October 27, 2008

Three Kids, Three Learning Styles

If you've been reading my blog for any time at all, you know that I have three teenagers who have all been home schooled from the beginning. My oldest is in his first year of college and I find it very interesting that he is doing so well after a lifetime of unschooling/interest-led learning. Of course, this could just be parental pride, but I like to think that I'm encouraging others who are considering interest-led learning in their homes.

OK, so you've heard a lot about Peter, now what about my other two? How are they doing? I get emails from moms wondering about children with different personalities and learning styles. What about them?

I think God was very organized when He planned out what kids I would get:

My first one is an extreme left-brained absent-minded professor type. And yes, he does want to be a professor. He practically aced the ACT and the SAT and was a National Merit Finalist. That alone earned him a free ride to a handful of colleges.

My second child (Meg) is an extreme right-brained creative who is very sensitive and perceptive. She will sing and dance her way through life, looking to help the lost and forgotten. She often says she may end up in a third world country and start an orphanage.

My third child (Missa) is down the middle, hanging out a little more on the left-brained side. She loves structure, competition, athletics and has always wanted to be a police officer. Recently she wants to be a missionary--all things that require hard physical labor with a highly heroic aspect to it.

I didn't know these things about my children when we started. All I knew was that I had three adorable kids and I wasn't sending them off to someone else to be educated. I was going to let them grow and develop along their lines of interest and see what happened. I wasn't going to force them into educational boxes, I was going to try lots of different teaching styles, and I would go with what worked for them.

As it turned out, this was especially good for Meg since she didn't catch on to reading until she was about 10 years old. In the school system she would have been put in special classrooms, labeled something unpleasant, and probably forever scarred, being the overly sensitive, perfectionist type that she is. It was especially good for Peter too, because he was able to accelerate at his own lightning speed. Melissa? I'm still trying to figure her out. She's a perfectionist who would probably have given herself (and me) ulcers trying to do everything just right if she'd been in traditional school. Being home gave her stress-free time to become herself in all it's wackiness (and by the way, she's getting A's and B's in her first quarter of high school).

Watching and taking my cues from my kids helped me teach to their learning style without even realizing it. When kids are allowed to follow their interests, they gravitate toward topics and activities that "fit" them. I write more about this in A Look at Interest Led Learning.

So here we are at Meg's junior year of high school. She is not going to ace the ACT or the SAT like Peter. As a matter of fact, she has such an aversion to tests that I had to give her pain medication ahead of time because the headache would start about one hour into the test. And the most important strategy was to make sure to fill in all the little circles no matter what (blanks are automatically marked wrong). She took the ACT early in her junior year because she can take it as many times as she wants, pick the best score, and send that to colleges. But that first test was so traumatic, she has vowed to never take it again, and unless she changes her mind, she has a fairly low score to show admissions committees.

BUT, Meg is not a test-taker! This is not her thing. This in no way measures her intelligence or ability to succeed in life. These tests measure your ability to sit for four hours and concentrate on words on a page. There is quite a movement against using the ACT and the SAT and I am whole heartedly with them. Even some colleges are seeing the folly of relying so heavily on numbers, and I would like to give them a big hug. Numbers worked for Peter and we're happy about that, but we see the inherent problem with the system.

Meg would like to go into music theater or a social science, helping profession. These fit her perfectly. Next year, her senior year, we plan on enrolling her in the community college to take dual credit/freshman level math and English.
Melissa is still at the public school and doing very well. She is still planning on going to Mexico as much as she can, but trying to figure out how public school can fit in there too. She likes the challenge, the constant activity, and the structure. She even does math an hour EVERY DAY without complaining. But if I asked her to do it... So I tell her, "If you're going to play the public school game, you have to play to win. Go for the A's. That will keep your options open at graduation." Is she willing to pay the price to win? So far yes. And as time goes on, my prejudice against boxed education is softening. I can see how it's good for her and working for her. Traditional schooling works best for left-brained kids who like structure and like people telling them what to do (our home school is so not that). We have a unique situation in our school district--homeschoolers can sign up for any number of classes. So we might mix and match public schooling with homeschooling as time goes on, or completely go back to homeschooling. Only time and a desire to go to Mexico will tell.

As I did a some research about learning styles I found these links. I hope they help you understand those little mysteries you have called "children."

TopsieTechie has a bunch of links on learning styles.

Here's an article and video with links about learning styles from edutopia.org.

Live Without School has an article about right brained learners.

Check out Myers-Briggs personality information.

Learn about Multiple Intelligences.


Heather said...

Finally home again and have time to comment. :) This is a wonderful post! You may find it interesting to do a Myer's-Briggs/Kiersey style test with each of them as well as recognizing the right brained/left brained aspect of each. We learned a lot about ours and ourselves doing that (for instance we only have 1 extroverted person in the whole family--the oldest child, no wonder she talks all our ears off all the time. :)) She is also left-brained, NT (Intuitive and Thinking so not great at people in the long term but open and friendly with everyone. :)) My other two are very different (one NF and an introverted NT.) We found that recognizing that made a big difference in what we encouraged them to do.

Also love hearing what God is doing in each of your kids lives--such an encouragement to all of us who are dealing with younger ones. :)

Isn't it amazing how God has provided them with an environment where they can grow into themselves instead of into a mold?

Catherine said...

It's so cool to see how each of your kids is so different and responding to education done their way.


Karen said...

This is so true - I've got an 8-year-old absent-minded professor, and a 4-year-old who never, ever stops moving... they complement each other perfectly.
Thanks for this post!

My Journey so Far... said...

I've been waiting patiently (not!) for this post since you emailed me the other day!
It's so great to hear about your dc and to get to read how interest led learning is working in their lives.
One question about Meg, who sounds so much like both of my boys...what type of things is she doing for academics in her junior year? I'd love to hear more about her days and how they unfold, especially with a 11th grader myself. :)

Unknown said...

I have a child that struggles with reading, too. He is making progress, but it is at a much slower pace than what would be accepted in a public school. I'm so grateful to have him home with me where I can build him up and encourage him in the progress that he is making.
As far as learning styles go, I'm still amazed at how differently my three children learn. And again, I'm grateful that they aren't stuck in a one size fits all system of education. Thank you for sharing this post, Jena. I always seem to be able to relate parts of our experience with your family's experience, and it gives me comfort in where we are.

Unknown said...

As always, I love reading your posts. Even among unschoolers, I don't seem to run into many people who openly share that their children were late readers. My older son is making progress and for the most part seems satisified with where he is as a reader. What I have noticed is he has a lot "dyslexic" type reading patterns that seem to be working themselves out with time. I am so glad he was neve exposed to an environment that required he learn before he was ready.
My daughter on the other hand, learned to read from a McGuffy reader because she wanted to read like Laura Ingalls. After learning to read at 7, she didn't read much on her own again until she was 9 and then went right into chapter books.
It is amazing to me how different our kids can be in their learning schedules and when we give them the guidance they need, they will do it in their own time and own way.

Jena said...

Heather, yes, the Myers Briggs is very helpful. I'll put a link to it on the post. Thanks for reminding me!

And to everyone, thanks for your comments. It really is amazing how different kids can be. And it's even more amazing that teachers in classrooms get anything accomplished with all the individual needs. And it seems obvious why they have so many behavior problems and the need for special education. So many kids just don't fit the mold!

Somewhere in my reading (I should take better notes) I learned that kids who favor the right brain shouldn't try to learn to read until they are 8--something about the symbolic nature of reading. And then between ages 8 and 11 they usually get it. I feel bad for everyone stuck in a system (teachers and kids) who have such pressure to read in 1st grade.

Unknown said...

How nice that your district actually has some compassion and allows you to pick and choose classes. Ours is a bit on the all or nothing line of thinking. I see a big difference already in my girls' learning styles. It will make life interesting!

Mindy said...

Once again you have inspired me in the educational path I will choose for my lttlest, who is 3. Neither of my older girls, now teens, thrived in school and I decided long before DD#3 was born that we would homeschool. Thanks for your insight and inspiration!

Anonymous said...

Another terrific post, Jena. My two boys have completely different learning styles, and learned to read so VERY differently. My oldest, a very left brained learner like myself, picked up on phonics as if we had put letters in his sippy cup. He could read sentences from the newspaper when he was 3 1/2 yrs. old! Our youngest had Auditory Processing Disorder and dyslexia and was a right brained learner from the get-go and didn't really learn to read until 2nd grade. He still can't really spell handle language mechanics very well. I can see my oldest, who is schoolish by nature, doing incredibly well in a traditional college setting (despite his Tourette syndrome), but I'm not sure I see in in the cards for the younger son. Only time will tell. I just want to make sure that the options are there for them either way!

p.s. Thanks for the linkie love!

Jena said...

Topsy Techie, "leaving options open" --that is so important! That's been my thinking all along. It would be a shame to have doors closed to our kids when it's time for them to pursue their dreams. That's my thinking behind keeping math as strong as you can no matter what kind of learner you have.

Jena said...

Oh, and Heather, my Myers-Briggs says I'm an INFJ, so being an inspiration is important to me. So thanks for the affirmation everyone. :)

Jena said...

A Little About Me, I'm going to do a post about Meg's typical day this week. I'm working on it now. Thanks for the idea!

My Journey so Far... said...

Great Jena! I can't wait to read what a typical or should that read atypical day looks like for her! LOL
After I read your post I researched more about right-brain learners and can now identify with where both of my boys are coming from. My oldest always says he's terrible at math because he has a hard time writing out the problems, but he can do them in his head and hates doing all those unnecessary steps. His mantra has always been, "but why do I have to write out the steps, I know the answer!" LOL

Can't wait for your next post.

Letitia said...

I, for one, am very encouraged by your posts! I find that I love to encourage others in unschooling, but still have those panic attacks myself some weeks. This is the first year that we have officially decided and embraced it completely, and I still feel unsteady......and, I've probably told you that 12 times already. LOL. I need to hear that I'm doing the right thing over and over right now!
Thanks for sharing about your children.
We're out the door tomorrow for a camping trip.

Letitia said...

P.S. I meant to ask if you knew that my 2nd daughter, Briana, is pursuing musical theater. She changed the major from interior design at the last min, so couldn't get into a new college that fast. She is living with my parents training at a theater there~mostly several styles of dance, but also voice and musical theater classes. She hopes to audition for a play in the spring. We are still not sure what next fall will look like.
Both of my older girls are artsy types.

daysease said...

what an absolutely gorgeous flower she is drawing!!!

Anonymous said...

Great post. I think Cindy at Applestars (.homeschooljournal.net) has good information including the bit about right brainers not being ready to read until after age 8 (something to do with seeing in 3-D). Stephanie at Throwing Marshmallows (.com) also has a bunch of right-brained learner links in her sidebar.

One thing I think you have in common with Cindy is the focus on figuring out your children's gifts (as well as styles) and nurturing them.

Jena said...

Hi Jove,

Great links. Thank you!


I'm really interested in your daughter's experiences. It sounds like a wonderful opportunity for her.

Perilloparodies, I told Meg what you said and she says thanks!

A Little About Me, good for your son! He's smarter than most if he can skip the steps!

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