Differentiating instruction for various learning needs is something that can be challenging for even the most experienced of educators. Fortunately, as a homeschooling parent, you are the one who is most invested in meeting your children’s needs!
Don’t assume that your children learn things just like you do, or that a different way of learning is not as good as the learning style that is assumed to be typical. While traditional educational models generally focus on linguistic and logical skills as the primary learning modalities, students may learn or present their understanding more readily through different modalities, such as physical, musical, artistic, or social.
It’s easier than you think to gather and use this information in educating your children. One of the best ways to identify your children’s learning styles and needs is to ask and to observe. What types of learning activities do they find most engaging?
Do they groan and fidget when it’s time to read a book, but consume information readily from documentaries? Do they need to read and ponder information alone, or do they understand new information best if someone is there to discuss new concepts with them? Do they learn best while moving and building, or when drawing, or while talking? Does listening to music help or is it better for them to work in a calm and quiet environment?
In addition to asking your children and using your own observations, there are also a number of surveys and inventories that you can find online in order to get some direction. Ultimately, you know your children best and are in the greatest position to understand and support their needs and, as a homeschooling parent, you can totally tap into their different learning styles without going crazy!
One simple solution to the challenge of teaching multiple children with different learning styles is to alternate the time you spend focused on your individual children. Make sure you have appropriate independent activities (documentaries, books, websites, workbooks, and educational games) available to one child while working with the other. Be sure to select specific resources that suit your different learners. One child might work best with a math workbook, while another works best with an online program, and another needs to work closely with you using hands on-materials and a dry erase board. Therefore, during math, each child might work on different tasks.
If you all need to be working together, acknowledge your children’s learning styles and adapt activities to take turns or match responsibilities. An older child can be teaching a younger one, while the younger child is drawing, taking notes, or asking questions, depending on their learning style. The most important aspect is to know how your children learn best, respect their individual needs and styles, and hold them all to a high standard of learning and sharing their knowledge regardless of their preferred style!
Check out this brief video explaining Dr. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, and think about how you might incorporate these ideas into your homeschooling program to better meet the needs of your children!