Friday, February 15, 2013

Learning (and teaching!) styles

The Way They Learn So I've been sick and trying to rest (and skipping doing school with the girls) but I read through this book in less than two days!  It was that good.  I thought it would talk about the usual Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic ways of remembering information.  I have a pretty good idea of what my girls bend toward in those areas and I've been familiar with this for quite some time.  What I was surprised to read though was what the first half of the book talked about!

The way in which we view the world is called our ---

And we perceive in two ways... Concrete and Abstract

The way we USE the information we perceive is called---

 We order in two ways... Sequential and Random

All of us have elements of all of these styles and combinations, but in general we will be dominant in one of the combinations.  This is the combinations with a very brief description of the type.

 Hardworking, conventional, accurate, stable, dependable, consistent, factual, organized
 Analytic, objective, knowledgeable, thorough, structured, logical, deliberate, systematic
 Sensitive, compassionate, perceptive, imaginative, idealistic, sentimental, spontaneous, flexible
Quick, intuitive, curious, realistic, creative, innovative, instinctive, adventurous

What I learned from reading this book was not so much about how my kids learn, but how I need to teach!  I feel like over half my life has been spent trying to be a different type than what I am and being miserable because I couldn't seem to be that.  While it's important to develop other ways to learn and teach, it's first important to know how we perceive and order information to begin with so that we can play up our strengths!  We can then use our strengths to become stronger in the areas that we are weak.

The book also talked about how we understand things.  Are we more analytical (gathering all the details first) or do we see things in a more global way (what's the big picture?)

When I was telling my husband about all of this the other night he immediately went towards the "which one is better" route, but the whole point of the book is to point out that one way of thinking is not inherently "smarter" than another way.  One way might think more creatively while another mode will think more practically and both are needed in society.  The problem though is that our school system is geared toward the Concrete / Systematic people the most and those of us who are different then that often don't get what we need.

What I realized in my own life though is that while I was homeschooled all my life, my parents were both trained public school teachers and my homeschooling was pretty much an imitation of the classroom.  That wasn't a terrible way for me to learn or anything, but I've felt far too stressed about my own homeschooling journey with my kids and now I understand why and what I can do about it, but more about that later...

I've felt deficient for over half my life because I've felt the pressure from multiple areas that I was failing at being consistent and organized and stable.

I also understand why it bothered me so much when I was almost done with Highschool and I was so frustrated with all the time I was spending learning things that I'd never use.  The Concrete/Random asks when learning "How much of this is really necessary?"  I learned so much more when I was left alone to attain practical skills and just follow what I was interested in.  Later I got my G.E.D. and got 100% on almost every section of the test (2 years after quitting highschool and with only one night of study before taking the test) but I didn't feel like that was ever "good enough"... But why?  Because in a way I was thinking that the way I natural learn is wrong.  I might say "I'm not great at being consistent" but in many ways I AM good at being consistent though it's not in a systematic way.  I'm consistent in a global random way, and I know now that this is totally fine and good and I should stop putting pressure on myself to be systematic and start playing up the area that I'm strong in.

Oh, and just for your information the other learning styles ask this primarily--

Concrete/Sequential -- What facts do I need?  How do I do it?  What should it look like?  When is it due? (Notice how these questions are just exactly what a teacher would want to hear?)
Abstract/Sequential -- How do I know this is true?  Have we considered all the possibilities?  What will we need to accomplish this?
(This sounds like the "bright" kid in the traditional classroom setting)
Abstract/Random -- What does this have to do with me?  How can I make a difference?
(This sounds more like the sort of person that make friends with everyone and does a great job IF they feel they have something to contribute.)
Concrete/Random -- How much of this is really necessary?
(And yes, this is the kid that annoys the teacher the most.)

If you tend toward the C.S. and are teaching someone like me who is a dominant C.R. you are going to be frustrated I'm sure.  Actually, I can be a bit frustrated at times too because my oldest leans a bit towards the C.S. and schedules are stressful for me.  But I'm jumping ahead of myself... now to the point of this blog post.

My dominant bent is "Concrete / Random" with a bunch of other layers to that, and I won't get into all of that.  My revelation came when I saw what stresses the C.R. type
The dominant Concrete/Random usually thrives with 
-- inspiration
-- independence 
-- compelling reasons
-- freedom to choose options
--guidelines instead of rules
--opportunities for creative alternatives

The Concrete/Random is often stressed by
--excessive restrictions and limitations
--forced schedules or routines
--not being appreciated as a unique individual
--not being given credit for knowing the right thing to do

Those last two in the "stressed by" list I haven't experienced in a really long time (I sort of remember being frustrated by them when I was a teenager maybe?)   BUT the first two in the stressed list are a HUGE revelation because I've been continually feeling stressed (of my own making) because I've been trying to put those limitations on myself!  I've been trying to force a schedule and put in limitations and restrictions (especially with homeschooling and house cleaning) because I thought that was the "way to do it."

My goal now that I know this though is to figure out how to stay in the "freedom to choose options" and stay inspired and independent in my schooling and household duties.  I'm always the happiest when I'm reading to the girls and the thing we are reading happens to give me a good project idea or remind me of a science experiment that I saw on Pinterest and we just up and do it!  I love that!  I don't necessarily like the mess it all makes, but boredom for me is a worse enemy than having to clean up.  When I was trying to explain this to my husband he said that what I was trying to do (the scheduling thing and restrictions) was the "wrong way to homeschool"  --I can't agree with that.  I think if you thrive with a schedule then you should use one, but if you know that your child is a bit more like me with needing to choose their options and be inspired and independent you could perhaps ask which subject they want to start with (instead of insisting on always starting with Math or whatever) and come up with other ways to help them engage without making them feel bored or breaking their desire to keep trying. 

Okay, so, my oldest perhaps tends toward the Concrete/Sequential (which might change as she grows of course) and what they thrive in is this --
tangible rewards
literal language

And what stresses them is this--
too much to do
not knowing where to begin
no clean, quiet places
not knowing expectations
vague or general directions
not seeing an example

So, when I talk about how I'm stressed about homeschooling perhaps it will make more sense now.  It does to me at least!  Now I know that I'm not just being weird or flawed for feeling stressed out when someone says to just make a list and follow the list or schedule or just be consistent with this or that and it will work out fine.  Find a routine and stick to it.  Yes, those are things that a dominant Concrete/Sequential would value, but for me I'm suddenly thrown into stress mode!  My oldest daughter throw me into stress mode when she is showing signs of needing more order and a schedule and more concrete directions and examples.

My goal now it to figure out how to somehow plan the "bigger picture" and have a routine WITH options and have some consistency with a lot of flexibility to be creative and independent.

If you are following me on this you might be starting to get why I'm struggling with the balance.  I don't know how to have the flexibility while still having the consistency.  Perhaps I'm over thinking it and just need to go with what I've been doing already.  Honestly, this would be a lot easier if I didn't have a toddler too.  I think I could have more order WITH freedom if my little "not-yet-two-year-old" wouldn't interrupt and get into stuff and wreck havoc, but much of that will only get easier as she grows up.
Using a pre-made schedule through Sonlight is really helpful for me because it keeps me somewhat on track but I can choose to do some things on different days.  I can throw out some of their ideas all together and add in my own instead.  It gives me a place to start instead of starting totally from scratch.  I like that.  I like having the guide and I just need to stop feeling bad for not being someone that I'm not.  There is that thrifty part of me though that wonders why we'd spend so much on a school that I'm not using exactly the way they have it set up, BUT we do read through all the books.. we just don't do it in the same order.. we do most of their ideas.. we just switch the days around.

This was another long post, but if I don't write it all down then I forget what I've learned.  And perhaps some of you are struggling with homeschooling (or whatever) and aren't sure why.  A book like this might help you understand not only your kids but yourself as well!

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