Pike's PeakLearning with Style

When I climbed the foothills of the homeschooling mountain, I stumbled on a mystery: my autistic, supposedly challenging, child was a breeze to teach, while my neurologically typical, supposedly easy, child was so frustrating! Learning styles solved the mystery!

Why Understand Learning Styles

Understanding learning styles keeps me sane, juggling everything as parent, teacher, spouse, etc. When facing conflicts in communication, sometimes a learning styles mismatch blocks understanding. Knowing another person's learning style creates understanding other perspectives and reduces frustration!

Not all children in the autism spectrum remember in the same way. While Temple Grandin and other auties are visual, my daughter memorizes visually and kinesthetic. Verbally precocious aspies can be auditory!

Knowing your child's strengths (multiple intelligences) can point to spring boards for learning. Once you know his talents, read through the book 7 Kinds of Smart by Thomas Armstrong for lists of resources geared to his special abilities.

With the ability to hyperfocus, many spectrum children are analytical. You may be global. Knowing yourself helps you adapt your teaching style to your child.

Pinpointing perception and ordering reduces the shedding of tears. My concrete random son's way of completing workbooks depicts a classic mismatch: cry "It's too hard" for three weeks and do 20 pages in one day, eclipsing my goal of one page per day! He teaches himself many things by exploring and reading in his free time. We have a structured time during the day with materials suiting his style, but he gets lots of free time to learn on his own. He taught himself to read at four by typing sentences from Dr. Seuss books into computer software which read to him.

Knowing the learning styles of yourself and your children simplifies picking a homeschooling philosophy. Sequential kids prefer traditional (textbooks, workbooks, and schedules) or classical methods, while random kids enjoy unschooling, Montessori, and child-led learning. [Young sequential auties like ABA, TEACCH, or NACD, while young random kiddos take to RDI, Floortime or Options.] Computer software, unit studies, and whole book approaches (Charlotte Mason or Sonlight) appeal to both. Younger children, who tend to be concrete and kinesthetic, like the Montessori option.

Applied Learning
LD Pride Online
A to Z on Learning Styles
Felder-Silverman Model
Your Child's Style
Myers-Briggs Personality

Learning Style Theories: Memorization

Visual - Eyes

Videos and television
Enjoys/reads books
Flash/index cards
Label reader
Pictures and diagrams
Organized notebooks
View mind maps
Study charts/posters
Highlights words
Time lines
Post-It notes
Auditory - Ears

Chatterbox (thinks aloud)
Reads aloud or moves lips
Finds phonics easy
Taped books, study tapes
Home-made audio tapes
Group discussions
Review aloud with others
Make/explain mind maps
Discuss charts/posters
Define concepts aloud
Talk through word problems
Dramatic readings
Rehearses knowledge aloud
Oral narration/retelling
Kinesthetic - Body

Real objects/manipulatives
Moves while listening
Moves while talking
Craves active learning
3D models/puzzles/games
Write in air, large board
Dramatize and act out
Do to master concepts
Real-life problems
Make/trace mind maps
Trace charts/posters
Your classic wiggle worm
Chaminade Prep Education Planner Learning Style Survey

Learning Style Theories: Multiple Intelligence

Book ClubLinguistic - Think in words! Voracious readers. Gifted writers. Storytellers. Keen memory for trivia, lyrics, information, word games. Play with sounds of language. Learn best by seeing, hearing, writing and speaking.
GeekLogical Mathematical - Think in concepts! Analyze patterns, categories and relationships. Ask challenging questions. Excel in brain teasers, logic puzzles, games. Play with computers, chemistry sets and scientific kits. Learn best by questioning, reasoning, experimenting and repeating the scientific process.
ArtistVisual-Spatial - Think in pictures and images! Analyze and invent machines and contraptions. Excellent sense of direction. Excel in mazes, jigsaw puzzles and building toys. Draw, daydream and design things. Learn best by seeing, visualizing, drawing and designing.
MusicMusical - Think in melodies! Sing, hum and whistle tunes. Intuitive sense of rhythm, pitch and dynamics. Strong opinions about different kinds of music. Excel in singing and playing instruments. Attend to sounds like nature, mechanics. Learn best by memorizing information set to music.
SkaterBodily-Kinesthetic - Think in motion! Superb motor skills. Shine in sports, dance and acting. Gifted mimics. Kinesthetic Communicate through gestures, body language. Enjoy crafts, mechanics, sewing, drawing. Process information through body movement. Learn best by doing, dramatizing, touching, moving
PoliticianInterpersonal - Think in relationships to other people! Born leaders. Navigate in different social circles. Gifted organizers, communicators. Excel in mediating conflict and interpreting feelings of others. Enjoy group activities, organizations, social events. Learn best by cooperating, working in groups.
GardenerIntrapersonal - Think in isolation! Prefer personal projects, diaries, journals. Gifted with inner wisdom. Strong sense of self. Think in unique ways. Pursue quiet hobbies like gardening, crafts, fishing. Learn best through self-analysis, pursuing their personal goals and exploring their own ideas.
Gigglepotz W. McKenzie's MI Site LDRC MI Inventory

Learning Style Theories: Understanding

Big Picture
Global - Big picture
Gets the gist, forgets details
Flexible, relaxed
Views rules as guidelines
Repeated directions to get big picture
Gets the job done on spur of the moment
Wants to find personal meaning
Excels in group activities and projects
Discussion, cooperation, pats on back
Flexible rules, fairness
Harmonious environment
Analytical - Details
Focuses on facts, misses the point
Structured, organized
Looking for clear-cut fixed rules
Follows directions easily
Craves organization, structure
Wants sequential, methodical data
Excels when working alone
Details, facts, logic
Clear expectations, deadlines
Law and order

Learning Style Theories: Perception and Ordering


Tune into what they sense,
what is real
Tune into ideas,
thoughts, and concepts


Structure, routine, rules
Enjoys working in an orderly way
Variety, flexibility, guidelines
Enjoys juggling many activities

Perception and Ordering

Focus on facts and real-world
Follow instructions with attention-to-detail
Logical planners
Love schedules and to-do lists
Take language literally
Crave order and clear expectations
Focus on experience and quick thinking
Take risks using wits to get out of trouble
Investigators and brainstorm experts
Love guidelines, choice, experiments
Delights presenting unusual views
Crave variety, freedom and change
Focus on ideas and intellect
Enjoy problem solving with many angles
Analytical thinkers attending to details
Love outlines, research, objectivity
Communicate with logic and low emotion
Crave organization and references
Focus on intuition and gut feelings
Create harmony in groups
Sensitive spontaneous social butterflies
Love group talks, journals, creativity
Speak with compassion and empathy
Crave cooperation, imagination, flexibility

Learning Styles and Your Teaching Style

Knowing our learning styles helped me find the right teaching approach. Pamela, my autistic child, is a joy to teach, while David was my challenge until I studied our styles. David and I are polar opposites in almost every category; Pamela and I are two peas in a pod!

By comparing learning styles, I balanced all our needs. An abstract sequential, I felt queasy about unschooling random David, who would adore its freedom. Pamela and I preferred the security of workbooks and textbooks. I compromised through a shared passion--books--and switched to a literature-based approach, Charlotte Mason homeschooling. Both children, concrete learners, absorb living ideas by relating to real things: living books, artists, composers, and nature study.

I tweaked my teaching style to suit the children. Pamela is highly visual, so she sits next to me and tracks my fingers on the page when we read books together. Kinesthetic David sits on the floor and quietly plays with toys. If he narrates well and doesn't distract us, he keeps his freedom to move. Sometimes, the children act out exciting passages. With her dash of kinesthetic, Pamela enjoys dramatization too! Pamela reads some books aloud, while David silently reads some books. We all take parts in Shakespeare's plays.

Before some readings, we study pictures, maps, diagrams, etc. to build concrete images. When we first started narration years ago, I wrote keywords on a dry-erase board to introduce global David to the text and give analytical Pamela an outline. They no longer need written previews. After a few paragraphs, the children take turns narrating. David practices telling a coherent story, while narration is speech therapy for Pamela. Both kids have transitioned to written narrations: David types his retelling of Frankenstein, while Pamela just recently leaped to solo written narrations of The Winged Watchman and The Brendan Voyage .

Order, and lack thereof, is a big deal to my diverse learners. My weekly reading schedule in Excel delights structured Pamela. We learn in three chunks of time a day: reading in the morning and evening (covering most subjects) and seatwork and activities outside the home in the afternoon. Before each time block, I stack books on the coffee table or seatwork on the kitchen table (Pamela's visual guides). To give David variety, the children choose the order of books and seatwork tasks.

Understanding learning styles pointed me to an ideal math curriculum. Both kids are concrete, so manipulatives are a must. Making Math Meaningful and Math-U-See fit both children! Completing units focused on one topic gives Pamela predictability. Every lesson has different activities, using different manipulatives and different applications, spicing things up for David. Pamela's eyes focus on written scripts and worksheets, while the manipulatives keep David's hands occupied. Each unit slowly travels to abstract thinking, strengthening their weakness. Computer software like I Love Math! drills math facts.

Why switch from our beloved KONOS unit studies to Ambleside Online? I got mired in planning and felt driven to do every suggested activity. I need an approach with some planning and limited choices! Creating an Ambleside Online schedule in Excel gives me a taste of planning, but frees me to learn with my kids! Since a myriad of choices no longer tempts me, we sail from term to term without delays.

Hats Off!

I found it challenging to reach diverse learners while teaching homeschooling cooperative classes. Cynthia Ulrich Tobias suggests giving each child "their" time. Hit the three memory channels (ears, eyes, and body) in each lesson. Channel different smarts whenever possible. Provide structure to the sequentials with flexibility for the randoms. Hats off to teachers who do this successfully!

When I was swimming against my strong-willed child, Cynthia tossed this lifesaver through the air waves: What is the point? Highly visual, I am easily distracted by David's wiggliness! Trying to force a kinesthetic child to sit still focused his attention on how to wiggle without getting caught. I thought about the purpose of reading: is it an exercise in sitting still or learning? I chose the latter. Another example of learning on the move--we practice speaking Spanish while we are out and about town (by car or sneaker express). I carry review cards when Pamela needs a lifeline. Hats off to Cynthia, who saved my sanity!

Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis and Victoria Kindle Hodson's book Discover Your Child's Style helped me bond with my kids! All three of us (David, Pamela, and I) have thinking/creating dispositions! Predictably, Pamela and I scored high as producers--David did not. To my surprise, both he and Pamela are also performers--I am not! Their approach has many nifty tools: five more intelligences, interest inventory, etc. Hats off to Victoria and Mariemma for refining my insight about my kids!

Nancy Kashman, restaurateur in her free time, and my sister-in-law, Janet Mora, Supervisor of Programs for Students with Autism, launched me down the path of sensory integration, social stories, and visual supports. They encouraged my alternative ideas on homeschooling, diet, etc. Hats off to Janet and Nancy, who shared great ideas in their awesome book !

My parents could never understand why I insisted on doing my homework on the couch, TV blaring. It was a mystery how I got straight A's. Both Cynthia and Victoria and Mariaemma stress that children have different environmental needs while studying: sound, body position, interaction, lighting, temperature, food, color, time, etc. Hats off to Mom and Dad for accepting my odd study habits!

By accepting the styles of my kids, I hope to avoid killing their curiosity and love of learning. Thinking outside the box has zapped some of the stress of homeschooling! Hats off to my kids for teaching this old dog many new tricks!

My husband Steve has supported me all the way with my hare-brained schemes: diets, home therapies, homeschooling, learning style surveys, books, email lists, books, web sites--did I say books? Hats off to my husband for putting up with me!

I thank God for teaching me to be more compassionate and flexible. I was clueless about teaching David until Cynthia spoke about learning styles on two Christian radio programs: Family Life Today and Focus on the Family. Broadcasts about learning styles opened my eyes to a new world. Hats off to Christian radio programming!

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