Over the last few years, two distinct camps have emerged with regard to learning styles. One group swears by them, claiming that we each have a preferred learning style with which we learn best. The other group claims it is merely an educational fad and that we all learn through multiple modalities, leading to the conclusion that multisensory education is best. As homeschoolers, what are we to make of this?
To be honest, it probably doesn’t matter as much for us as it does public school teachers. As homeschoolers, we have the unique ability (and natural inclination) to teach using multiple senses (multisensory). We tend to show our children materials and content (visual), talk to them about it (auditory), and allow children to move much more while learning than public schools (kinesthetic).
Learning styles are typically grouped into these three general categories: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Generally speaking, we all experience a constant flow of information into our short-term memory. It takes more effort to get new information, concepts, and ideas into long-term memory. This is our goal - to get information into long-term memory in a way that allows our brains to access the information when needed in the future.
Learning styles theories presume that some of us learn best when we see things while others learn best when they hear or do things. When you learn using your preferred input system, then you learn more easily. But the combined approach is especially helpful. When you learn using all three of these input systems, more of your brain is stimulated leading to greater understanding.
So again, what does this mean for homeschoolers? We should utilize all three of these input mechanisms when teaching our children new material. Show them a variety of material to help them learn, talk about each one of these, and incorporate movement wherever you can.
Visual learners learn by seeing. Use books, pictures, videos, charts, graphs, and museum exhibits.
Auditory learners learn by hearing. Read aloud, discuss what they see, use audiobooks, and find audio of famous speeches.
Kinesthetic learners learn by doing. Include movement to help engage this part of the brain. Use gestures, physical representations of concepts, and hands-on activities as much as possible.