How Does Your Child Learn?
- Friday, September 14, 2012
Ty and Kayla, ages five and six, enjoy creating books with blank paper and crayons. Kayla is sitting in her chair, paper neatly piled off to the side and each crayon returned to the box before another is removed. Across the table, Ty’s paper is scattered every which way, crayons are strewn everywhere, and he is standing, bouncing, and dancing. They are enjoying the same activity, but in different ways. Ty and Kayla are exhibiting the different ways they learn.
In the past decade, even preschools have put more emphasis on what is learned and when rather than on how each child learns. While much is written about providing a variety of learning situations, many of the methods actually used are geared toward checking off items on a criteria list; how best to learn has taken a backseat to what to learn.
This trend has crept into homeschools as well. By far, I’m asked more about how to be sure a child has no learning gaps now than the perennial “What about socialization?” Knowing what methods your child uses to learn will help you, not just to provide a preschool learning environment, but also to know how to guide learning in the future.
Young children employ many methods of learning; on occasion they will use several to learn something new. We’ve all watched our babies as they explore their environment. They look at, touch, and even taste to discover the things in their world. Those methods refine as children grow older. But each child has a combination of methods that is unique.
By the time our children are four or five, we can begin to see each one’s individual style of learning emerging. This style is not fully developed until later. As we observe how our children learn, we are able to provide learning experiences to enhance each child’s distinctive approach.
There are three basic areas that combine to make up each person’s unique way of learning: gender, temperament, and learning style. Each of these factors influences the other. During different ages and stages, one may dominate the others. Observe your child and watch for each of these elements throughout the day’s activities. One word of caution: don’t lock your child into a box because you see one way of learning now. As your child grows, these factors will blend, and the individual styles of learning may change a little bit until one emerges as dominant.
At a family reunion, the little girls were in a corner of the patio playing out their version of the event. Modeling after the women, they were talking, serving, and watching others. The little boys, on the other hand, were running and climbing, and general chaos was following them around the yard.
Admit it: if you are the mom of boys only, don’t you often openly or secretly wish your perpetual-motion machines were a little quieter and a little calmer, at least some of the time? Boys are in constant motion, even in their sleep. That’s how God built them.
All children need a lot of movement to build muscles and grow. We also know that exercise releases brain chemicals, which improves mood. Not so well reported is the research that shows that movement prior to study time improves learning. Dr. Carla Hannaford, author of Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head, says that physical movement creates new nerve-cell networks. She calls these the “essence of learning.”
Few people really know why boys are hardwired for all that motion. Some experts want to attribute it to an evolutionary process, but I prefer Christian educator Henrietta Mears’s explanation when she said, “God put the wiggle in, don’t you dare take it out.”
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