by Barbara White
Just as every snowflake is unique, so is every child. The way that children learn depends on a number of different factors and when combined together, this creates their unique learning styles. By helping your children discover how they learn best, you will help set them up for life time success in learning. In doing this you can reduce the frustrations that come through trying to learn in a way that does not use their particular strengths and to them seems uncomfortable.
Every parent has been through the school system and has hopefully discovered ways that facilitated a style of learning that worked for them. However it is a fallacy to presume that a parent's style is necessarily going to be the best way for their child, in fact it could be detrimental to the child to insist that they learn in that way.
For example the traditionally accepted environment to do homework is to sit at a desk in a quiet place to assist focus and concentration. However this is only likely to help learning for a percentage of students. If this is not a comfortable way of learning for a child it can actually inhibit the flow of ideas and create a learning vacuum where the mind becomes a blank. Some may need to spread out on the floor, sit cross-legged on the bed or even in front of the TV to find an environment where their best learning can take place. Some students need music or background noise, food or drink and to feel comfortable before real learning can take place. Some remember best when they can move about or learn by doing, some need to visualize or see pictures, write or read the information for themselves, and others need to hear the information and speak it back in order to remember it. Using a combination of two of these modes may work best for some students.
Another important factor that comes into play is the way a child perceives and orders information in their mind. The conventional method is for information to be structured in a logical step by step process, which leads in a linear form from the beginning to its logical end. This method works for many students, however some may have learning styles which take in information and put it into meaningful bits or chunks, which are stored in the mind in a more random way. Such a student will reach the desired result, but will not use a sequential logical format in the learning process.
There are two main ways the brain makes sense of the information it receives, and although we all use both ways there will be a leaning towards one way or the other. The first way can be termed the "analytical style". The analytical style has a preference to focus on the details, and fit them together to make sense of information. The "global style" however needs to see the bigger picture and fit in the information within it so it makes sense in the wider scope of things. A global style sees all the parts are related to each other to make up the big picture, but may have difficulty in separating the parts within the bigger picture. The analytical style has no problem focusing in on the parts, but may have difficulty seeing the bigger picture and how the details fit together in the wider sense.
An example of this can be seen in the approach to doing a jigsaw puzzle. The analytical style preference will focus on the puzzle pieces and how they fit together. A person operating strongly in this style may fit together several sections before looking at the picture on the box to see where they go. The global style, on the other hand will probably do the edge pieces first, and frequently refer to the picture on the box to see where a piece would go.
By observing your child in natural normal situations you will be able to pick up clues as to the innate strategies he/she uses to understand the world, to concentrate, and remember. By giving your child opportunities to try a variety of methods of learning you can help them discover and encourage their unique style of learning. The earlier a child discovers what works best for them, the more success and self confidence will be attached to their learning experiences in life. As a parent you are in an ideal position to help them in the process of discovery.
Barbara White copyright 2005
Did you know that the school system is only able to meet 50% of student learning needs?
That's right! - only 50% of the student population is in an environment at school which enables them to be successful learners.
There are many excellent, dedicated teachers in schools, whose life's work and passion is to educate their students to the best of their ability. Teachers want to see their students successful, that is why they have given years to training and service. It is not the fault of the teachers that many students do not reach their potential in learning.
Many parents spend a great deal of time and energy trying to ensure that their children have the best education possible. Parents help with homework, provide many extra-curricular opportunities and keep in touch with the teachers and school in order to help their child to be successful. However when all is said and done, it is the child who needs to be able to learn and pass the curriculum requirements.
Some parents, themselves, may have sailed through their own school experience and been successful in the academic requirements for graduation, and gone on to further education. Isn't it reasonable to expect that their children would follow the same path and achieve good grades For some children, yes it is a reasonable expectation, and many, of course, do follow in their parent's footsteps.
However this may not be true for every child, even in the same family. I, myself, was a good student, enjoyed my school experience and I love to learn. I went on to become a teacher for over twenty years in the school system, was a Principal of two schools, and successfully pioneered an independent school. All my three children are intelligent and have been given equal opportunities with regard to their education. Out of the three, only one is following in my footsteps. Was I less diligent with two of my children, didn't I help them Didn't I give them the support they needed to be successful at school Of course I did! Were their teachers uncaring and unsupportive of their education Not at all! The problem is as parents we can't go to school for them. Sometimes it seems parenting would be easier if we could!
There are many excellent schools, in which some students are able to thrive and excel in their learning. For those students the school environment
Intelligence and motivation to learn are not the issue for them, but the school structure and environment itself. An example of such a student was Albert Einstein. He found school incredibly boring, as the tools of learning in those days were to do with repeating and learning by rote. He learnt more from the reading he did outside of school, and talking with interesting people he met, than from school itself. He spent most of the time in his classes day dreaming. The system had no room for creativity and imagination, or for allowing him to learn about what interested him. There was no provision in his school system for people who thought differently.
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Many students today, whose learning styles are not catered for in the school system, are prone to be dismissed or labeled as lazy, unfocused, and unintelligent, disorganized, ADHD, or have a learning disability. School for many of these students is an endurance test, which some fail.
The school experience can devastate their self confidence and self esteem, due to their inability to conform or adapt to the expectations of the system, and those around them. Yet these same students in later life can become very successful because of their entrepreneurial spirit, their creativity, their ability to think outside of the box, and view the world from a different perspective.
If your child is having trouble at school, it may not be a reflection your parenting, their teacher or the school. Your child may be trying to learn in an environment that conflicts with his natural aptitude and learning style. For your child it could be like trying to learn to swim in an ocean of sand! Look outside of "normal" expectations, and see the situation through the eyes of your child. You may be surprised!!! ...and why not do a little research in to the school experience of Albert Einstein, and many other notable figures in history I think you might see things from a different perspective.
Reprinted with permission. For more informative articles by Barbara White, please visit: http://www.livingbeyondbetter.com/
Updated January 22, 2006
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