Learning Styles, Teaching Styles, and Homeschool Curricula Choices

Have you ever brought home a brand spanking new homeschool curriculum that everyone in all your co-ops and Facebook groups has been raving about, got the kids together and jumped in with both feet, and...it flopped?

This actually happened to me one year at a homeschool convention. I ended up spending $200 on a math curriculum that my good friend loved and that I had heard many homeschool moms raving about. Why? If this curriculum is so wonderful for so many people, why doesn't it work for you?

Learning styles and homeschool curricula


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There's a good chance that the curriculum just doesn't fit your children's learning styles or your own teaching style.

Learning Styles and Homeschool Curricula



Learning styles are mentioned quite frequently. But you might not know exactly what they are or what that means. If you google "learning styles" you can come up with dozens of resources that can help you determine your child's learning style. One of my classic favorites is The Way They Learn by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias. It describes common learning styles and helps you figure out what your child's learning style is.

There are three primary learning styles- visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. I could probably write a whole series of posts with technical definitions of each, but I'll sum up.

Visual learners learn well by seeing. These kids like charts and graphs and often can do well with textbooks, especially textbooks that have lots of visuals. They also learn well with timelines and maps that can help them to visualize the information.

Auditory learners learn well by hearing. They can listen to audio books or lectures. They might do well with DVD or streaming classes where they can hear an actual teacher teach. Because many textbooks are available on audible now, they can do well with textbooks that they can hear read aloud.

Kinesthetic learners learn well by doing. These kids need to move, to do. If you're going to read aloud to them, give them something to do while they listen. They'll remember more. They'll probably like lapbooks and unit studies that give them the opportunity to do something active with the information they are learning. (If you're looking for hands-on curricula choices, I have a whole post here with some suggestions.)

Traditional school focus heavily on visual and auditory learners- textbooks and lectures. Often in traditional schools, kinesthetic learners get left behind. Thankfully homeschooling gives us the flexibility to use materials that fit the learning styles of our kids.

An example of this in our family has been with our science curriculum. I love, love, love Apologia's science curriculum. When my kids were small, we used it pretty successfully. We had the textbook with visuals for my visual learners. I read it aloud, which helped my auditory learners, and we did all the activities to give my kinesthetic learners some hands-on activities.

When the kids reached high school, however, I had a problem. My son is definitely not visual. He's not a heavy reader. He's very auditory and also likes hands-on activities. I realized quickly that he wasn't going to make it through Apologia- at least not without changes. He made it through biology by listening to the book on Audible.

When he finished biology, we realized he needed another science curriculum- something that fit his learning style. With research I came upon the 101 Series, a science series that is primarily a DVD course- not just lecture, but more of a documentary, long with hands-on activities. It was perfect for him, and use their chemistry and physics to finish out high school science.

That just served to make me realize even more that my learning style isn't necessarily that of my kids. And that I need to be knowledgable of their learning styles and to seek out curricula that fits.


Teaching Styles and Homeschool Curricula



As well as taking into consideration the learning style of your child, you need to consider your teaching style. This stumped me at the beginning of my homeschooling.

I began homeschooling with ABEKA books. If you've ever looked at them, you will know it is a very rigid, structured, guided curriculum. The teacher's book says, "Now say..." and has the exact words you should say in bold print. I chose it because it was what I knew. I had used it as a Christian school teacher.

I never really loved it as a teacher, and I was always changing things. I like structure. But I also like control. So I always felt the need to "adapt" what I was doing. I also wanted to add things- like more literature and thematic studies.

Eventually I realized that I was changing the curriculum so much, I wasn't even truly using the curriculum I bought! Even though it is a good curriculum and I've seen it used with great success, it didn't fit my style.

I have many friends who do Classical Conversations. They love the structure it provides. They love all of the Classical curricula. I wouldn't like the structure. And I really wouldn't like not being able to choose everything I wanted. It's a great program, I'm sure. But it doesn't fit my style.

I like to have flexibility. I like to teach multiple ages. I like to read great books. I like to have a variety of activities. I like to be involved with what the kids are doing instead of having them focusing solely on workbooks all day. I like to actually "teach."

So, I pick curricula that covers multiple ages; allows me to teach and not just check workbooks; incorporates hands-on; family activities; and allows me flexibility to pick various materials on the topic.

Learning styles and homeschool curricula


When you are curriculum shopping consider what fits your children's learning styles and your teaching style. Of course, we can't always pick what everybody wants all the time. Obviously if your children all have different styles- and most of mine do- not every activity will match. But try to use a variety that touches on each one's preferred way of learning. And try to pick what you know you will enjoy teaching.

As I'll keep saying again and again- Just because you see someone else love a curriculum for their family, don't just assume it will work wonderfully for yours. Consider those learning and teaching styles to narrow down the curriculum choices that will suit you all best.

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3 comments

  1. "As I'll keep saying again and again- Just because you see someone else love a curriculum for their family, don't just assume it will work wonderfully for yours."

    There is so much truth in this statement.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love The Way They Learn and recommend it to so many people! Good stuff in this article- one of the benefits of homeschooling is custom fitting it!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes! I love that we can customize!

    ReplyDelete

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