Recognizing your children’s learning styles

recognizing learning styles | discovering how your child learns best

A huge part of homeschooling is much more than teaching material; it’s teaching a child how to learn, how to teach himself. Learning styles play a key part in this process of learning how to learn. By teaching to my child’s unique learning style, I’m not just catering to her preferences, I’m teaching her how she learns best; I’m equipping her with tools for life. What’s more, teaching to my children’s learning styles allows my children to be comfortable with who they are and how they learn. It’s okay if my daughter doesn’t learn the material in the same way her older brother does. They each learn in their own way, and they’re both learning. My daughter doesn’t have to feel stupid or incapable because she doesn’t learn the same way someone else might.

But sometimes, the whole realm of learning styles and modalities can be really overwhelming and confusing. How do you figure out which learning style fits your child? What if your child is in between styles or a little bit of several?

An Explanation of Learning Styles

At it’s very simplest, learning styles can be divided into three broad categories: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. A visual learning style could include both graphics, charts, and pictures, as well as words; it’s any learning preference that involves sight. An auditory learner primarily learns by hearing, preferring spoken directions over written directions and audiobooks more than reading books. The kinesthetic learner is your hands-on learner, learning through exploration, experimentation, and anything that involves doing or moving.

The trouble is, sometimes these categories can be a little too broad. I have two visual learners, but they learn in two entirely different ways. One is visual with language and loves words, and the other would much prefer pictures and graphics. For this reason, many people find learning intelligences or modalities to be more helpful: musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, etc. Confused yet?

Knowing how your child learns doesn’t have to be confusing or technical. Who cares if you’ve got the proper name for it? Just know how your child learns best. You can figure this out without a complicated test.

1.  Watch your child play. Watch your child interact with information.

Do you have a child who can memorize anything put to music?

Do you have a child that never reads directions but follows the pictures in those directions instead?

Do you have a child that skips the lego instructions and pictures altogether and jumps into building and exploring?

Do you have a child that likes to order and arrange pieces and information before getting started?

Do you have a child that loves texture and messes and must touch everything?

Do you have a child that learns best in a community or group rather than alone?

You don’t have to know the learning style terms. Just know your child. As you watch your child play legos or organize a game with other children, what strengths does your child use? If your child loves music, add music to your curriculum. If your child loves to explore, hand him some manipulatives and have him work out a math solution before you hit the workbook; or give him a science experiment kit and journal rather than a textbook. If your child learns by pictures, make sure your curriculum includes lots of visuals.

2. Ask for your child’s opinion (if your child is old enough).

I have learned more about my kids by getting their feedback on what curriculum options I’m looking at than perhaps anything else. I’ll show them two or three options that I am considering, and they will readily tell me which they prefer. They know I make the final decision, and they can’t always tell me why they prefer one over the other. But as I notice what they are choosing, it gives me tremendous insight into how they learn best.

Also, as I recognize and praise what my kids are doing and how they learn, they are usually quick to give me ideas of how they’d like to add that to our homeschool day. When my daughter excitedly told me she could spell “Mickey Mouse” because she can sing the Mickey Mouse Club House song, we both knew we needed to add some tunes to our spelling time. When my son excitedly draws and sketches maps for his novel that he’s working on, I recognized we needed to add more drawing to our other subjects. When my daughter could not get the concepts of area and perimeter straight, we did an abstract art piece instead, with perimeter shapes in marker and area shapes in tissue paper.

There is nothing like finding a curriculum or method that allows your child to learn in his way, that allows him to succeed in learning and to love it. Homeschooling allows you to celebrate who your child is and to capitalize on that uniqueness. And best of all, it’s not complicated. It’s just a matter of recognizing what makes your child unique.

Finding the right homeschool curriculum for ADHD

finding homeschool curriculum for ADHD

I love homeschooling my ADHD kiddos, but it’s challenging for sure. Even with diet changes that have been more effective than their ADHD medications ever were, it’s still a challenge. If you can imagine with me, I homeschool Flint Lockwood (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) and Dory (Finding Dory) with Winnie the Pooh keeping an eye on meal times and snack options. It’s noisy, high energy, messy, and loads of fun. Certain days are rough; some days rocket and dive and veer into a range of extremes: anxiety and emotional melt downs, high distractibility, zero self-regulation, etc.

If you are homeschooling or are thinking of homeschooling an active or challenged child, finding a homeschool curriculum can seem even more daunting. How do you know what will work? Will they be able to stick with something for the entire year? Can we make it through all the subjects when we can’t make it through a single meal? But let me reassure you, finding homeschool curriculum for ADHD isn’t as hard as it sounds.

Homeschool Theme Days: Star Wars themes for every subject

star wars learning ideas | homeschool theme days | hands-on learning

What could be more fun than a Star Wars homeschool theme day! We are nearing the end of our school year, but as press toward the finish line, we need a little added fun to our days. So let your kids dress up as their favorite Star Wars character and add a little force to your homeschool theme day with some of these fun Star Wars activities for each subject.

Homeschooling Schedule for preschool, third, and fifth grades

homeschooling schedule preschool, third, and fifth grades | homeschooling multiples | homeschooling routine

Homeschooling is, like parenting, all about making adjustments. What works at one stage in life with one child, is not going to work two weeks from now. There is no perfect schedule, and there most certainly isn’t a permanent homeschooling schedule; it’s simply what works best for one point in time.

This year, we’ve kept a very fluid homeschooling schedule or routine. I’ve mentioned our casual Monday routine, with a mix of art and games and easing into the week. We tackle a lot of our whole-family learning on Mondays. Read-alouds, history projects, and science experiments are usually part of the Monday routine. As for the rest of the week, we’ve got a pretty flexible schedule.

To set the stage for you, here’s what I’ve learned about my different kids that has influenced our final routine.

  1. My oldest does best with as little involvement from me as possible. If a subject must be taught by me with regular meetings each day, we both struggle. He prefers an assignment and a list of expectations, which I do mostly when I meet with him on Mondays.
  2. That same approach would paralyze my third grader. She’s fine doing the things she loves on her own: art, reading, journaling, anything creative. But math, grammar—anything that involves structure and discipline—she has to have me right by her side. She wants, at the very least, companionship.
  3. My littlest is a mix of these two approaches. He likes time with Mom, but he prefers to merely impress me during this time. The actual learning he wants to experiment with on his own.
  4. I also factor my needs into the equation. Just how long can I endure the intense, hand-holding type of homeschool before I need a break? How much time can I devote to each child and their unique needs? With all that in mind, our homeschooling schedule has morphed into what is currently working well for us.

Our Homeschooling Schedule for Preschool, Third, and Fifth grades

Our schedule has two variations, depending on the extra-curriculars for the day. Monday is our only day with no obligations. Otherwise, we usually have something going every day, either in the morning or afternoon. On the days with afternoon activities, we use our morning homeschooling schedule. On the days with morning activities, we default to our afternoon schedule.

Morning Homeschooling Schedule

We are not morning people. A houseful of ADHD and insomniacs just doesn’t lend itself well to strict morning routines. Still, we manage to get up and at ’em by 7 or 8 in the morning. One child takes the dog out, the other starts breakfast. I will usually homeschool my preschooler either during this time while breakfast is being prepped or immediately after breakfast. I’ll drink my coffee and read my scripted Logic of English Foundations A. My preschooler will act out his various parts, complete his worksheets and play his games. We’ll break for his breakfast, and then finish with some learning apps (Montessori Numbers, Cursive Writing Wizard, and Logic of English Phonograms are our favorites.) His reward for doing school with me is time on Starfall.com. I’ve used this free website with each of my kids as they were learning to read, and we all absolutely love it.

homeschooling schedule | homeschooling preschool | starfall.com

This preschool time takes about half an hour to 45 minutes max. But keep in mind, I’m also parenting during this session. Reminding older kids to get dressed, brush their teeth, stop playing, stop fighting, do the dishes, etc. By the time I’ve wrapped up with the preschooler, my older two are usually fairly well on their way to starting the day. My oldest begins his independent work (I usually check in with him about once a week unless he needs assistance). And my third grader brings her clipboard, pencil, and Math Mammoth lessons. While my preschooler is playing his ipad apps and Starfall.com, I read and explain the overall math concept we are working on to my third grader, then she reads the directions out loud and proceeds to work through a section at a time. We work between 2-3 pages depending on how long it’s taking her and on whether it’s a good day or a moody/anxious struggling day. Once we wrap up Math Mammoth, we work through a short grammar lesson in First Language Lessons level 3. On a good day, this should be about 45 minutes to an hour’s worth of work. But some days, it takes us MUCH longer. It largely depends on her mood. Once she finishes up with me, she has some independent time with some computer programs (ReflexMath.com, Keyboarding without Tears, and Simplex Spelling ipad app), piano practice, and then her funschooling journal and reading books.

homeschooling schedule | homeschooling third grade | math mammoth

We break for lunch around noon, depending on what activity is schedule for the day. And that’s it!

Afternoon Homeschooling Schedule

Our default afternoon schedule is very similar to our morning schedule, except it gets started after we’ve made it home from our karate lesson or nursing home ministry and had lunch. I will not always do a preschool lesson with my youngest, depending on how he’s holding up. Sometimes, he just needs the play time. And I’m a firm believer in the importance of play time at this age. All in all, I work with him about three times a week, and that’s been plenty.

My third grader rounds up her clipboard and Math Mammoth, and we launch into our routine together. Hopefully wrapping up by 2:30 or 3 for the day. And I check in with my fifth grader to see what all he’s gotten done. Sometimes, he’ll surprise me by getting up early and finishing before breakfast; other days, he works through the afternoon, finishing up pretty closely to the same time as his sister. Occasionally, on rough days, homeschooling doesn’t wrap up until 5, when I have to start getting dinner. I hate that, and I try VERY hard to not let that happen often.

homeschooling schedule | homeschooling fifth grade

Our homeschooling schedule has not always gone this smoothly (even this year), but it’s worked well for the last couple of months. And next year, we’ll probably have to readjust everything again as I homeschool a kindergartner, fourth grader, and sixth grader (oh, my!!). It’s part of the package when your homeschool, and honestly, I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to make those adjustments.

Classically Homeschooling with Funschooling Journals

classically homeschooling with funschooling journals | homeschooling ADHD & dyslexia | homeschool curriculum for ADHD, dyslexia

I’ve been a fan of Thinking Tree curriculum, particularly Dyslexia Games, for awhile. The thinking skills, right-brained approach, and creativity of the curriculum and dyslexia therapy has made a world of difference for my daughter. So when I was looking for a way to help my daughter connect to our classical, literature-rich style of learning, I went back to the company that really seemed to understand her best, and I took a good long look at the funschooling journals.

There are so many funschooling journals, all with slight variations, that choosing one took me a long time. In the end, it was the bright pink cover with the kitty that ultimately sold us on the Homeschooling Journal for Creative Girls (though the YouTube reviews were also very helpful). The books are intended to be used with unschooling or delight-directed homeschoolers. The children are supposed to select up to 8 books that they want to learn from and work through 5-8 pages a day in the workbook. The pages cycle through similar activities that include drawing and narrating from the reading, copywork, nature study, some art and creative pages, recipe pages (to write a recipe), listening pages for audiobooks and DVD material, nature study pages, and more. There’s plenty of space for coloring, doodling, drawing, and other creative expression.

classically homeschooling with funschooling journals | homeschooling curriculum for ADHD, dyslexia

We obviously are putting our own unique spin on the funschooling journals. Because we use Tapestry of Grace as our main curriculum, I already had a shelf of books that I wanted her to read. But rather than assign particular books for each week as I had been doing, I gave her the new funschooling journal and allowed her to work through the books on the shelf at her own pace. Instead of 5-8 pages a day, she was assigned 5-8 pages for the week to work through at her leisure. 

The result: what would have taken her weeks to read (with tons of nagging and frustration on my part) took her a little over one week. She flew through her reading and loved journaling in her book about the parts of her reading that she loved best. She loved drawing the pictures, copying her own selections, filling out the listening sheet for her audiobook and science DVD, and the other various activities. She’s done much less coloring than I expected, but I could care less. I’m just counting my blessings that she loves this so much! 

classically homeschooling with funschooling journals | homeschool curriculum for ADHD, dyslexia

I absolutely intend to use these next year as well and have a couple more in mind to get (although I think she’d be perfectly happy to continue with another of the exact same journal). My intention is to continue using it as a means to supplement and motivate her to engage with our classical curriculum. While I do have books from our Tapestry of Grace that I want to be on her reading list, I also allow her freedom to add a few titles of her own. It’s a perfect blend of classically creative curriculum for my active, right-brained non-traditional learner.

And, of course, because these are such a hit with sister, my creative fifth grader thinks he really needs one, too. I may just relent. After all, this Minecraft Funschooling Journal looks way too cool. (Perhaps I’ll use it as a subtle way to add some summer learning.)

Educational Games and Resources by subject

educational games by subject | learning fun | gameschooling

My active kids love to learn (or show what they’ve learned) with games. Educational games have been an important part of our unit celebrations for years, and this year, I’ve included more in our daily routine to help us get through our Monday struggles. While we don’t use those educational games as our primary curriculum, I definitely want to incorporate more of them into our regular curriculum next year.

Which means I’ve been scouting, keeping an eye out for top-notch educational games to add to our collection. I’ve got a pretty good list going with lots of great educational game ideas for the different subject areas. Not all are necessarily on my wish list, but they make it onto yours. So I’m including all of my scouting work here for you. 

Educational Games for Math
  1. Sector 18 (formerly Number Rings)*
  2. Fraction Matchin’
  3. Smathor Mobi Max
  4. Even Steven’s Odd
  5. Incan Gold (division)
  6. Pizza Fraction Fun
  7. Race to the Treasure (grid coordinates)
  8. Number Ninjas

* We own these games, and I absolutely love them!

Educational Games for Science
  1. Into the Forest (natural food chain relationships)
  2. Hit the Habitat Trail (animals & habitats)—on my wish list!
  3. Sci or Fi Files
  4. Some Body Human Anatomy game—on my wish list, too!
Educational Games for Social Studies/History

My list here is pretty short, but there are a ton of free games you can find online. A couple of my favorite websites to search are Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool and Ellen McHenry. We’ve also gotten a number of favorites through our notebooking activity packs from Homeschool in the Woods. We also own a pack of Professor Noggin ancient history cards that we used for history Headbandz game at our last unit celebration.

  1. Passport to Culture
  2. Professor Noggin cards series
  3. Classical Historian history card games
Educational Games for Language Arts
  1. Pharaoh’s Phonics
  2. Rhyme Out
  3. Story Cubes
  4. Alphabet Island
  5. Word Pirates (spelling)*
  6. Bananagrams (own it, and love it!)
  7. Stepping Stones: the Expository Writing Game*
  8. The Storymatic Kids
  9. Tell Tale Pocket Game
  10. Cooking up Sentences: parts of speech game *
  11. Comprehension Blast Off game (reading comprehension skills) *
  12. Create-a-Story Board Game

*These games are on my wish list as well!

Another great resource to look for hands-on learning resources and educational games is TeacherspayTeachers.com. What other resources, websites, and educational games do you recommend? Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments as well. I’d love to know what your favorites are.