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Dear Learning Success™ Coaches

By Victoria Kindle-Hodson & Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis

hodson & willis

Dear Coaches,
I think it’s best just to be natural with your kids and not be worried about profile scores, special materials for different learners, etc. It would make my head spin to try to keep track of all the different things my kids need. I want home schooling to be fun and simpler than all of that. -- Megan

Dear Megan,
Thank you for email. We know you are speaking for a lot of home schooling parents!

If it is natural for you: To celebrate your child’s strength’s and talents; to accept a role as a success coach, to be responsive to your child’s feelings and needs; to expand you view of where learning takes place to include anywhere your kids are, to resist using grades and comparing your child with others. You are probably going to get along just fine using your “natural” inclinations.

You will certainly have great success if, in addition to the above, it is natural for you: To focus on solutions, to identify your child’s needs and help him or her realize them, to keep track of successes rather than failures, and to take the pressure off at crucial times.

However, if it is natural for you: To criticize your child and minimize his strengths and talents; to accept a role as a critic and judge; to be reactive, critical, and judgmental; to believe learning takes place at desks with text books and work sheets; to insist on grading student work and comparing your child with others, you are apt to create a lot of disharmony between you and your child.

And, if it is natural for you: To focus on problems, to identify your goals for your children and insist that they meet them; to keep track of mistakes and failures, and to exert pressure no matter what the situation, your natural instincts are sure to create power struggles, discouragement, and anger rather than the fun and simplicity you are looking for.

We see the learning style profile and the coaching approach as a way to ensure parents will be respectful and considerate of their children, regardless of what their natural inclinations are.

Dear Coaches,
How do I get my 15-year old daughter to develop her talent for math? She gets the highest scores on every standardized test she has taken. She wants to study drama and dance, and I feel sick, thinking she has such a wonderful gift and she is going to throw it away. When I was her age I resisted developing my music talent, and I have always regretted not listening to my parents. -- Audrey

Dear Audrey,
We know that it can be such a disappointment for parents to watch a young person make choices that parents don’t agree with or understand, and yet, from a coaching perspective, it is crucial to respect your child’s need for choice and autonomy. If your daughter goes on to study math for your reasons, she is likely to be frustrated and resentful. She will drag her feet and complain, which means you will take responsibility for her success and nag her. You are likely, also, to catch yourself lecturing her about not wasting her talent and/or not living up to her potential. Are these things you want to be doing with your valuable time?

A talent is a gift; however, not every young person has an INTEREST in the talent she is born with. Pursuing interests generates far more passion, drive, creativity, and ability to stick with it than does pursuing a talent for someone else’s reasons.

We suggest that you pursue your talent for music while your daughter pursues her interests. Her talents will always be there to draw upon and develop later.

Dear Coaches,
I have a nine-year old child with sensory integration problems. She has an Inventing-Thinking/Relating learning disposition. She’s adding and subtracting two-digit numbers and memorizing her multiplication facts. Do you have some ideas about how to improve her skills? -- Jackie

Dear Jackie,
It sounds as if your daughter is progressing well with her math skills. Sometimes it is tempting to think that our kids “should” be exactly on the same schedule of learning with the public schools. When you’re home schooling you can adjust the learning to correspond with your child’s developmental needs, which includes the pace of learning. It won’t make any difference in the future whether your child learned the multiplication tables at age eight or age eleven -- even age 14.

In addition, because of your daughter’s Inventing and Thinking/Creating Dispositions,she may take longer to learn her math facts. In general, these students want time to explore, discover, and figure things out for themselves. They are usually very hands-on and enjoy manipulating things to find answers, which will increase sensory integration if they are allowed to do so.

What can be frustrating about these learners is that instead of doing their math assignments, they see their own relationships between numbers, and they want and need to play with them in their own way. Their own discoveries are much more important than memorizing facts and finishing pages of math problems.

The quick notations and repetitive routines for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, that we all learned, aren’t as important in learning math as we take for granted. When children have a chance to explore the underlying patterns and relationships, they are more likely not to need much instruction about how to do the “operations,” and they will be able to remember them, because in a sense they invented them for themselves.

Whole body activities -- playing catch with a large ball while saying the times tables or jumping on a rebounder might be a fun and helpful way for your daughter to learn math facts.

Dear Coaches,
Our daughter, who is 5 years old, can say her ABC’s one minute then the next minute she gets them all jumbled up like she has never heard them before. She does the same thing with counting. Also, sometimes she can read a short word but when she sees it again she doesn’t recognize it. She is very active and doesn’t like sitting still for learning activities. She wants to do everything her own way. Is this normal? Thank you, Tanya

Dear Tanya,
Your daughter is taking in new information about many different aspects of life at a very rapid rate. Every day she is attempting to make sense of a barrage of sensations, information, and concepts. It is perfectly natural for letters, numbers, and words to go in and out of focus and order for a long time.

Get to Know Your Child: This is a wonderful opportunity for you to let go of expectations and judgments about her progress and “get to know” your child as a learner. You can relax and simply observe what she says and does with numbers, letters, and words. It is helpful to have lots of simple, self-teaching, interactive materials she can “play” with so that you don’t have to “teach” a lesson. Listen and watch carefully rather than direct her. Just be with her, somewhat like a friendly bystander. Let her know that you are there if she has any questions, then watch what she does on her own. Notice the kinds of activities your child is drawn to naturally. Notice the kinds of things she avoids or puts off.

Follow Your Child’s Lead: It sounds as if she may be a hands-on learner and might want to do very active things like stacking plastic letters or numerals to make a tower. She may do this over and over for days. You might think she is wasting time, however, she is actually conducting her own experiments and learning about the shapes of letters. She may put the letters in her own order and ask you to read them. She may enjoy hearing the sounds of the silly words that she “wrote”. She might put together puzzles of letters and numerals and recite or sing the names of the letters and numbers she knows. She may want you to name some of them for her. It’s okay. She is leading the show, collecting new information and making sure that she is on ground that is appropriately challenging and comfortable for her every step of the way.

You will be surprised one day to find out that your daughter has learned all of her numerals and letters in this casual, playful way.