I have four school-age kids right now, and they each have different strengths. I want to take some time today to talk about each of them, specifically in the realm of how they learn and how I homeschool them based on those learning styles, in the hopes that this exploration might be helpful to someone else out there.
Ballet Boy (17 years old)
My oldest son took me a bit by surprise when he was starting school. My husband and I both have academic tendencies, so I expected our children to also veer that way naturally. Boy was I in for a shock! Ballet Boy didn’t really want anything to do with school, and looking back I’m not sure I blame him. All he knew was playing with Mom. He’d never been to daycare, so the sudden change from “little kid at home” to “you’re 5 now, it’s time for school” was a shock to his little system. And back then, I didn’t have half the knowledge I do now about different learning styles. I figured all kids would benefit from a traditional education. Because I went to public school, and only knew kids who also had, I had no idea there could be more to homeschooling than basic lists of things to accomplish. Due to my inexperience combined with my fear of homeschool not being “enough,” we got a stack of workbooks and I taught him the material. He filled out the answers, and we called it a day.
But he was miserable.
See, he wasn’t (and still isn’t) a traditional learner. My oldest son works best when he can hear the lessons rather than seeing them. He can listen to audio books and dramas and retain way more information than when he reads that same book. For this reason, things like Heirloom Audio productions make fantastic history resources for him. He did well with Apologia’s audio textbook for science when he was small.
If you have a child who struggles with reading, maybe try an audio approach instead. (And this is not me saying that reading isn’t important. I believe with all my heart that it is, and everyone should learn to read when they are young. But knowing that there are options besides just books is also helpful.)
Scorpion (14 years old)
My second child could not be more different than his older brother. When Ballet Boy started 1st grade when he was 7 (compulsory school age in our state was 7-18 back then; it’s 6-18 now), Scorpion wanted to do school too. He was only 4 at the time, but we decided to humor him and got some kindergarten workbooks (this was back when we still thought that was the best method for every child). He did really well with them. I didn’t even have to teach him to read. He just randomly picked it up when he was tiny. When he was 5 and Ballet Boy was 8, they were at roughly the same reading level. We had just finished the school year and signed the boys up for summer reading at the library. We told them that if they each read a chapter book, we would give them a monetary prize in addition to whatever they earned from the library. (But the goal wasn’t optional.) They both did it, but Scorpion managed it with a more difficult book than Ballet Boy.
When he was just 5 years old, he read Charlotte’s Web by himself.
Ever since then, he’s been a self starter who thrives with visual learning. He can read all the books in the world and retain everything he reads. Video lessons are great for him because he can see the visual aids and understand what’s being taught. And he’s a self starter. Now that he’s entering high school, I can give him a list (something he can see), and he will just work through it with very little intervention from me. So I recommend for the visual learners that you embrace that fully – give them things they can look at, read, and process on their own terms. You’ll likely have a very independent future student!
Grasshopper (9 years old)
Grasshopper gets a lot of face time on this blog, mostly because he’s at the age where there are so many cool things to teach him. He really loves school now, but it wasn’t always that way. See, when he was just starting, he struggled with reading. I thought it was going to be a repeat of Ballet Boy’s early years. And in many ways, it was. He didn’t read well until this past school year. He fought me many days, and always tried to get some sort of early reprieve from school or better yet, a day off for no reason.
But now that he’s older, I can see that he mostly thrives with one-on-one time. That’s not always possible, but often times it is. If I can distract the younger brothers for a bit of time (an episode of PJ Masks, or a game idea with their toys will usually do the trick!), I can give him 20 or 30 minutes of specialized time to focus on learning. We do a lot of his lessons this way, a little bit at a time, amongst the brothers also needing me. This also works with his attention span (and jealousy of the youngers getting to play while he works). Work a little, play with your brothers. Work a bit more, then play again. It makes the day a little bit longer, but not terribly so. And it gives him the individualized time he needs as well as periodic breaks to lessen the load.
Dragonfly (5 years old)
My fourth son is a lot like Scorpion. He’s desperate to learn, and while he also wants one-on-one time, he does really well with digital learning. Preschool apps (like Reading Eggs or LeapFrog) are totally his jam. He could do those all day long. He was born into a digital era, and he totally embraces it. Other than unlocking the iPad, he can do those types of lessons entirely on his own, which is both really helpful and a little bittersweet. Of course, I don’t let him do only digital things – he reads physical books and works with paper and pencil/crayon too – but it’s super convenient to have them available for him. And I don’t doubt for one minute that he’ll be able to switch to a computer pretty easily when he’s older and ready to take the next technological leap in his teen years and beyond.
What types of learning styles do you deal with in your homeschool?