Another puddle of syrup seeps into her pancakes and she swirls her fork around like she's creating a Picasso. I tell her to stop playing and eat them and for goodness sake, food is not art. She pops her baby blues up at me and quips, "Mommy, all of life is art to me!"
She knows exactly how she wants to be educated as well. She frequently asks to paint her spelling words or, "Can't we just make a clay sculpture to go with this history lesson?"
Conversely, my oldest and I were perusing curricula in the summertime for her and she repeatedly reminded me she needs quantifiable work. She must have an organized program, a detailed schedule, take tests, have marks and know right where she stands in the grand scheme of all educated kids her age around the world.
Now, I could write about all the research concerning learning styles and how our kids' education must suit their leaning but I think you probably have a sense of how true this is. In her book, The Way They Learn, Cynthia Tobias shares more on this topic. Children are so vastly different from one another, even in the same family. So, how do you teach your children, whether you have one or ten, to their learning style or interests? You add and subtract from the curriculum you have or you design your own.
I'm so grateful for the myriads of hands-on ideas on the web for curricula that requires much seat work, such as a boxed curriculum. Alternatively, there are days when we've been with our school groups and been busy with field trips and art projects and we all need a day of workbook learning as a break! As you begin to become acutely aware of your children's needs, you simply find the resources that pull in some of the things that work for them. We might sit around our table and be sharing the same subject but all four kids are doing various activities for it. For example, if apples is our theme in the fall, Meghan might write an essay comparing apple orchards that use pesticides versus organic farms. Molly might read a book about Johnny Appleseed and make a pastel drawing of how light hits an apple. Emily and Oliver will also do the art but Emily might write a book report and her brother, a few sentences in his journal (while juggling apples, lol, since he leans toward the kinesthetic side).
At first, I thought it was easier for me to teach a room full of kids at school than to figure out what my four needed to excel, but once I realized out that we didn't have to do every page in a workbook or complete all the lessons in a program, I was free to add fun and artsy activities for my visual girl and to streamline a subject to be more succinct for my more analytical, logical kiddos.
Just a couple of things we've been up to...
Shakespeare lessons with our friends and cousins
Everyone colours Shakespearean pictures while Miss Candace reads parts from Twelfth Night, explaining in a humorous way as she goes.
A book for the Littles that begins with mapping their bedroom, street, town and state, all the way to their country, continent and then planet.
activities for a difficult concept
held together with a brass fastener
Does this mean I don't require any work that is unappealing to my kids? No, they still must complete their lessons, but how much more lasting in their minds are the lessons if they include elements that are in line with their learning style? In an article called, Learning Styles of Children, D.H. Sailor writes:
Currently, most learning style theorists believe that individuals become more flexible in the ways they approach learning as they gain knowledge and experience. Eventually most individuals will have a favored learning style but will use other learning styles when necessary. Teachers can help children develop a profile of their preferred learning style but should also encourage them to utilize other ways to process information. This will give them more options in the future.
This idea may seem overwhelming when you're beginning and all you can think about is surviving. I assure you, it will become easier and you'll settle into a routine that allows you to keep an eye on each child's learning style. I'll bet they'll be sure to let you know how they enjoy learning as my children did :)