Closer Look: Learning Methods and Styles

“Avoid compulsion and let early education be a matter of amusement. Young children learn by games; compulsory education cannot remain in the soul.” – Plato

When I first became a mother, I started reading child development books to help me better understand this new little person who had entered my world. Similarly, when we started homeschooling, I began to explore how children learn and discovered the many different educational methods that are out there. I have to confess I was pretty obsessed with the whole process and like many new homeschool parents, I wanted to make sure that I was doing it “right” and was providing all the proper resources that my children needed. As I read about the different learning styles, I began to see that no matter what style best matched my child, children learn best in a calm and nurturing environment. At that point I knew I needed to relax and make sure that whatever learning method we might use would serve my child and that we would not become a servant to any particular method.

Understanding their development, knowing what made them tick and how they enjoyed pursuing their passions helped us determine what method(s) of learning would best work for our children. We wanted them to retain their self-directed passion for learning and we found that an interest based, or child led method felt like a good fit. Since we were not tied to any method we could switch gears anytime to best meet our child’s needs.

The articles and resources below provide a wealth of information and support for understanding Learning Methods and Styles.


Learning Logs – Ivy Rutledge

By writing down the things that do and don’t work for her, she is becoming aware of her best methods, helps, strengths and weaknesses. Metacognition, this is called in professional teaching circles, but it’s not rocket science and doesn’t need a fancy name; we’re just teaching her to know what she likes and where she would like to go with it.

Learning together has been a wonderful adventure for us, and we have been rewarded with the wonder of watching our children’s exploration and discovery turn into ideas that unfold in unpredictable and special ways.

Learning to Love Math by Alison Moore Smith

There are methods of teaching mathematics which encourage a love and interest in math, and those which tend to kill the joy. If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be this: Please avoid the drill-to-kill, memorize-to-mummify, repetition-without-reason textbooks!
What can you do to bring out a love of math in your kids?

It’s OK to count on your fingers1or pebbles or candies or pennies or rods or sticks or blocks even for advanced students. Use hands-on stuff and always have a manipulative to fall back on. Mess with real stuff first; experiment, discover. The algorithm comes last!

Leaving Public Education by Ellen C. Bicheler

One of my biggest challenges came from the scrutiny we received from the general public and in particular the neighbors about our methods of homeschooling. When the neighbors first asked Lindsay what she was doing for homeschooling, she would say, “Nothing.” She would say this because we were no longer studying out of textbooks. We were going to the pond to study pond life. We would supplement this with talks from naturalists and books from the library. Lindsay was no longer studying a prescribed curriculum and I guess nothing resembled her classroom from the previous year.

The Many Faces of Home Education – Tamara Orr

Perhaps homeschooling’s most precious advantage is that it is completely malleable; it can be shaped to whatever you need it to be. Instead of forcing your child to fit into public education, you have the chance to mold education around your child. While this is empowering, it can also be frightening. Where do you start? Whose theories are right? The decision to homeschool demands that you do some real research. First, you have to find out what your options are and then slowly, you can select the one that you think will fit you and your partner’s personality/philosophy of education, your children’s personalities and your lifestyle choices.

A Visit with Mary Hood – Janine Calsbeek

Chat with Mary Hood about learning centers, and you’ll get a short course on unschooling.

Pull the books and educational “stuff” out of the closet, she says. Put them where kids can see them. Keep things somewhat orderly, clean, and well-lit. React to your child’s initiative. If you really want a kid to read a certain book, don’t assign it. Just throw it on the couch.

This is Mary Hood, author of The Relaxed Home School, touted by some as “the Christian John Holt.” She is somewhat of an unusual item, you must admit. Her theology leans towards the conservative end, yet her educational style is, in a word, loose.

There’s no conflict in her mind. She sees how her children learn, and knows they learn best when they’re motivated. Her goals for her family include supporting everyone’s natural love of learning, not beating facts into their heads.

A Birthday a Day by Rebecca Rupp

Our kids’ learning styles seem to mesh better with what are popularly called “unit studies:” assorted projects, activities, and readings centered around a topic of kid-chosen interest. Here again, we’ve always invented our own, accumulating craft and science kits, and turning out piles of homemade activity books on such subjects as the Civil War, whales, stars, frogs, the heart, the eye, trees, bees, and map-making. Many of our past unit study topics were generated from the calendar, centering around the birthdays of famous persons, historical anniversaries, and unusual holidays. In past years, for example, we’ve celebrated – in detail – the birthdays of George Washington Carver, Benjamin Franklin, Louis Braille, Amelia Earhart, Thomas Jefferson, Daniel Boone, P.T. Barnum, Frank Lloyd Wright, Hans Christian Anderson, Tycho Brahe, Galileo, Susan B. Anthony, and Helen Keller; commemorated the launching the Sputnik, the Wright Brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk, the opening of the Erie Canal, the completion of the transcontinental railroad, Boys’ Day in Japan, the opening of Tutankhamen’s tomb, the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, and – month by month – the entry of all fifty states into the Union.

An Interview With Dr. Thomas Armstrong by Janie Bowman

Question: For parents teaching more than one child, any tips on how to juggle different ages and learning styles in the same family?

Answer: I think the more kids you have the more you should rely on peer tutoring, cross-age tutoring and having kids teach each other. You know, going back to the old one-room schoolhouse where kids of different ages typically did a lot of teaching of each other certainly takes a lot of the strain away from the parent of having to meet everybody’s needs.


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  1. […] Older Kids, Homeschooling Dads and more. Especially helpful for new homeschoolers is the Closer Look at Learning Methods and Styles collection of articles from past issues. An […]

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