offers a lot of suggestions for general activities such as games, skits, adapting sports, and “real life” experiences as well as suggestions for various curriculum that support each disposition and modality.  The real challenge is to apply this information specifically.  I can see now why certain things have worked for her in the past.  For instance, the home-made reading worksheets where she has to draw a picture for the word she reads really appeals to her Creative secondary disposition as well as her T-K modality.  And she has really absorbed the concept of days, months, and dates by crossing each day that passes on a calendar in her room–the “real-life” application and the physical act of putting an “X” in each box fit her needs perfectly.  We’ve also used our hopscotch mat to discuss addition and subtraction involving her entire body.  Now I need to expand on that.

I recently bought Janice VanCleave’s 201 Awesome, Magical, Bizarre & Incredible Experiments.  Thankfully the experiments seem fairly simple and many of them use objects we already have around the house.  I’m starting to look into models and kits to recommend for my oldest daughter’s Christmas/Birthday list.  And while we have the van available this summer I am hoping to load everyone for a lot of field trips.    I’m really trying to think outside my box for ways to incorporate manipulatives that we already have or inexpensive ones that we can buy.

Two last things that keep crossing my mind:

  1. I shouldn’t give her any grief if she needs to use her fingers to do her math.  That’s just what she needs to do as part of her learning process.  Even if she has to use her fingers when she’s fifty, it really shouldn’t matter as long as she gets the right answer that she needs.
  2. I don’t want to get so overly absorbed with trying to come up with activities that fit her learning style that it begins to overwhelm us.  I need to find a balance between going outside my comfort zone in teaching method without compromising our family’s need for simplicity, free time, and money in the bank.

So, right now I am in research mode for ideas to start implementing this fall.

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