We were two weeks into my second son’s first grade year. It was our second year of homeschooling. He was seated at his desk, and I was stationed at the whiteboard, emulating my public school teachers. This was our routine:
Me: “Sit still, Honey.” I would teach.
Me: “Pay attention.” I’d teach some more.
Me: “Seriously, be still.” Teach.
Me: “Look up here.” Rinse and repeat.
It was agonizing, but I was hopeful it would get better. Then one day I looked at my son sitting at his desk, doing his best to stay still, with tears welling up in his eyes. We made eye contact. And a big tear streamed down his cheek. What had I done? Not one teacher ever made me cry. It was time to pull that “learning styles” book off my shelf and read it. I said, “Honey, we’re taking a week off so I can read this book to learn how to better teach you.” He said, “Thanks, Mama,” and gave me a kiss. My heart melted.
Was I dealing with learning disabilities? This was the first answer I needed, so I went to the chapter on learning disabilities. I was encouraged beyond belief! It described Helen Keller’s life before her learning. Relatives and friends had written her off as incapable of anything. However, help was headed her way through her beloved teacher Miss Annie Sullivan. Under Miss Sullivan’s teaching, Helen Keller soared. I’ll name just two of her achievements in this article: she was the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Harvard, and TIME Magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. How’s that for someone whom people wrote off as incapable?
That chapter proved that any child can learn; we simply need to discover how they learn. Now, armed and open to a new world, I eagerly read the remainder of the book.
A Different Approach
Understanding the learning styles was freeing to everyone in my home. I realized that I had been regurgitating the same teaching patterns I experienced in school. This not only affected my children, but the children in my co-op classes. I began contemplating these other children. In one class there were two boys I labeled as troublemakers. Their reputation preceded them, so I never questioned my assumptions, but now I wondered if they were suffering from poor teaching and hasty misjudgment?
I put into practice in the co-op what I had changed at home and immediately saw amazing results with both. For years afterwards, the two “troublemakers” would run up and hug me, saying, “We miss you … you were our favorite teacher!” Again, my heart melted.
In our home, we daily determined to approach school in our new freedom. Old habits are hard to break, especially when the contrast is stark. Like all adults, I had learned from my own school experiences. And I learned to teach in the style that my teachers had taught me. And so, my entire family had to be set free too. They didn’t read the book on learning styles, so they watched my son and me in our new freedom. As my son did his work, my husband would ask, “Are you sure he’s doing school? I don’t see how he can work with …,” and I would remind him of his learning style. He waited and watched to see the results, and he soon became a believer too.
You see, my husband’s learning style is the exact opposite of my son’s. To concentrate on learning, my son needs noise in the background, while my husband needs total silence. It’s difficult for either to concentrate minus those elements. If they have to learn, and their learning styles are hindered, they practically shut down. This is just one element of their learning styles.
I can’t recommend enough that you study the different learning styles. We know that no two children are the same, so it stands to reason that we all don’t learn the same way. Get a good book on the different learning styles (see the Resources sidebar). Learn them, make room for them, and live in the freedom that follows. It’s amazing how children open up to learning in the right environment.
Oh, how I praise God for prompting me to homeschool, and for revealing the unique learning styles. If my son had gone to public schools, they would’ve labeled him and possibly recommended unnecessary medication. With God leading us in this freedom, he excelled! And today, he’s a self-directed lifelong learner. God gave you your children. He made you their parent. Seek Him, and He will lead you.
- Discover Your Child’s Learning Style, Mariaemma Willis and Victoria Kindle Hodson
- Learning Styles, Marlene LeFever
- The Way They Learn, Cynthia Ulrich Tobias
Copyright 2018, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.