Volume 4 Issue 3

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. The purpose of this book is to provide tools to help you keep that eagerness and ability to learn alive in your child.

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."With the information presented in this book, you can feel confident that you are supporting your child's unique learning process, and giving him tools to be a self-directed, successful learner. 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? Part 1 of the book introduces you to the idea of getting on your child's team and prepares you for discovering your child's Learning Style. In Part 3 this idea is expanded upon and you are taken through the process of becoming your child's learning success coach. In between, in Part 2, you are introduced to the Learning Style Profile which will give you the Learning Style information needed to successfully coach your child. The Learning Style Profile included in this book involves much more than determining your child's Modality (that is, whether he is auditory, visual, or kinesthetic-the usual definition of Learning Style). In this Model, Modality is just one-fifth of your child's Learning Style. This Profile also assesses Talents, Interests, Environment, and Disposition, to give you a more complete picture of who your child is as a learner. The Profile asks young people to speak for themselves; we provide the questions and listen respectfully to what they tell us. 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." (from article in Ventura County Star, "Fair to provide college education," 4/14/99). 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 book will give you the knowledge, inspiration, and courage 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 © 1999 by Mariaemma Pelullo-Wills & Victoria Kindle-Hodson - All rights reserved

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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. The following article is adapted from the introduction to the new book, Discover Your Child's Learning Style by Victoria Kindle Hodson and Mariaemma Willis. You can find it at your favorite book store or online store.

Copyright © 2002 The LINK Homeschool Newspaper