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Discover Your Child’s Learning Style

by Mariaemma Pelullo-Wills & Victoria Kindle-Hodson

Children begin life as successful learners! They are born with incredible eagerness and ability to learn.

After 50 years of combined experience working with students, we are convinced that parents are the most important teachers in a child’s life. In the book, Awakening Your Child’s Natural Genius, Thomas Armstrong states, “One of the most consistent research findings is the important role that parents have in educating their children. In program after program, where parents are closely involved in their children’s learning process, there has been a dramatic improvement in student motivation and achievement.”

There is a Swahili Proverb that says, “The greatest good we can do for others is not just to share our riches with them, but to reveal their riches to themselves.” And, as Dorothy Corkill Briggs says, “When children know uniqueness is respected, they are more likely to put theirs to use.” (from Awakening Your Child’s Natural Genius by Thomas Armstrong, 1991) Each child has unique gifts to contribute to the learning process. It is our job, as parents and teachers, to help kids know what their gifts are and how to nurture them.

The School Model of Education has traditionally provided one curriculum, one teaching environment, and one teaching methodology to fit all learning needs. (Many homeschooling programs follow this same model!). This structure has favored some learners, has left others out, and over the years has created a population of learning “misfits.” Everyday we work with young people and adults who are living with the effects of “learning style-biased” educational experiences. From these people we have learned that helping kids find out who they really are– what they are good at and what they love to do –is the most important way of maintaining natural curiosity and eagerness to learn.

We need to stop drawing attention to what kids can’t do and start emphasizing what they can do. We need to stop forcing kids to learn in ways that don’t work for them and start paying attention to the ways that do work. We need to stop telling kids who we think they are and start working with the person they know they are. We need to realize that when it comes to increasing learning success, a young person’s interests, talents, expectations, hopes, and goals for himself are better motivators than a parent’s or teacher’s goals.

The “school world” has known these principles for many years– since the 1890′s, in fact! Already, by then, in spite of this knowledge, “The status quo was rote memorization and recitation in classrooms thronged with passive children who were sternly disciplined when they expressed individual needs.” (from Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense by David Guterson, 1992).  John Dewey was among the voices of the time proclaiming that schools should meet the needs of each child, not the other way around. In 1896 he established a school at the University of Chicago which inspired and cultivated the interests of individual children. Educators took note of its successes, while administrators apparently ignored the implications. Although Dewey is known as the father of modern American education, our educational system is not modeled after his ideas. One hundred years and many research studies later, not much has changed, even though now we know even more about how the brain learns, how different styles affect learning, and what teaching methods work best. Many more voices, including Howard Gardner, Thomas Armstrong, Priscilla Vail, and Rita Dunn have declared the importance of respecting children’s individual learning needs. So, today, we bring this information to you, the parents, and ask you to provide your children with the personal attention they need to become self-directed, eager learners.

We are excited to introduce you to our Learning Style Model of Education. It encourages you to accept a central role in supporting your child’s unique Learning Style. When you help your child identify and respect his own learning strengths, interests, talents, and needs, you give him roots in the gifts he was born with. When you help your child discover his dreams, passions, and goals, you give him the wings of motivation and purpose for becoming an eager, self-directed learner. In both cases, your efforts result in a more successful learner.


The Learning Style Model has three components:

Get On Your child’s Team

Do The Profile

Coach For Success

You might be wondering what the words “team” and “coach” have to do with learning. Sounds like sports, right? Actually, people in sports make use of many principles of learning that are not applied to school work! This “sports approach” says that everyone needs a coach. Athletes understand this principle. Even those of us in the general population who are not interested in sports grasp the concept that if you are a serious athlete you need a coach. People training for the Olympics wouldn’t dream of doing it without a coach. Nowadays, there are also personal trainers, lifestyle coaches, weight-loss coaches, organizational coaches, and money-management coaches! Why don’t we have learning coaches?

In our approach, Modality (auditory, visual, or kinesthetic) is just one-fifth of your child’s Learning Style. You also need to assess Talents, Interests, Environment, and Disposition, to give you a more complete picture of who your child is as a learner. Our experiences have shown us that genuine acknowledgement of how kids see themselves unlocks a treasure trove of interests, concerns, dreams, hopes and passions –which provide the real reasons and motivation to learn. If we expect young people to behave responsibly and competently in society when they leave high school, it is unrealistic and unwise to wait until they are 17 or 18 years old to talk with them about goals, ask their opinions and encourage them to make decisions based on their own talents and interests. Recently a college admissions director commented in an article, “This is probably the first time in their school life someone is asking them ‘Where do you want to go? What do you want to do?’ . . . We want to help them make intelligent choices.” High school graduates will be better equipped to make intelligent choices if we ask these types of questions as they are growing up. Gradually, during the school years kids need to:


  1. Learn about their own strengths and weaknesses
  2. Set their own goals for the future
  3. Practice more and more complex skills that help them meet their own short- and long-term goals
  4. Take daily, active responsibility for their choices so that they can mature into competent people who are on their way to being productive, responsible adults.


The Learning Style Model of Education believes that students are capable and that their potential is unlimited. It expects differences in individual students — different learning readiness, different rates for learning, and a need for different teaching methods. For most children, learning the content of different subjects is not a problem when they are taught through their Learning Styles. Higher standards can be met when programs are individualized, because eagerness to learn and ability to learn increase. The more success and accomplishment young people experience, based on their unique styles of learning, the better equipped they are to deal with learning and life in general. Author David Guterson, himself a high school teacher, believes that “. . . massive institutions are by definition incapable of such a sophisticated responsiveness to individual students . . . The finest possible curriculum is precisely the one that starts with each child’s singular means of learning. Instruction and guidance are best provided by those with an intimate understanding of the individual child and a deep commitment to the child’s education.” (from Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense).

Thousands of families we have come into contact with over the last fifteen years have proven this to be true. It is hoped that this article will give you theinspiration to delve into the Learning Styles Model and to go beyond homeschooling and become your child’s Learning-Success Coach. Using the Learning Style Model of Education, you can be an advocate for your child’s Learning Style. Through this process you will unlock the eager, self-directed, successful learner in your child!

Copyright © 20129 by Mariaemma Pelullo-Wills & Victoria Kindle-Hodson — All rights reserved


Victoria Kindle Hodson has 25 years of experience in education and has been writing educational materials for the past 10 years. Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis, M.S. has been teaching, developing educational programs, and conducting workshops for parents and teachers for more than 20 years. Both authors have themselves homeschooled and have worked with hundreds of homeschooling families.


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How To Encourage Motivation

by Mariaemm Pelullo-Willis & Victoria Kindle-Hodson, the Learning Success Coaches™

Dear Learning-Success™ Coaches:
What can I do to motivate my eight-year-old son to learn? Although he asks a lot of questions and is very curious about reptiles, animals, and insects, he’s not interested in school subjects. I’ve tried all kinds of rewards and punishments, but I’m tired of thinking of new ways to get him involved in his studies. Isn’t he ruining his future?
Thanks, Cathy

Dear Cathy,
The truth about motivation is that kids have it in abundance. It is their nature to be interested in the world and motivated to learn about it.

There are several ways to encourage and enliven a child’s natural desire to learn. Over and over again, we find that the eager learner is revived when a child’s strengths are accentuated and when they have freedom to pursue their interests.

This is a wonderful opportunity to turn your frustration and confusion into learning success for your son.

Here are a few suggestions:
Stop relying on rewards, punishment, threats, and lectures. They aren’t working for you, and research shows that they won’t work.

Find out your child’s learning style and yours also. The more knowledge you have about what works for him and what works for you, the more understanding and flexible you can be.

You and your son can choose a curriculum based on his learning style, especially his interests. The curriculum that looks interesting to you isn’t likely to appeal to (or to be appropriate for) him.

Suggest that your son “major” in things he enjoys. This means that he will spend more time doing the kinds of activities that he enjoys and less time doing the activities that aren’t as enjoyable. It sounds as if reptiles, insects, and animals are his major interests right now.

You and your son can determine daily schedules together. You will be surprised by how creative and receptive he is likely to be when he knows that he has a say in the things that affect him most.

When You Talk About His Future, Please Use Caution
When you talk about an eight year old ruining his future because he isn’t interested in school studies, your fears are clouding your perceptions. The truth is that your son has about ten more years to learn the academic skills that he needs. Let him progress at his own pace. Not only will he enjoy the learning process, he will make steady progress.

Dear Learning-Success™ Coaches:
My daughter is seven years old and is not reading yet. She is very interested in books, loves looking at the pictures, likes to listen to stories, and she is very good at retelling and discussing them. Would I be able to help her with her reading if I knew more about her learning style? Thanks, Kris

Dear Kris,
Reading is a developmental skill. Some people are ready at four years old, some won’t be ready to learn until they are eight, nine, or ten years old. There is nothing that we can do to make someone learn a skill that they are not ready for. The incredible stress we put on our children to start to read at four, five, or six years old is counterproductive as well as damaging to their self-esteem. and blocks further learning. Until we learn this as a society and start to work with the developmental readiness and learning styles of each child, more and more children will continue to be left behind.

You can help your daughter become a good reader by:

backing off

reading to her often

providing tools that work for her learning style

Your daughter is giving some clues that she is a Visual-Picture learner. This means that she needs to have pictures integrated WITH letters to learn phonetic sounds.

If she likes to draw, she can draw pictures, tell you the story about the picture, and you can write it for her. She might want to experiment with typing the story from what you have written or write part of it herself.

What is most important is that you provide her with many opportunities to have successful, fun experiences with print and pictures in relationship to one another.

We know of many students who did not read until they were 13 or 14 years old. Within a year or two there was no difference between their abilities and those of children who began reading at ages five or six.

Copyright 2003, 2012, by  VKHodson & MPWillis/Learning-Success™ Institute,


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Dear Learning Success™ Coaches

by Victoria Kindle Hodson & Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis

Q: My son is in first grade. He¹s having a terrible time with math. He doesn¹t seem to understand adding and subtracting. What can I do?

A: First , give your son two or three simple math problems (e.g. 2 + 1, 3 + 2, 4-1)) and watch what happens. If he uses his fingers and comes up with the correct answers, that means he understands the concepts. If he cannot come up with the answers, chances are he does not understand what it means to add and subtract.

If your son is a tactile and/or visual learner, he probably needs to learn math in a way that is different from the standard workbooks. Make a number mat out of sturdy fabric or vinyl, with ten boxes numbered 1 to 10, or draw it with chalk on concrete (sort of like hopscotch but without the side squares). Then have your son “walk” math problems. For example, say “You have 2 pencils (have him stand on the 2) and you get 3 more pencils. Where will you be on the mat?” (He walks up 3 squares and stops on the 5). Do 4 or 5 problems a day for a few days, then ask him to close his eyes and pretend he is on the mat. See if he can do the problems in his head, as he visualizes himself walking up the mat. Do the same procedure for subtraction, having him walk backwards (e.g. You have 3 pencils, you give away 2). There is also a math program called Touch Math from Innovative Learning Concepts (800-888-9191) which works well for visual and tactile learners.

Above all, please remember, that many students are not ready to do formal math until they are in 2nd or 3rd grade, or even older. If that is the case, it does not mean that there is something wrong with your son. It means that this is his timetable and we must respect it, otherwise math will become traumatic and he will dislike and resist it. Just because there are textbooks for first graders does not mean that you are required to use them. As much as possible, introduce math in a fun way with games and family activities. You might check out books such as “Family Math” and “Games for Math: Playful Ways to Help Your Child Learn Math from Kindergarten to Third Grade” (available at bookstores or through our website as noted above).

Q: My 7-year-old is having difficulty reading. He reads very slowly and he doesn’t like to read. I think he needs to read at least 30 minutes a day to practice, but he fights me and cries. What should I do?

A: There could be many reasons for your child’s difficulties with reading. Perhaps he does not have a good grasp of the letter sounds, or he is having trouble with sound blending. Words that don’t follow the rules may be confusing him. In many reading programs phonics is taught out of context and students have a hard time applying it to actual reading. He might even have memorized certain sight words but may be having trouble figuring out words that are not in his memory.

Most people who have trouble with reading are visual-picture learners and need a “visual” type of reading program (this means a good phonics program that makes use of visual cues, NOT a sight word program). Also, he might not be ready for a formal reading program. Many students are not ready to learn to read or write until they are in 3rd or 4th grade. Boys, especially, are not developmentally ready in many cases, at this young age, to write with a pencil, and their eyes aren’t quite ready to track left to right. The notion that kids should be learning to read in Kindergarten, First, and Second Grades has turned many potential book lovers into traumatized readers who’d rather do anything than pick up a book.

The most important thing is to not allow your child to feel bad or “slow” or that he has a learning problem. Checking his learning style would help to figure out what approach would be best for him, once he is ready to read. Meanwhile, praise him for all the things he is “smart” in — his natural talents and abilities — and take the pressure off of reading. Then slowly introduce reading with games and fun activities such as you can find in the book “Games for Reading: Playful Ways to Help Your Child Read” (available at bookstores or through our When you are ready for a formal program, check out the Sonday Reading Program, also listed on our website.

Victoria and Mariaemma each have more than 20 years’ experience as teachers, trainers, and consultants. Victoria holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology and Mariaemma in Special Education. Together they have developed materials and programs that help ensure successful learning experiences for every child. Their innovative way of viewing all children as gifted and their methods for building on kids’ strengths and interests, and tracking successes rather than failures, has earned them the title, America’s Learning-Success™ Coaches.

Copyright © 2011 by Victoria Kindle Hodson & Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis

Copyright 2011 by 256 MML, Inc.

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