Homeschooling

The Importance of Your Learning Style

A number of years ago, our family jumped into homeschooling with limited success. Sometimes our oldest son would understand the materials and sometimes our lessons would end in a fit of tears. He cried a lot over school. I had no frame of reference. I assumed the crying was just a stage. He would get over it.

After homeschooling for a couple of years, I attended a homeschool support group meeting one evening. There, the leader passed around some resources designed to help parents or other adults figure out a child’s learning style. It turns out, this was a huge breakthrough for us. By this time, our second was beginning to learn to read and if there was any other noise in the room, he would quickly get overwhelmed and start crying and covering his ears. It was by examing resources like this one that I realized my kids had ways they learned best. We actually used several different assessments, but the results were surprisingly helpful. It turns out my oldest son learns very visually. Having me tell him things verbally is overwhelming. He prefers to have things written down and is quite good at using a planner. My second son is very auditory. He loves audio books and learning by talking and hearing as well as doing. This has transformed how we homeschool. If a books comes on audio, I’ll get it for my 2nd son over making him read. He reads very slowly but enjoys listening to audio books while he does other things. My auditory son also gets overwhelmed by too much sound…his brain can’t process all that input which is why he used to scream when it was noisy (our house is almost noisy with 8 kids) and he was trying to focus. Thankfully that delightful habit has diminished significantly.

In addition to these two sons, the rest of my kids clearly fall into prefered learning styles which makes is a bit easier to tailor their learning so they can retain the most possible. Having focused on my kids learning styles, a year or two ago I started paying attention to how I learn. I did relatively well in school but I remember very little of what I learned. On the other hand, my husband struggled in school but remembers so much more. Moving forward, I want to do better…to obtain and retain learning in a style that suits me best. So I started thinking back to different contexts growing up in which learning occurred for me. Here are a few examples and what I observed about me:

1. Welcome to School – I did well in school but my form of learning looked something like this. I would take verbatum notes in class…you got it…every word. Then when the test came, I would reread my notes over and over and then spit that info back out on the test. I aced the essays. The teachers and professors probably didn’t realize I was giving their words back to them nearly word for word. If it was another kind of test like spelling, I either wrote them over and over or read them over and over for practice. Again…very good grades. Even so, my retention was relatively poor unless there was a hands on project involved. To this day, those assignments that involved meaningful or fun projects are what I remember and retained.

2. Welcome to Church – I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about this one because other than Sunday School with the flannel graphs, I remember very little of what I heard there. I’m sure I’ll share about my crisis of faith another time but as part of looking at my time in church, I realized it was a highly auditory experience. In our church, they handed out bulletins with outlines on them and blanks to fill in. So I actually wrote very little…and remembered almost nothing. On the other hand, we did do service projects and go on mission trips. That hands on serving and learning has provided part of the framework for how I view the world. It definitely made a huge impression.

3. Welcome to my Room – Growing up I had a bookshelf in my room. My dad made it and it was a prized possesion…partly because he made it and partly because it held my favorite thing ever….books. One Christmas, all I received was books…17 of them, which included a new Bible. By the end of the week, I had read them all cover to cover (except my Bible…I didn’t read it all in one week). I loved books and if I ever wanted to learn something, I would get a book to learn it. However, many times I did not recall what I read because I did not do anything with it. Novels that I enjoyed, I would keep on the shelf and reread every few months because I didn’t remember it well enough to make it boring the 2nd, 3rd or 4th time around.

4. Welcome to my Craft Table (yes I know it looked like a diningroom table but I assure you, that 10 foot beauty was better put to use for all my crafty goodness.) After learning how to do something (usually by reading or watching), I would do it…make it..sew it…or occasionally cook it. I loved crafting. I think my mom was secretly relieved when I moved out because she could have her table back.

After doing the assessment for myself and observing myself in daily life, I realized that I am a very visual/kinesthetic learner. I can’t process voices very well and have been known to be rather awkward in conversation.  I find myself easily frustrated when more than one person is talking to me. I process auditory slowly and will often have a large delay answering a question because it takes awhile for me to process. As an adult, if I want to learn something, I either read or watch videos. But in general I prefer reading because I can follow the steps at my own pace and write in the books if I want. If its is something truly meaningful, I then take than information and do something with it. For me that looks like trying a new cooking method or herbal remedies. It might look like writing a book review or memorizing a Bible passage. If I don’t do something with it, I probably won’t retain much of it.

The reason I feel this topic is valuable for mom’s and dad’s is that when we have little kids, many times our own enjoyment or “me time” gets pushed aside. We are busy working, doing activities with the kids and running a house. My knowing how I learn best (which is also how I enjoy entertainment /relaxation best) narrows down the potential activities I will pick from when I do have some time alone. For example, because I am visual/kinestetic, some things I really enjoy are reading, watching movies, learning how to do a new thing. Some things I do not enjoy are music concerts, listening to speakers or in many cases…eating in noisy restaurants. I rarely participate in noisy entertainment because I don’t enjoy it, and can’t process it well. This may not sound like an amazing discovery but by the time a  break arrives, I am usually numb and can’t even remember what I like so I feel depressed and don’t do anything. (nice right).

So, my encouragement to you is…figure out your learning style. Most people have a dominant and minor learning style. One you do that, make a list of potential activities/entertainment you are interested and use that learning style to help you screen your list. For me it helps me narrow down my options considerably. Additionally, I encourage you to never stop learning. Looking at your learning style and pick something new to learn that will help you accomplish a dream or benefit you and your family.

Fostering

Foster Care “Bounce” In and Out Again

Foster Bounce

My husband and I have been foster parents for 4 years now but the first 3 years were just fostering our 2 children that we adopted. It turns out…that isn’t the norm. Recently though, we experienced a heartbreaking “bounceback” with a more recent foster son…we’ll call him Clint (not his real name). Clint, age 5, lived with our family for 2 months. He had been in foster care for over a year and a half  but had been staying with us for just 2 of those months after a move from his previous placement. He was a tough little boy….cute…but really tough. If he didn’t get his way, he would drop to the floor in a ball, scream a piercing scream or on a truly delightful day…go pee on another child’s bed or toy. He was in rough shape despite our best attempts and despite a weekly visit with a counselor. We knew that with his impending move home, there was nothing we could really do to stabalize him.   We were thrilled when the phone call came…Clint was going home with his mom, her new husband and his siblings. Things were looking up for this little boy!

After Clint went home. We fell into an easier routine. I would think of him often hoping he was happy.

Fast forward 2 months.

The phone rings Friday evening (it’s always a Friday evening with us…no idea why). The worker on the end of the line is someone I know from way back. She knew my parents when I was in middle school. An upbeat lady, I immediately start chatting…until she cuts in and lets me know this is not a social call. “I’m calling about your foster son.” My eyes immediately glance over at the sweet little blonde 2 year old cherub living with us right now. I expect this call is to tell me that he is finally moving in with a family member. “Remember Clint” I’m jolted back as a sickening sensation hits my stomach. I know what she is going to say. ” He needs a place to stay this weekend. His mom decided she couldn’t do this and she is placing all the kids (5 of them) back in care. We are calling all their previous placements to see if they can stay for the weekend until we figure out what to do next week.”

My eyes locked with our adopted daughter. She was listening to my half of the phone call. Her eyes grew wide as she figured out that Clint was coming back under such heart breaking circumstances. I knew this would bring up painful memories of when she too arrived home from school to find police and social workers on the scene that would soon lead her to a new home. Part of me wanted to tell this worker “no” he couldn’t come. He had been a particularly difficult placement and my husband wasn’t home so I could run it by him. Also, when Children’s Services says “Can they come for the weekend,” you know it will be longer. It takes several days at least to get things in order and that is if they move fast. Sometimes it takes weeks or months.  But of course, I couldn’t say no…not to this little boy.  He was the first foster child we had to “catch and release.” At the time I thought that meant he would stay and go home. But now he was coming back and we needed to “catch” him again.

When the worker pulled in, it was after 9pm. Clint was in the back of a minivan clutching the strap of his seat belt. The worker tried to coax him out. I tried to talk to him and then he started wailing. “I don’t want to be here. I want to go home….” We coaxed. He cried. Eventually we had to carry him in the house together. The exhausted social worker brought in his small bag of belongings and left. Clint stood and moved rather mechanically.  He hadn’t eaten since lunch so he had some leftovers from dinner warmed up. He seemed like he was in a bit of a daze so we got him ready for bed and I tucked him in and said his prayers.

Feeling exhausted, I sank into the couch. Only a few minutes passed before the small little boy came walking out, dragging his blanket with tears streaming down his face. He climbed up on the couch next to me and just cried.

He did only stay with us a few days until he could be placed with a sibling in his old school district.  I felt a sense of loss when he left but even more a sense of the long road ahead of him. These kids…the ones that land in the system, are often such transient little people expected to move at a moments notice. I pray that the little things we do will let them know they are loved even while their world stands on its head.