What’s your child’s learning style – Learning philosophies that work

When I had my second child, I knew he would be unique, as children are, but exactly how different they can be dawned on me much later as I saw my two children approach the same activities in completely different ways. Take away very different things and

even engage differently not just appropriate to their age but their own innate sense of understanding or learning style.

Most of us have heard this approach as adults, in fields of education / psychology or regular parenting – each child has a different ‘learning style’. But when it comes to our own children we forget to identify what style suits them and work to their strengths. Rather choosing to go with school provided curriculums and pedagogy (teaching) often causing frustration to the child and ourselves.

There are lots of articles and research that has gone into this categorisation, primarily into three:

Auditory learners – these children learn by listening, they do the best in lecture, classroom set ups as teachers teach and they can imbibe. They work best with spoken instructions. Can immediately execute activities based on what is told to them.

Visual learners – children that learn best by watching or seeing things. Books reading, videos, computers appeal to these kids. No matter how much you tell them, once they see the object of discussion they immediately get it.

Kinesthetic learners – these kids have it the most difficult since our classrooms are not made of movement, sensory based learning. These children exhibit some fidgeting, restlessness when asked to sit and listen in class. They need to look around, feel and experience what is being taught and do well in labs.

Now that we have said it, seems obvious doesn’t it? However, its not really as straightforward, because mostly while there is one dominant style of learning, children lean to the other styles to some degree. That said while schools, because of their limitations take up a one size fits all approach, parents wanting to help our child find their strengths and thereby enjoy their learning experience can help identify the learning style best suited to them.

My first is primarily a visual learner but he also has a strong kinesthetic streak in his style of learning. My second seems to be leaning more towards auditory and kinesthetic to a lesser degree. As a baby if I read to my older child he would crawl up to me and want to have a look in the book, at 5 he doesn’t want me to read anymore and prefers to read himself at his pace, he is happiest watching videos of his favourite activities, he will jump on any sensory play I provide for him.

My second on the other hand would stare at random people on buses, outdoors having animated conversations or talking in different pitches. He identifies his favourite things through their sound – helicopters, emergency sirens, dogs, rhymes are all perfectly mimiced.

Once I discovered this, the way they approached their activities made complete sense. We would talk about what we are playing for the younger one to engage with the activity and include a lot of stories from shows / books the older one has watched or read. Many times for my 5 yo I include a 3 minute video to explain the concept and then allow him to explore and discover for himself. Take the case of a phases of the moon project we did recently, after a quick video and some introduction he explored it by himself and made a pretty good set with dough.

Phases of moon

Why is it important to understand your child’s learning style. Apart from the obvious reason to help your child learn better, it also helps in understanding what teaching philosophy works best for your child.

I would like to believe I use a mix of Waldorf and Reggio principles for my kids as these philosophies rather than montessori seemed best suited for my kinesthetic learners. While adapting my approach to suit their visual / auditory styles by supplementing.

A short note on both these philosophies before I explore each including montessori in a separate post.

Waldorf – is a play based philosophy that focuses on learning through creative play. It doesn’t consciously bring in actual learning till later. It also focuses on emotional intelligence, and and understanding of society around them. This works best for us sonce both my kids love playing at the core of Waldorf is that kids should have fun and enjoy what they are doing.

Reggio – is basically interest based learning. Children develop innate interests as they view the world around them, building activities and play based on these interests helps the learning stick. For example we do a lot of nature based learning because my elder son is innately interested in spending time outddors and spotting things like flowers, trees, birds which I use as a learning experience.

In curating all of the above, what I am talking to are early learning experiences that have worked for us till age 5. As children grow, their ability and interest in learning changes and evolves, many times most children move towards an auditory learner because of classroom experiences yet they are happiest learners in their real style.

However, this early experience builds their association with learning and education and if it is positive and builds their confidence and self esteem it goes a long way to building a strong base for a lifetime of learning.

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