April 3, 2016

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents: Tip #5 Know Your Teaching Method & Their Learning Styles

I totally missed Friday's post for the 5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents--because I was at the big annual homeschool convention in Cincinnati. It was a fabulous experience and it actually goes hand in hand with the tip that I was going to share. So, I decided to go ahead and post my 5th tip in the series--even though it's 2 days late. My final tip for the series revolves around what could possibly be the most important thing to do regarding having a positive and successful homeschooling experience. You need to know your teaching method, and each of your student's learning style.
Tip #5 Know Your Teaching Method and Their Learning Style

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 Tip #5: Discover Your Preferred Teaching Method and Your Child's Learning Style

What is a teaching method? Well every person has a way that they enjoy teaching. Or a philosophy about how teaching should happen. Before you start your homeschooling experience, it would benefit you greatly to discover what YOUR teaching method is. In general, there are 5 different teaching methods recognized throughout the homeschooling world:

*Traditional: This is just your standard teaching method where your students follow a plan or curriculum that has been mapped out by the parents or a curriculum supplier. What you will find in most any public school setting.

*Classical: This is a very disciplined method where primary focus is on serious reading, writing, rhetoric, logical reasoning, Latin and Greek, classical literature, debate, research, etc. This is a method that matches what our early ancestors would have followed. 

*Charlotte Mason: The basic philosophy with this method is that it allows children to learn from life. They will read from "living" books, do extensive nature study, have a focus on art and music, and prove what they learn through narration--telling it back in their own words what they have learn and read.

*Unit Study: This method is to pick a topic (like World War 2) and then tie it into as many subjects as possible. Almost every subject will be touched on through the course of this study--which could take weeks as you explore all the different possibilities and links.

*Unschooling: This method puts education in the hands of the child. It allows the child to study whatever their own interests whatever it may be--with the idea that they are self-learners, natural learners, and it will lead to a fruitful, logical end. It is a child-led method with little parent influence and interference.

In principle, most people have a top 2 that match what they believe education should be composed of. But sometimes, there is a definite dominate. It can be tough to figure it out with just these descriptions, so fortunately, there are assessments that parents can take to help them figure their teaching method out. 

One of the best out there is Mardel Teaching Method Assessment. They will ask you a series of questions to help narrow down which methods you are matched to the most--ranking them in order. From this point, they then show you what curriculum is available that matches what your method might be. I took the test again to see if I still pulled the same top 3--and I do.

As you can see, I have a definite dominate method--Charlotte Mason, but Unit Study is in that #2 spot and I'm not surprised.Whenever I take this test, these two methods are consistently at the top 2, but sometimes they change places. They are actually very similar, so it's very common to see these two together in results. I am also not surprised to find unschooling and traditional at the bottom as neither of those appeals to me at all.

So---what do you do next?

Well, now this can guide your curriculum purchases. Thankfully, nearly all homeschool curriculum and programs can easily be identified to fit a teaching method. There are curriculum devoted to Unit Study. Many companies provide Classical curriculum. Charlotte Mason focused websites abound. So it is easy to narrow it down once you know HOW you prefer education to look like. Someone (like me) who has Charlotte Mason and Unit Study as their top methods, isn't going to be very fond of a rigid book/worksheet program with lots of teacher script. Someone who prefers Classical/Traditional, might go mad by using a lapbook (Unit Study) because it gives so much wiggle room and hands on! LOL

But there is another step. 
You need to know what your child's learning style is!

The learning styles are usually broken down into 3 different types:

The learn with their eyes and through writing things down. They put "pictures" into their brains. Visual learners love books with pictures. They love to draw and color. They like graphs, and charts. Puzzles are fun, and they have eyes for details.

Auditory learners absorb through listening and hearing information. Music is much loved. They probably talk a lot. They like books read aloud. And can memorize things they hear pretty quickly.

It's all about touch with these learners. They fidget a lot and can't keep their hands still. They like texture books, building, and crafting with toys like clay. They want to take things apart. They need to move around.

I'm sure just by that you can spot traits in your own children. If you want an assessment, Mardel has one for Students Learning Style Assessment which is something you could take with your child--or they could do independently. The questions are very simple--all multiple choice or true/false.

Here are my results from taking it today:
Today when I took it, Auditory came out on top. But see how close Visual is? Sometimes visual comes out on top depending on my answers to a couple questions. I am definitely an auditory/visual person. 

So how does this play out for your students? 

Well once you know your own teaching method, AND what their learning style is, you can narrow down the curriculum possibilities even more. If your child doesn't learn through visual methods--then why would you pick a book heavy curriculum? If your child is a kinesthetic learner, picking a curriculum without any kind of hands-on aspects would drive them (and you!) bonkers. 

And let's through another level of fun in---typically your children will each have a DIFFERENT learning style. My boys do. One is very auditory-kinesthetic and the other is heavily visual. I can't use the same curriculum for each boy unless it is one that allows for different learning styles. Thankfully they ARE out there!

Trust me.
If you pick a curriculum that does NOT match their learning style, you will be beating your head against a wall, because it's just NOT going to work! You BOTH will be frustrated. I wrote a post all about that recently as part of my ongoing Homeschooling: Keeping It Real series. 

By now you might also see where your teaching method might also conflict--or at least make it challenging--when matching it to a learning style. For example, it might be more challenging for the parent with a Classical method to use that style of curriculum with a Kinesthetic learner, as much of the program is books/worksheets/memory/dictation. NOT hands-on.

I have found throughout our last 3 years of reviewing over 75 different products in the curriculum/product world, that there are some that we just cannot use long term. It either conflicts with my teaching method, or the boys learning style.

I highly recommend that you check out Cathy Duffy's 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, because she has everything sorted to make it easier to find what works for your child's learning style, and what matches your preferred teaching method. It really made it easier for me when we got started!

Now-let me briefly talk about the mini-lesson I had on Friday that drove this reminder and tip home for me. I sat in a fabulous seminar called What to Teach: A Classically Simple Curriculum. It was a random pick. I hadn't even planned on going to a seminar, but a friend was doing that one, so I decided to join her. 

Best. Decision. Ever. (Thank you, God!)

Throughout this seminar, I kept being struck by how "complicated" I was trying to make our schooling by deviating from this simple truth:

I have a preferred teaching method and my boys each have a particular learning style. 

I needed to back up and weigh every single piece of curriculum I get against this AND also what my goal for our homeschool experience is. I needed to back up, and FIND the curriculum that matches us. Even if it's not the "latest and greatest and most popular" company products. I need the ones that brought us peace and success, because it WORKED. 

This therefore, changed how I experienced the rest of the convention. It changed my goals in what booths I visited. What products I looked at. And ultimately, what curriculum I was going to purchase. I came home determined that we are going to make changes to bring us back into focus for what works best for our family. I had to use my OWN tip! LOL!

And in essence, this tip today sums up everything that I've shared this week!

#1- Finding the Best Time to Homeschool---how and when you homeschool can totally be related to your own teaching method and your child's learning style. Some teaching methods require more time and structure than others. Others require a larger amount of flexibility.

#2- It's Okay to Feel Overwhelmed--did you know that sometimes (most of the time) the feeling of being overwhelmed happens when you are going outside what your natural tendencies for school are? When you are forgetting what your ideal teaching method is, and are doing something different. Or when you are teaching your child in a way that clashes with their personal learning style? These things can build up to a lot of stress and a feeling of being overwhelmed. Thus, it's a good idea to stop and double check what you are doing regarding homeschooling--reevaluate your teaching method and their learning styles...because you might have unintentionally created your own problem.

#3- Give Your Child a Voice-- Oh man. This one definitely plays in to teaching method and learning styles. What your child says about their preferences in regards to how they are going to learn--yeah, that's totally going to match a learning style! So listen! 

#4 You Are Going to Buy Stuff You Don't Need -- Um. 99% of the curriculum you don't need happened because it wasn't really a good match for either your teaching method, or your child's learning style. The rest might be because their learning style changed. I mentioned that in this post because it has happened to us. Step away from the very cool, fabulous curriculum that "everyone" says is great--if it doesn't match your family's needs! 

#5 Know Your Teaching Methods and Their Learning Styles --As you read today, this step is so important, because it will mold and shape everything else you do relating to homeschooling. It's NOT too late to make a change--so go ahead and take the assessments! And then move forward if you see that something needs to change! It's never too late to make a better decision!

Wow. It's incredible how this series started so random for me, but now, looking back has all ended up all fitting together so perfectly. Isn't it funny how that happens sometimes?! I like to think those are God moments...He had something for me to say and helped me say it...maybe if just for my own benefit to read  and do what I am writing to others!
I hope that you have not only enjoyed this series, but also picked up a tip or area that you want to dive into more deeply. I was just one of the bloggers who participated--so make sure you check out some of the other 40+ Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers who offered up 5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents this past week! 

Here are a few more bloggers that you can check out!
Renita @ Krazy Kuehner Days 
Sarah @ Renaissance Mama 
Tiffany @ The Crafty Home 

It's definitely been a busy week, but I do enjoy putting together these 5 days of series. Want to read some of my previous years 5 Days Of series? Here they are for your viewing pleasure!

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