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Learning Styles in the {Catholic} Homeschool

My husband is incredibly smart.  He goes to visit someone once and two years later he knows exactly how to get there without directions.  He can also capture what someone tells him the first time he hears it.  Is your husband like this?  Are you?  I am not.  I have to look at the map, write down turn-by-turn directions and actually drive there myself to remember.  What is the difference between him and I?  He is an auditory learner and I am a visual learner.  Some people learn best by just listening to someone talk about information others prefer to read about the concept to learn it, others, like myself, need a little more, we need to read, listen and also watch.  These are what are known in the education field as learning styles.

Learning styles are, generally, the overall patterns that provide direction to learning and teaching.  Learning styles are a set of factors, behaviors, and attitudes that facilitate learning for an individual in a given situation.  These different styles influence how well students learn, how efficient teachers teach, and, most importantly, how the two can interact with one another.  As I described the difference between my husband, and auditory learner versus me, a visual learner, each person is born with certain tendencies towards a particular style in which they learn best.  These are influenced also by biological or inherited characteristics and influenced by culture, maturity level, development, and personal experiences.  Why is this important to the homeschool teacher?  Simple.  What the student brings to the learning experience is as much part of the context as are the important features within the learning experience itself.  Each student brings a consistent and specific preferred method of perceiving, retaining, and organizing information.  Have you heard when someone says, “I’m a right-brain learner.”  They are speaking of the different hemispheres of the brain which contain different perception avenues for learning.  In a nutshell, “right brained” people tend to be verbal and “left brained” people are more mathematical.

As the student grows and matures, his brain is continually developing.  The strengths and weaknesses he demonstrated at an early age may be different from when he is a teenager, this is because the child is constantly learning and developing new ways of learning.  Over time, the brain matures along with your child.  A homeschool teacher with multiple children in her home will find multiple learning styles.  Effective teaching in small groups happens when teachers combine several approaches also known as multi-sensory instruction.  In this method of instruction the child will use more than one sense at a time while learning something.  Our brains are organized in a way that accepts this multi-sensory approach best.  The more senses we use while learning the better we will retain information this is because when we learn, information takes one path into our brain when we use our ears (auditory), another when we use our eyes (visual), and then another when we use our hands (tactile).  When we use more than one sense, we are actually saturating our brain with new information in multi-sensory ways and as an outcome, we learn better.

Tell me, I forget…show me, I remember…involve me, I understand. ~ Chinese proverb

So as the old Chinese proverb was not too far off as a recent study which was used in a chemical engineering class which shows that:

“A point no educational psychologist would dispute is that students learn more when information is presented in a variety of modes than when only a single mode is used.  The point is supported by a research study carried out several decades ago which concluded that students retain 10 percent of what they read, 26 percent of what they hear, 30 percent of what they see, 50 percent of what they see and hear, 70 percent of what they say, and 90 percent of what they say as they do something.”  (Stice, 1987)*

So basically, what you need to do to make sure your children are learning and retaining more information is to first diagnose which learning style your child is “gifted” in.  This way, you will know which method they learn best in BUT you will not only teach this child in such method because you want to build upon the other learning styles to expose your student to multiple sensory learning.  When the subject at hand is most difficult, you will then target the method they learn best in to teach them but do not limit them to just this method of learning.  Hands on learning is always the best method to learning yet understanding a student’s learning styles is an important component of effective instruction.  The four main learning styles are visual (sight), auditory (sound), tactile (touch) and kinesthetic (movement).  The visual or spatial learning style is generally preferred by students who like to use pictures, maps, colors and images to organize and communicate information to others.  Auditory learners prefer to listen, take notes, discuss, memorize and debate.  Students who use the tactile learning style learn by touching and moving objects. Students who use the kinesthetic learning style like to use their whole body to learn.

Another person that developed this was  Mr. Howard Gardner.  In 1983, he initially developed his ideas and theory on multiple intelligences as a contribution to psychology, however Gardner’s theory was soon embraced by education, teaching and training communities, for whom the appeal was immediate and irresistible – a sure sign that Gardner had created a classic reference work and learning model.  Mr. Gardner presented more “intelligences” as he believed people were gifted with more than just the four learning styles.  I like his more descriptive approach to learning styles because it helps us, as teachers, understand our students better.  Each child has certain strengths to them some are more apparent than others.  Here is a quick chart of the Seven Multiple Intelligences:


Intelligence Type Capability and Perception
Linguistic words and language
Logical-Mathematical logic and numbers
Musical music, sound, rhythm
Bodily-Kinesthetic  body movement control
Spatial-Visual images and space
Interpersonal other people’s feelings
Intrapersonal self-awareness


I have learned that as a teacher, it’s good to access what kind of learner I am first and then I assess what kind of learner my children/students are.  Why?  Sometimes we lean towards the style we like best but which may not be the best method for our students.  If you would like to assess what kind of learner you are or better which intelligence you are more prone to, you can take this test based on Mr. Gardner’s theory.  For your children, you would use this version of the test.

So you may be asking, this is all really cool but what do I do with it?  Well, there is actually a reason I brought this topic up.  Learning about your student’s preferred learning style, as well as their behavioral and work style, you also learn their natural strengths.  I had a college professor who would always say, “use their strengths to build on their weakness!” when I learning to diagnose and help children with Reading problems.  The types of intelligences that each student possesses (by the way Mr. Gardner believes that most people are strong in three of the above but always leaning towards one preferred), indicates not only your student’s capabilities but also the manner or method in which they develop their strengths and use these to build upon their weaknesses.

For example (these examples were found in this article on Multiple Intelligences):

  • A person who is strong musically and weak numerically will be more likely to develop numerical and logical skills through music, and not by being bombarded by numbers alone. [remember those multiplication raps we grew up with?]
  • A person who is weak spatially and strong numerically, will be more likely to develop spatial ability if it is explained and developed by using numbers and logic, and not by asking them to pack a suitcase in front of an audience.
  • A person who is weak bodily and physically and strong numerically might best be encouraged to increase their physical activity by encouraging them to learn about the mathematical and scientific relationships between exercise, diet and health, rather than forcing them to box or play rugby.

So what does learning about Multiple Intelligences/Learning Styles do for us as teachers?  It helps so as not to limit or judge our students, espcially younger children, according to just the one intelligence or “what they are really good at.”  Instead, I invite you to rediscover different methods of teaching to promote the vast range of capabilities of your student.  This will help them discover, as learners, who they are, what they can be, and also help them learn what they are potentially capable of.

Next week I will make the connection between the learning style/MI of your student with learning domains, or higher order thinking known as Blooms Taxonomy.


*  Stice, J. E., 1987.  “Using Kolb’s Learning Cycle to Improve Student Learning.”  Engineering Education 77: 29 1-296.


In this {Catholic} Homeschooling Series:

10 Steps to Start {Catholic} Homeschooling

Goal Setting in {Catholic} Homeschooling

{Catholic} Homeschooling Methods 101

The {Catholic} Homeschooling Socialization Myth


Other Parenting/Homeschooling posts:

Raising Heaven-Bound Children

Holy Week:  Helping Our Children Walk with Jesus





10 Steps to Start {Catholic} Homeschooling

Domestic Church Erika D Faith Formation Homeschool Ink Slingers Motherhood Parenting Raising Saints Uncategorized

Homeschooling Methods 101

If you have been following our series, I first wrote about the 10 Steps to Start Catholic Homeschooling and then on Goal Setting in the Catholic Homeschool, now we are going to discuss the different homeschooling methods available to you.  So you’ve decided to Homeschool, you looked up the laws in your state, you contacted the local organization and even want to join a homeschool co-op.  Now what?  Well, now you need to decide what method you will use in your homeschool.  First, I would like you to learn a little bit about yourself as a teacher and a former student.

As you read through these available methods, please keep in mind four things:

1. TEACHING STYLE:  Your preferred teaching style, which you may or may not be aware of yet.

2. LEARNING STYLE:  Your child’s learning style. We will discuss this in more detail later but basically, this refers to how your child learns best. For example, some children are auditory learners as they capture things easily by just listening to a lecture. Other children are visual learners and need to read along, highlight, and follow. It is important as your child’s teacher to find their learning method. Which you will use often but not exclusively.

3. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS:  There is always the eclectic approach which is a hodgepodge of all methods.

4. FLEXIBILITY.  Be flexible. You might begin using one method and later realize you need to shift gears.

Next, I’d like to explore all the methods available:

1.  Textbook-Based/Traditional Schooling Method: this is the method most of us were taught in traditional classroom settings using textbooks.

This method works well under the following conditions:

  • want your child to be studying material in a similar scope and sequence as other public or private schools,
  • value the style of a classroom school and want your child to experience that at home,
  • want your child to be able to do well and learn through fill-in-the-blanks and quizzes,
  • have definite ideas about what content you want your child to learn, and it matches well with the textbook you have chosen.

2.  Classical Homeschooling Method: This method depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves. This classical pattern is called the trivium.

This method works well under the following conditions:

  • like structure,
  • desire to evaluate your child’s learning based on academic standards,
  • see the value of an education that places primacy on the written word, both in reading and writing well,
  • believe that developing good study skills fairly early on in your child’s life will benefit him greatly as time goes on,
  • want to concentrate on classics of literature as a tool to develop critical thinking,
  • do no’t mind being fairly involved in the process of your child’s education –discussing books, giving dictation, encouraging the reaching of academic goals,
  • have a child who is academically oriented.

3.  Charlotte Mason (CM )/Living Books Homeschooling Method: A method of education in which children are taught as whole persons through a wide range of interesting living books, firsthand experiences, and good habits.

This method works well under the following conditions:

  • want to create a learning environment that encourages your child to explore and appreciate the world around him, perhaps not rigidly sticking to a schedule,
  • see a value in evaluating your child’s learning on things other than formal written tests,
  • want to offer a well-rounded education, including enjoying art, nature, music and of course lots of books,
  • don’t mind being very involved in the process of your child’s education – discussing books, giving dictation, listening and encouraging narration, and enjoying poetry, art and music together,
  • have a child who is does no’t mind not having lots of boxes to check off.

4. Montessori Method: This method is best described as an “Aid to Life” rather than a specific method of passing on academic objectives. It prepares students to succeed in a world where technology is changing the way we live at a very rapid pace, and general life skills are far more valuable than mastery of an outdated academic curriculum.

This method works well under the following conditions:

  • want your children of different ages all studying similar subjects at their own level,
  • have enough time to interact with your children about the materials they are studying and how they relate,
  • see a value in taking the time to do hands-on-projects and group learning around a central theme,
  • or your child don’t not following a traditional scope and sequence.

5.  Unit Study Method/Notebooking Method:  Unit Studies, which typically tie in closely with Lapbooking or Notebooking.  Basically, it takes a central theme and builds lessons around that theme. One theme will include all or most areas of study by focusing on the main idea.

This method works well under the following conditions:

  • want your child to have the freedom to follow her own interests,
  • have enough confidence in the process of learning that you don’t mind if not all of your child’s learning can be documented by a written test (see Unschooling),
  • see a value in having your child develop expertise in an interest, and are willing to let other activities take second place, at least for a season,
  • have a child who has interests, hobbies or collections they want to pursue,
  • you want to document their learning by a written record of a notebook,
  • your child is willing to learn to let his creativity out in his learning. Note: he doesn’t necessarily have to start off with skill, but at least willing to learn.

6.  Unschooling/Relaxed Homeschool Method:  allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world, as their parents can comfortably bear. The advantage of this method is that it doesn’t require you, the parent, to become someone else, such as a professional teacher pouring knowledge into child-vessels on a planned basis. Instead you live and learn together, pursuing questions and interests as they arise and using conventional schooling on an on-demand basis, if at all. This is the way we learn before going to school and the way we learn when we leave school and enter the world of work.

This method works well under the following conditions:

  • don’t mind not having a set scope and sequence and structure to your child’s learning,
  • want your child to have the freedom to follow her own interests,
  • have enough confidence in the process of learning that you don’t mind if not all of your child’s learning can be documented by a written test,
  • see a value in having your child develop expertise in an interest, and are willing to let other activities take second place, at least for a season,
  • have a child who has interests, hobbies or collections they want to pursue.

7.  Computer Based Homeschooling Method this method is exactly what you read, learning done via the computer either locally or online

This method works well under the following conditions:

  • want to have your child follow a set scope and sequence,
  • want to have step-by-step accountability for your child,
  • see a value in using modern technology and don’t have concerns for its over-use,
  • need to find a way to not be involved so much in the day-to-day process of your child’s education, though you would be available to give help and general guidance,
  • have a child who likes being able to work at his own pace and use the computer.

8.  Literature-Based Homeschooling Method this method uses literature as the core of the curriculum and pulls from the book to incorporate other subjects.

This method works well under the following conditions:

  • want to have your child follow a set scope and sequence,
  • want to have general accountability for your child,
  • see a value in having your child love to read by reading books he or she will love to read,
  • want to be involved in the day-to-day process of your child’s education, through discussion that will draw out what your child is learning and perhaps controversial issues raised through the books.

9.  Eclectic Homeschooling Method this is the combination approach.

This method works well under the following conditions:

  • don’t mind spending the time to find the materials that will suit your child’s unique interests and learning styles,
  • don’t mind not following someone else’s scope and sequence, and thus not mind the possible “gaps” in their learning that might come from jumping around from one curriculum to another,
  • see the value in using various curriculum and home school methods because through different methods, your child gets a more full picture of the subject at hand,
  • have a child who likes flexibility in her learning, who does not mind not using the same materials over again.

No matter the method you select make sure it is one you are comfortable working with or at least feel brave enough to attempt. Another thing to keep in mind is the type of Mass you attend and the theology program you select, this will help come Sundays at Mass.

Stay with us as we explore other factors in Catholic Homeschooling 101 next Saturday.