How Do I Determine My Child’s “Learning Style”?

There are three things to note here.

Number 1: There is value in having insight into your child’s approach to learning. You can help them by rearranging schooling or encouraging their efforts to their benefit. Some years ago, a good friend of mine, who’s quite good at tennis, was frustrated about his backhand. His backhand stroke wasn’t as good as his forehand. One day I said to him, “Why don’t you just run around your backhand and hit the ball with your forehand?” He had quick feet, so he started doing what I suggested. His game improved because he was using his strength to overcome his weakness.

Number 2: Concerning learning styles, the most recent conventional way to learn is from the neuro-linguistic folks, where they talk about VAK: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Generally speaking, children (and all people) resonate with one of those methods more than the others. Some people are more visual by the way they absorb information, communicate, and work with it. Some people are more auditory, and some are more kinesthetic (hands-on). They like to touch what they’re studying and trace it. Montessori schools figured this out with younger kids, how well they like to learn kinesthetically. Kinesthetic learning also can be about feeling the subject, or what the student is feeling. So it has that visceral, human, real world aspect to it.

Understanding which style your child favors can help. I can remember one of our kids had memorized some material, a card deck of vocabulary words, and had learned it by sound. But I dropped the deck one day, so that the words were picked up in a different order, and in quizzing my child I realized they weren’t exactly learning the words. They were learning to mimic them to recite them, but not processing the words into their brain. Which leads to my third point.

Number 3: Your child is a whole person. They’re not just visual, they’re not just auditory, they’re not just kinesthetic. They’re a combination of all of those senses. There may be a one-two-three ranking order, you know, like a general, a captain, and a first lieutenant. But I don’t think you want to dismiss any of them. I think they need auditory, they need visual, and they need kinesthetic. Those things, when you combine them, work all the better.

-Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

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