Sunday, October 3, 2010

Learning Styles

I recently came across an article about the different learning styles. It was complied from several reliable resources and gave a fair description of each learning style, including strengths and weaknesses of each approach.

My first read through of the various styles caused me to squirm. Who would use such a method on a child? This was when reading the “traditional” approach. In other words, re-creating the school in your home.

Strengths included Easy to implement, follows standardized scope and sequence, testing and grading easy, milestones accomplished.

Weaknesses were:

o Doesn't take into account individual learning styles, strengths, weaknesses or interest (Yikes, this is all that I base my teaching on!)

o Assumes that there is a body of info that completes an education and that this can be broken down into daily increments(yeah, who says we need to know this then or now?)

o Treats students minds like containers to be filled with information (Little Robots….)

o Focuses on transmitting info thru artificial learning experiences(And we keep hearing how we need to get back to nature…..)

o Teacher-directed and 'chalkboard' oriented (I smell teacher burn-out….)

o Different ages study different materials(hard to juggle with more than one child)

o Expensive with multiple children (Yup, cost was probably the biggest factor in stopping me from pursuing this method)

o Discourages original, independent thinking (And we all know, my kids are very original thinkers!)

o High burn out rate (Yup, saw this one coming)

Compare those to the Unschooling Approach:


o Takes little planning

o Captures the child's teachable moments

o Children have access to the real world, plenty of time and space to figure things out on their own.

o Children are less likely to become academically frustrated or burned out.

o Children can delve into a subject as deeply or shallowly as they want

o Provides a discipleship model of learning

o Creates self-learners with a love of learning.



o May neglect subjects

o Hard to assess level of learning

o Lacks the security of a clearly laid out program

o Is extremely child-centered

o Difficult to explain to others

o May be overly optimistic about what children will accomplish on their own


Let me just focus  this post on the weaknesses of the Unschooling method and how I refute them all.

May Neglect Subjects – based on whose idea that all subjects need to be taught? Honestly why do we need to do Advanced Algebra? If needed in a career, the unschooler will learn it. If not needed, why waste the time to learn?

Hard to assess level of learning – I hear this all the time. How do you give your kids grades? How do you know if they learned something? Answers – I don’t give grades and I ask them questions. Simple. You spend time with your kids, you listen to your kids and you will know what they do and do not know.

Lacks the security of a clearly laid out program – Only an issue if that is what you want. For me, it’s no big deal. There was a time in my homeschooling life when a clearly laid out program made me feel secure, but I have come a long way from those days and no longer need that security blanket.

Is extremely child-centered. – And this is wrong because? I have no problem with my child’s learning being child centered. After all, it had created “The Long Dark” which will be a musical masterpiece in its time.  (My son, Adam’s music). Education of a child is all about the child! He/She needs to be free to become whom God planned for them to be.

Difficult to explain to others – Okay, I’ll concede on this one because no matter what I say, there are those out there who will not understand. But every once in a while I’ll find someone willing to listen and take some of my ideas to heart.

May be overly optimistic about what a child will accomplish on their own – Here is where the biggest misconception about the unschooling method abounds. That we leave our children alone to do whatever they please. The truth is, a good unschooling home is educationally rich. Our house is strewn with learning opportunities all around. My book shelves spill over with books, the craft shelves abound with paper and craft supplies, the game cupboard is stuffed with teachable games.  If a child shows an interest in something we do whatever we can to inspire that interest and provide the learning material for them. Because we do this, our children have a vast array of interests. Some are more focused for a season than others.

But all is good and produces the desired affect. A child who loves to learn. And that is the bottom line and the ultimate strength of our learning style.

1 comment:

Leslie Peterson said...

I think on the topic of assessment -- it's a matter of knowing how to assess one's learning. Standardized testing does *not* do an accurate job of reporting a child's *ability* to learn, synthesize, analyze, problem-solve and communicate. My problem as a student (even in college) was that I was often a more accurate communicator than those writing the tests... therefore, the way test questions were written left room for what I felt were multiple answers, and thus I had difficulty choosing which answer to give. I could have defended all of my answers had I had the opportunity.

Assessment works like this: 1. establish criteria, i.e. 'can read instructions, follow directions, and implement original solutions' -- then you look for evidence of this in the work a child is doing. Watch them during the holidays when they have to put together new toys or when they're helping you build a fort out in the yard, etc.

Assessment is an organized way of thinking, it doesn't need to be organized in its implementation, and criteria can be as specific or as generic as needed in any given situation.

Grades are by and large useless in my opinion. After attending and graduating from Alverno College in Milwaukee, WI, I have a much greater respect for the assessment method, and think it could be adapted easily for use by unschoolers -- it's likely what you are already doing. We observe and break down what we're observing subconsciously, so when someone asks "can your child frost a cake for my wedding?" we can say "yes" or "no" accordingly because we already have the evidence on file (represented by our opinions. i.e. little bobby has great fine motor coordination and likes to bake, he's made several fine cakes, thus 'yes' -- he can be trusted to frost your wedding cake).

I loved this post :)