One of the benefits of homeschooling is that we’re not obliged to box our children into any set curriculum or someone else’s standards. This means that sometimes when we’re asked what curriculum we use, the answers may be different depending on the child. When we teach to our children’s learning strengths, that’s exactly how it may look. But, what does that mean?
What Are Learning Strengths?
We all have areas in which we excel and areas we’d rather not even think about. As adults, chances are that you’ve figured out your own learning strengths by now. Your child, however, may not have figured this out yet and may be relying on you to carefully observe and make suggestions. Learning strengths are those specific areas in which we naturally do well. For some of us, it’s math and science while for others it may be English and language arts. Or, it might be math and language arts (consider yourself lucky!).
How Do I Teach to My Child’s Learning Strengths?
Once you’ve figured out your child’s learning strengths, you can teach to those strengths. To do so may take some creativity on your behalf, but it can be done. For instance, if you have a child who excels at math but is weak in language arts, it might help to pursue a curriculum that intersperses math topics into its language arts components. Such a curriculum won’t give meaningless, seemingly-unrelated language arts assignments. Instead, it will use math to explain or give examples of the language arts standards it aims to cover.
To develop your own learning plan for teaching in a strengths-based manner, consider the following:
- Be aware of what your child’s strengths are. If you’re going to put time into this, you need to know which direction to head.
- Don’t ignore areas of weakness. By no means does a strengths-based education prescribe that you gloss over areas of weakness. Quite the opposite, such an education requires that you very meticulously pull those areas of weakness IN! However, you don’t need to spend an elaborate amount of time on areas of weakness. You can just cover the basics and move forward with areas in which your student is strong.
- Prepare to spend most of your time in those areas that are your child’s strengths. This can be done both formally with curriculum as well as organically.
- Encourage your child in his or her strengths. Don’t get caught up in the “Well what if he or she wants to become (insert a math-heavy career choice) but isn’t proficient in math?” Chances are, a child who isn’t strong in math won’t end up going after a career that relies on math.
What Are The Benefits?
While there are several benefits to this way of teaching, probably the biggest benefit is that it takes into account your child’s unique needs, learning style, and learning strengths. Rather than focus too heavily on the “negatives” (or areas in which your child may need remediation), strengths-based teaching capitalizes on what your child does well and incorporates all other areas based on those strengths.
Unfortunately, the school system doesn’t recognize this type of learning, which is evident from the fact that they expect each child to progress at the same pace in the same subjects and always in the same order. Children who cannot meet these standards are labeled as “slow” or in need of “special accommodations.” We are all unique, so there is no need for labeling students with such negative terms.
What About Learning Styles?
We’re glad you asked! The two (strengths and learning styles) are closely related, though they don’t mean exactly the same thing. Focusing on strengths means giving the most attention to the skills and subject areas in which your child excels. Although there are currently seven learning styles, the three that seem to get the most attention are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (hands-on) learning styles. What do each of these terms mean?
- Visual – Visual learners do best when presented with images, slideshows, videos, props, and other visual aids.
- Auditory – Auditory learners are the “hearers.” They enjoy listening to lectures, audiobooks, and other verbally-based means of obtaining information. They’re the ones who will listen to you share a read-aloud for hours without complaining.
- Kinesthetic – Kinesthetic learners are the “doers.” They almost always have to be moving or have something in their hands to soak up information. They may enjoy drawing/coloring while listening to a read-aloud or jumping on a trampoline while reciting multiplication facts.
Integrating the learning styles to teach to your child’s learning strengths takes a little bit of creativity, there’s no doubt about it. However, the rewards will be huge!