Pike's PeakRecognizing Personhood through Learning Styles

I gave this presentation at the Second Annual Charlotte Mason Conference sponsored by ChildLightUSA. I finally posted the notes (ahem, eighteen months later). To order the audio recording that goes with these notes, click here.

Two Key Principles

Children are born persons. pg. xxix

First Principle

We can better recognize our own personhood and that of our students.

Older students can study Mansoul with sharper self-knowledge and self-direction.

Therefore, children should be taught, as they become mature enough to understand such teaching, that the chief responsibility which rests on them as persons is the acceptance or rejection of ideas. To help them in this choice we give them principles of conduct, and a wide range of the knowledge fitted to them. These principles should save children from some of the loose thinking and heedless action which cause most of us to live at a lower level than we need. pg. xxxi

Nineteenth Principle

We must accept or reject the idea of learning styles helping to develop habits and principles of conduct.

Students can be better equipped to live at a higher level by accepting or rejecting ideas. Recognizing style can help them: perceive ideas, understand principles of conduct, remember knowledge, and order their thinking and actions.

Perception and Ordering

Education should be by Things and by Books. pg. 231

By "education is a discipline," we mean the discipline of habits. pg. xxix

"Education is the Science of Relations" . . . natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts. pg. xxx

When I first read the stories in Volume 5, I became confused by seemingly conflicting advice. With Kitty, one must not throw her on her own responsibility, while, with Guy, his father puts on him the responsibility for chasing away his anger by racing Mr. Cross-man. Charlotte recommended showing Agnes the hatefulness of her sullen moods in a direct, but gentle manner, but confronting Kitty with her faults was a heavy, weary weight. When I analyzed the learning styles of these children, everything made sense. I believe that Charlotte Mason understood many elements of learning styles instinctively and tailored her overall principles in ways that made sense to each distinctly different child.

Two Styles of Perceiving

Concrete: Things
What they sense
what is real
Abstract: Books
What they think
ideas and concepts

Two Styles of Ordering

Sequential: Discipline
Structure, routine, rules
orderly worker
Random: Relations
Variety, flexibility, guidelines
juggles many activities

Blending Perception and Order

Concrete Random
The Philosopher at Home
Abstract Random
Inconstant Kitty
Concrete Sequential
Under a Cloud
Dorothy Elmore's Achievement
Abstract Sequential
Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice

Concrete Random
The Philosopher at Home (Guy)

Traits: Things and Relations

Craves choice, freedom, not force "Mrs Belmont laid her hand on his shoulder to raise him, the boy sprang to his feet, ran into her head-foremost like a young bull"
Wants inspiration, guidelines, not rules "All at once there was a lull . . . He held in his hand a proof of his own photograph which had just come from the photographers.
Unpredictable, enjoys variety "[Nurse] set him down with a vigorous shaking. There were days when Guy would stand this style of treatment cheerfully, but this was not one of them"
Innovative, sees many solutions "His most bewitching arts was only met with sad looks and silence"
Uncompromising "'Stop that noise this minute, you naughty boy!' . . . The noise was redoubled"
Persistent "'Get up, Guy.' Renewed screams" "He has such a temper, ma'am!"
Spontaneous "A quarter of an hour ago life had looked very bright . . . but she was under a cloud" "A frantic outburst of passion, to be so instantly followed by a sweet April-day face"
Values humor, creativity "Guy was . . . delightful; attentive and obedient to Harriet, full of charming play to amuse the two little ones"

Strategies for Guy
Firm Love and Inspiration

Concretes like specific tasks "The new thing comes to him as naturally and graciously as do all the joys of a childish day" "Garden with him" . . . "a game of dominoes" . . . "tidy her work-box" . . . "help her in the store-room"
CRs want you to lighten up, not let up "Guy was left to 'subside at his leisure,' said his father"
CRs seek direction, then choice "Prevention is better than cure. The thing for all of us is to take precautions against even one more of these outbreaks."
CRs need you to back off, not force "Do not stop to ask questions, or soothe him, or make peace, or threaten"
CRs need authority, not authoritatively "'Master Guy, dear,' in a quite easy, friendly tone"
CRs can target strong-will toward right "All is gained if we avert the set of the will towards wrong-doing"
CRs enjoy new strategies and variety "[She] invented some pleasant errand . . . hitting instantly on something to be done"
CRs appreciate innovative ideas Propose what was stale, and not only would Guy decline to give up the immediate gratification of a passionate outbreak . . . but he would begin to look suspiciously on the 'something else' which so often came his way"
CRs need love and acceptance "[Mother's] face still had that sad far-away look . . . yet never before had Guy known how much his mother loved him"
CRs tune into inspiration "[Mr 'Cross-man'] goes away if you begin to do something else as hard as you can"
CRs think on their feet Guy: "What fun! See if I don't beat him! Won't I give Mr 'Cross-man' a race!"
CRs want respect for their uniqueness "Not in a small way at all; the child will be a hero."
Randoms like flexibility, change "Change his thoughts" "Instantly the flash in the eye became a sparkle of delight"

Abstract Random
Inconstant Kitty

Traits: Books and Relations

Sensitive "The rain of warm kisses, the soft clasping arms, the nestling head are delicious"
Spontaneous "Before a line is done, up starts Kitty
Social butterflies "She is a loving little soul, as you know, and is always adoring somebody"
Loves group activities and cooperation "Eyes and ears for everybody's business but her own"
Speaks with compassion and empathy "I see you put your finger on those unlucky words 'coaxing pretty ways"
Craves flexibility in time and activities Kitty: "Shell is so much nicer-than k n o w, and I'm so tired of it"
Craves imagination and creativity Kitty: "I have written it three whole times, mother, and I really can't do it any more!"
Crave variety and change "Kitty's dawdling ways, her restless desire, for change of occupation, her always wandering thoughts

Strategies for Kitty
Feelings and Short Steps

Randoms struggle with attention "You must help her to gain the power of attention"
Build attention in baby steps "Go slowly; a little to-day and a little more to-morrow"
Capture attention through imagination "Her lessons must be made interesting"
Randoms do best with short lessons "But do not let the lesson last more than 10 minutes"
Randoms crave variety in math "Use dominoes or the domino cards. . . to add or subtract the dots"
Randoms crave variety in everything "Vary the lessons; now head, and now hands; now tripping feet and tuneful tongue"
Abstracts tune into ideas "The sense of the preciousness of time, of the irreparable loss when a ten minutes lesson is thrown away, must be brought home"
ARs enjoy group activities "The three can work together . . . Kitty will be alive here"
ARs tune into the feelings of others "Let your own unaffected distress at the loss of 'golden minutes' be felt"
ARs are sensitive "Do not, if you can help it, single the little maid out from the rest"
ARs bask in the admiration of others "Put a premium of praise on every finished thing"
ARs value humor "A little gentle ridicule might do a great deal of good . . . managed with tact, I do believe it's good for children and grown-ups to see the comic side of their doings"
ARs want strong relationships "Let Kitty and all of them grow up to glory in their constancy to every friend"

Concrete Sequential
Under a Cloud
Dorothy Elmore's Achievement

Traits: Things and Discipline

Has attention to detail "Agnes displeased with her porridge; says nothing"
Organized "Harry upset his sister's work-basket-by accident . . . but she can't get over it"
Practical "How is it to affect Dorothy? That is the practical question"
Dependable "Dorothy was in the room already, doing the little duties of the breakfast table" "See what tact she has with the little ones"
Conscientious "The deference and gentleness of her manner to these [dear old friends]" "Her heart were brimming with reverence and affection" "Dorothy is a good girl, and will yield herself to treatment"
Strives for perfection "Simplicity in conversation; the perfection of her manner" "a quick, noiseless step" "I interrupted with-'Don't you think what we have in the house will do, dear'?" "And what grace-what an elegant girl she is"
Expects perfection "Someone fails to dot his i's, and you resent it" "'You gave Harry the bigger and Agnes the smaller pear.' Agnes's pear was not touched"
Likes predictability "But I did not see why the children's commission would not do as well to-morrow" "She liked best to be at home, and was more amiable and lovely with father and mother, brothers and sisters, than with the most fascinating strangers"

Strategies for Agnes and Dorothy
Under a Cloud
Specifics and Examples

Sequentials want detailed information "You are still wrapped in the cloud; until, suddenly . . . a hug from little May, the first primrose of the year, a lark, filling the world with his gladness, and, presto! the key is turned; the enchanted princess liberated"
Sequentials get cause and effect "We shall have to . . . deal with the cause at least as much as with the effects"
Concretes need specific tasks "Agnes, come here, and hold up your pinafore!"
Concretes need real-life examples "Think of something interesting and pleasant; the new dress you must plan, friend you like best, the book you are reading; best of all, fill the heart and mind suddenly with some capital plan for giving pleasure to some poor body whose days are dull"
CSs want a straightforward manner "We shall have to show her to herself in this matter"
CSs prefer literal language "Everyone felt as if a black curtain had been hung up to shut out the sunshine" "She would not speak to any of us, or be kind to us, or love any of us all the day"
CSs are confused by generalities "Dr Evans went on to make clear to Dorothy . . . the interaction of thought and brain"
CSs will ask for more details "But I am not yet sure how this is to apply to Dorothy" Dorothy: "I'm to think of something else . . . But that's just the thing I can't do"

Abstract Sequential
Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy

Traits: Books and Discipline

Aloof and quiet to others "People call him proud . . . because he does not rattle away like other young men"
Prefers watching to doing/speaking Mr. Darcy watches others, rarely participates, even just to talk. "I cannot catch their tone of conversation or appear interested in their concerns as I often see done"
Requires time, quiet and space He ignores Miss Bingley while writing. Rejects aid in mending a pen. Snubs her praises. "You are mistaken. I write rather slowly." Mr. Bingley: "[Darcy] does not write with ease. He studies too much for words." Wants music after finishing letter.
Thorough, exact "The power of doing anything with quickness is always much prized by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance"
Holds strong opinions, precise "To yield without conviction is not compliment to the understanding of either" "My good opinion once lost, is lost for ever"
Intellectual, thoughtful "[I] consider poetry as the food of love" "To all this she must yet add something more substantial in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading" "For the liveliness of your mind, I did [admire you]" Prefers books/letters/libraries
Researches before acting Before proposing, Mr. Darcy sought Elizabeth's opinion of distance from home, Kent and Hunsford, solitary walks, Mrs. Collins' happiness; he parses her conversations with Colonel Fitzwilliam; his aunt's plotting gave him hope to propose a second time
Needs logic to back up emotion He believed "were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger" "In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed."
Puts thoughts on paper Mr. Darcy enjoys writing long letters for business or personal reasons. Replies to Elizabeth's refusal in writing. Writes a letter immediately after the second proposal.

Strategies for Mr. Darcy
Mr. Darcy
Reason and Principles

ASs want you to listen to them Miss Bingley did not really listen, but sought chances to flatter; Elizabeth listened to tease him and challenge him in a duel of wits
ASs prefer your logic, reason Miss Bingly played up his qualities and invented reasons to praise; Elizabeth made reasonable comments, although faulty at times
ASs need you to be factual "Though your accusations were . . . formed on mistaken premises, my behaviour . . . merited the severest reproof" "Had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner"
ASs crave credible sources "I must have been in error. Your superior knowledge of your sister must make the latter probable." "[I] appeal more particularly to the testimony of Colonel Fitzwilliam"
ASs respect honesty and directness Mr. Darcy's proposal had, "disguise of any sort is my abhorrence" and "my honest confession of the scruples that had long prevented my forming any serious designs"
ASs appreciate principles as a guide "I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride" "You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased"
ASs like being appreciated "[I wanted] show you, by every civility. . . that I hoped to obtain your forgiveness to lessen your ill opinion by letting you see that your reproofs had been attended to"
ASs avoid expressing sentiment "A man who had felt less, might [talk more]"
ASs require time to research "My aunt's intelligence had given me hope and I was determined at once to know everything" "To judge . . . whether I might ever hope to make you love me"

Applying Perception and Ordering Style

Daily Routine
CR - Allow choice in order/place of tasks
AR - Do some group work (fine arts)
CS - Be organized (lists, stacks, Excel)
AS - Allow extra time for thoroughness
Math Lessons
CR - Show many ways to solve, shortcuts
AR - Personalize math problems
CS - Go step-by-step, practical problems
AS - Give basic principles, must make sense
CR - Appreciate creative twists/humor
AR - Do narrations for other people
CS - Model how to narrate, demonstrate
AS - Allow written narrations if ready
CR - Let child pick book and passages
AR - Sit next to child and compliment
CS - Pick the same page/chapter every day
AS - Let child work at desk in another room


Three Ways of Remembering
I don't know!

"We say, 'Such and such a sight or sound, or sensation, made a strong impression on me' . . . You want a child to remember? Then secure his whole attention." Charlotte Mason, page 156

At the Second Annual Charlotte Mason Conference in June 2006, Dr. Carroll Smith discussed the latest research on transferring knowledge from short-term to long-term memory. His actual words are available in an audio recording called "What is Good Instruction" and what I remember follows. First, a person must feel emotionally safe for learning to occur. When the amygdala goes into "fight or flight" mode, the brain marshalls its resources toward perceiving danger, making it difficult to store information. Second, learning must occur in context, must have meaning, and must tie to previous information. If a person is already familiar with a topic, it becomes easier to store new memories about it. A quick recap of previous material before a lesson helps link previous learning to the new ideas. Third, the brain stores knowledge touched with emotion more readily, which is why living books work better than textbooks. Finally, the mind requires two steps in the learning cycle: taking information and reproducing it back. Some people are more adept at one sensory channel over another and may prefer ways of reproduction that match that style. Children can reproduce knowledge through narration in a myriad of ways. Charlotte discusses the habit of remembering on pages 155 through 159 of Volume 1.

Visual - Sight
Under a Cloud
Attends best by watching and visualizing

Reacts quietly (films mentally)
"Agnes displeased . . . says nothing" "She can't get over it-speaks to no one"

Attends to visual cues, seeing
"A black curtain had been hung" "[We] look upon our child, and the look melts her" "We show our little girl what they [the old sullen symptoms] mean"
Auditory - Sound
Inconstant Kitty
Attends best by listening and repeating aloud

Talks through problems
Kitty: "My pail is quite ready, all but the handle, but I can find my spade anywhere!"

Attends best by hearing/saying
Kitty: "'Shell' is so much nicer than k n o w" "I think I could do-s h e l l" "[Kitty] says her, 'How doth the busy bee,' dutifully" "Premium of praise" "A little gentle ridicule"
Kinesthetic - SensationKinesthetic
Philosopher at Home
Attends best while doing

Has some body part in constant motion
"Beating the ground with fists and feet" "Ran into her head-foremost" "Kicked her"

Attends best by doing/moving
"[Nurse] invented some pleasant errand" "[She picked] something to be done" "[Mr 'Cross-man'] goes away if you begin to do something else" Guy: "Won't I just give Mr 'Cross-man' a race!"

Applying Memory Style

K - Vary between action and slow stories
K - Break up narrations with hands-on work
K - Act, highlight words, doodle, play quietly
Math Lessons
K - Concrete activities, manipulatives, objects
K - Review facts while doing or moving
K - Do physical activity between problem sets
A - Hear read-aloud/audio books, read to self
A - Work out oral narration before writing
A - Alter description with dialogue/poem/play
A - Talk through lesson, tell what was learned
A - Set math facts to music/rhythm
A - Partner with a person to review orally
V - Silently read or follow read aloud with eyes
V - Look at diagrams, maps, pictures
V - Make mental pictures and film in the mind
V - Write out examples and draw pictures
V - Color-code, make charts, organize
V - Make flash cards/index cards to review

Ways of Understanding

When my children started narrating, I noticed an interesting pattern: one child picked up the little details, while the other got the gist. To gain a full understanding, Charlotte Mason knew a mature reader needs to do both, "He should be trained from the first to . . . get the habit of a slow, careful reading, intelligent even when it is silent, because he reads with an eye to a full meaning of every clause" (page 227). She also knew that a skilled reader performed tasks that required attention to detail or a firm grasp of the big picture: "He must generalise, classify, infer, judge, visualise, discriminate, labor in one way or another" (page 179). The ultimate goal is to develop "a sixth sense, a new inlet of pleasure, which adds to the enjoyment to every hour of his life" (page 213).

Two Styles of Understanding

Dorothy Elmore's Achievement
Slow, Careful Reading

Finds it easy to
classify, visualize, discriminate

Gets the details, word for word
"the perfection of her manner" Dorothy refers to Dr. Evan's key, cloud, secret

Slow careful reader, seeks knowledge
"Someone fails to dot his i's, and you resent it" Dorothy: "Think of something else . . . But that's just the thing I can't do" "It makes no difference to me to say, I will!"

Structured, organized
Change in expectations sets off sullenness: Dorothy (pony-carriage ride, flowers); Mrs. Elmore (husband reading the paper, spending time with friends)
Big Picture
Inconstant Kitty
Full Meaning

Finds it easy
to generalize, infer, judge

Gets main idea, skimpy details
"I doubt if the child learns anything except by bright flashes"

Skims, replaces words, seeks interests
"But Kitty cannot read-can't even spell words" "All the time her eyes are on a smutty sparrow . . . so she reads, 'With birdie!'"

Procrastinates, disorganized
"After idling through a lesson she will overtake us at a bound at the last moment" Kitty: "I can't find my spade anywhere!" "Off goes Kitty to clean out her doll's house"

Strategies for Ways of Understanding

Inconstant Kitty

State love and support
"a premium of praise" "Let Kitty . . . glory in their constancy" "Then, encourage her"

Use an indirect approach
"Do not, if you can help it, single the little maid out"

Drop hints about behavior
"The sense of the preciousness of time, of the irreparable loss when 10 minutes lesson is wasted"

Speak declaratively
"What! The doll's tea-party over! That's not the way grow-up ladies have tea"
Dorothy Elmore's Achievement

Separate deed from doer
"You are not a very wicked girl because you let these ugly thoughts master you"

Use a direct approach
"Bear with me while I tell you what is the matter, and how you may be cured"

Be specific
"Dr. Evans went on to make clear . . . the interaction of thought and brain"

Speak in small parts, details
"Think of something interesting and pleasant; the new dress you must plan, friend you like best, the book you are reading; best of all, fill the heart and mind suddenly with some capital plan for giving pleasure to some poor body whose days are dull"

Applying Understanding Style

G - Recall prior reading to set big picture
G - Title/headings to focus on big picture
G - Pictures/maps to focus on big picture
G - Tell leading thought to set big picture
A - Highlight key words pointing to main idea
A - Point to main ideas that marry with details
A - Note details supporting main idea
Math Lessons
G - Praise correct answers (bright flashes)
G - Backtrack together to document solution
G - Make charts/guides for facts to memorize
G - Use tools listed above until memorized
G - Start new concept if facts are the only gap
G - Cover unrelated topics at the same time
G - Cycle topics: let topics gel and repeat

Setting and Other Things

Back Porch

Environmental AdjustmentEvery person has their own preferences. My dear husband sits in a quiet, cool room with low lighting at his orderly desk when he needs to concentrate. I want to plop myself on the couch, warm, bright and comfortable, with the talk radio going while I work. Pamela's favorite spot right now is the back porch, sitting on a rocking chair, where she can get vestibular stimulation when she needs it. David is unpredictable: he listens to his iPod with a drink and snack nearby and works at the desk in the office, at the desk in his bedroom, on various couches and on his bed, and at the kitchen table. The key is to figure out what works for each person.

My Favorite Resources

Listening to reflection on God's word on shows like Family Life Today and Focus on the Family lead me to books by Cynthia Tobias when she described the learning style of my son, who frustrated me because we are polar opposites. Her two books, The Way They Learn and Every Child Can Succeed . These two books lead me to Seven Kinds of Smart by Thomas Armstrong and Discover Your Child's Style by Willis and Kindle-Hodson. Reflecting on my learning styles and that of my children led me to Charlotte Mason's six-volume series, which I believe works for all learning styles.

PaperBackSwap - Swap your used paperback books with other club members.

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