Saturday, October 17, 2009

Part 3: Series: My Experience With and Theories About Learning Styles

Part Three: What My Younger Son Taught Me

While teaching my older son, such as when I was reading a book aloud, my younger son who was three years younger than my older, began learning alongside his brother. I was doing what I thought was right for my older son per his learning styles yet I could not stop my younger one from learning just by being present when I was teaching my older son.

At age three my younger son sat in my lap while I played regular BINGO and sight word BINGO with my older son. By looking at the numbers I called out he learned the numbers by sight and to read left to right, up to 75 (see story here). He asked to find the words for me on our sight word BINGO card so I’d show the card directly to him and let him find it (he did it with ease).

Later when three, he could count to over 150. I know this because I had bought dot to dot books for my older son that went over 150 trying to get my son to practice math work under the disguise of fun dot to dot puzzles (it worked by the way). My little guy wanted to do that specific book but I was giving him books that went up to 20. I said he couldn’t have the book with higher numbers because he couldn’t count that high but when he could do it, I'd give him a book like that. He replied, “Yes I can”. I asked him to show me, and he went on to do it. I was flabbergasted. I had never taught him those numbers in any lesson (and his brother, at that age had no clue about counting very high let alone anywhere near or over one hundred).

At three and a half my son knew letter sounds without me teaching him, and the letters by name. He would play with toys near my older son and I while my son was doing phonics lessons, I don’t know if that played a part in it. He did also ask for me to put my finger under the words as I read from picture books. That was something that I had never done before with my older son. I know other people do that, but I had not (just like others recommend using funny voices when reading aloud but I never could bring myself to do that).

At three and a half, my son could decode very short words. He did this not because I asked but when we would see signs or words he’d tell me what they said, much to my amazement. He asked to learn to read, he wanted to use “the red book” that his brother used (Alpha Phonics). I was holding him back though.

On his fourth birthday he received a gift of an educational cartoon (Leap Frog) and after one viewing was decoding larger words. He begged to learn to read. I didn’t want him reading yet as I was trying to savor his youth as I was pretty sure he was to be our last baby.

But in September he demanded to ‘do school’ like his brother so at age 4 and 3 months, I set in to teach him to read using Alpha Phonics. He recalled near the end of my older son doing that curriculum I rewarded with an ice cream cone after doing ten lessons (generally took 8-10 school days). That I did out of desperation to try to motivate my son to finish up. My younger son said to be fair he wanted the same thing and I agreed. However what I didn’t realize was that he’d always to 5 lessons a day and sometimes all ten in one sitting!! He would do phonics for 40-50 minutes straight with determination and never getting frustrated. He flew through the curriculum in three months and was fluently reading at that point.

I gave that son the learning styles test. I didn’t use the results very much to be honest. This is because this kid picked up everything very easily, from any source. He asked to learn and do more than I wanted him to do. He begged for workbooks when I hated them and didn’t want my kids wasting their time doing them. Since he was so precocious, learning things so fast and earlier than the schools recommend teaching them, I didn’t pay much attention to what the test said was his learning style. I focused more on giving my son what he needed or begged for. This wound up resulting in doing homeschooling differently than I had wanted to do but I felt that if he needed workbooks and loved them who was I to refuse him that request? We were generally using the Charlotte Mason method but since I customized things based on his requests maybe the style was more eclectic or some would argue we were unschooling (doing what my son requested).

Now that younger son of mine is nine years old and in fourth grade. I still don’t see in real life, any proof that the learning styles he tests out to be have any relevance in his life. I don’t base curriculum choices on his learning styles test result, I base them on real life experiences and his requests.

I was also miffed about learning styles because my two sons tested exactly the same. In case you are not familiar with the test in the book “Discover Your Child’s Learning Style” the children take the test on their own so the parent is not skewing the result to match what the parent thinks about the child. My two boys are very different in their approach to learning and other details such as which wants to work independently and which wanted me by his side, which wanted workbook type learning and which hated workbooks and so forth. I could not understand how these two children could test the same and be so different.

Then two years ago, when my boys were in grades 5 and 2, I discovered ‘brain dominance’ and it all fell into place. I’ll discuss that topic in an upcoming post.

Books and Products Mentioned in This Post


mariannepa said...

I'm loving this series, Christine! I've only been homeschooling for a little over a year (pulled son out of school in 6th grade), so reading about your process over time is eye-opening for me. I recently stumbled on the brain dominance issue and it has opened up a whole new perspective on how to help my son, so I'm eagerly awaiting your post about this. :) Keep up the great work!!

christinemm said...

Thank you for letting me know you are reading & enjoying it. Yours is the first comment I've received & I was starting to wonder if anyone was actually reading this! Or if they were I thought maybe they were not interested.

Hopefully today I can post another part. I've been busy doing projects so didn't get to publish a blog post yesterday.

christinethecurious said...


I've been enjoying this series too, especially the tacks you took changing your mind and trying new things.

-Christine in Massachusetts