Monday, May 24, 2010
Family Personality, Learning Styles and Schooling
I've been thinking more about what makes different families favor certain educational methods. It's very much about the background, values and personalities of the parents (often of the mother in particular), but I have seen the course changed by the addition of a child with a particular disposition or need. In fact, many families begin their homeschooling journey due to the unexpected needs of one or more children.
It's interesting to see a family evolve over time, bending and adapting as new little people join the ranks and contribute their unique charisms to the learning journey. I like to think of the resulting dynamic as the "family personality". It's born when a newly-married couple hammers out its new identity as "us" rather than "you and me", and it grows with each new family member. - not just a combination of all the personalities of the family members, but the new dynamic of "this is what's working for all of us" as life unfolds in the family circle.
Like individual personalities, family personalities are very diverse. Some are fun-loving and spontaneous; some are focused and orderly. Maybe some have a little of each! In terms of education, different families will wish to emphasize certain aspects of learning - not just "math and science" or "art and drama", but the pace and flavor of everything their children experience. The balance evolves for each family as the members grow and discover their natural talents.
No matter what learning path a family takes, some flexibility is essential, as children come with different strengths and challenges. Some families consciously assess these by researching their children's learning styles. It turns out that all people have a predisposition to learning in a particular way - some things just work better for one than for another. Parents are way ahead of the curve if they can determine who is a visual learner, who is a hands-on, kinesthetic student, and who does well with auditory instruction. We all recognize the effects of this distinction when, distressingly, something that worked beautifully for one child turns out to be a disaster for the next one! It is really a great blessing to understand what makes each child tick and why. Even the parents can find new understanding of one another when they discover their own learning (and teaching) styles!
With this information, families are better equipped to decide how schooling should look in their homes. Having the "learning styles" tool makes it easier not to compare one's particular family to other homeschoolers or to the world at large. It clears the way for decisions based on everyone's best interests - another reason that the primary teacher in the home should also assess his or her own skills and strengths (and difficulties), as these factor strongly into the daily operations of the family.
I've seen multiple recommendations for the book Discover Your Child's Learning Style by Mariaemma Willis and Victoria Hodson. Yet another must-read to add to my growing list! Just an awareness of the differences in styles has been helpful to me. I feel less frustrated with what I perceived as our shortcomings, now that I understand how what we do is meeting our needs in our family dynamic. At the same time, I am more equipped to fill in what is lacking with carefully chosen elements that I know will work.
If you have used knowledge of learning styles to help you teach your children, I'd love to hear your experience!