Christian Homeschooling Resources

Learning Styles: Part 2 - The Routine Learner

  • Debra Bell Columnist, author and conference speaker
  • Published Apr 13, 2002
Learning Styles: Part 2 - The Routine Learner
[Editor's Note: If you would like to receive Debra's weekly column via email let us know by sending a request to]

Last week we looked at the first of 4 common types of learners. This week I want to introduce you to the routine learner and suggest ways to accommodate her preferences in your home school program. (Please read Part 1 in the archives to catch up on the ground we've covered thus far.)

Here are the characteristics of the routine learner: While the active learner from last week can be every teachers challenge, this learner is every teachers joy. Here we have the cooperative child who is motivated by a desire to win the approval of adults. She is naturally responsible, studious and nurturing. In a group of children she is the one earnestly listening to the teacher or helping the active learner to find his place on the page.

She prefers a quiet, well-organized and structured environment. I call her the routine learner because she desires order, consistency and clearly delineated responsibilities. Her primary motivation is to understand and meet others expectations. She will ask for clarification frequently in an effort to avoid mistakes. Hearing lots of questions from the routine learner is a good indicator that she is stressed and insecure about the learning environment.

This learner assimilates information by identifying and memorizing facts and procedures. She needs material presented in a sequential, step-by-step manner. She is most comfortable with traditional teaching methods: written assignments, repetition, drill, textbooks, and workbook learning. While she works hard to master sub skills, her weakness is in seeing the big picture understanding the principles, concepts and abstractions. This is the child who can decode every word on the page, but is not able to answer questions concerning the story's plot or characters motivations. She will correctly punctuate all the sentences in her language arts book, but then not recognize when a semi-colon is needed in her own writing.

The routine learner does not do well if she is expected to handle open-ended assignments or to choose her own activities. She does not like role-playing, estimating, predicting or other exercises that require spontaneity, creativity or extrapolation.

Program Suggestions

This learner needs well-organized, sequential lessons presented in incremental steps. Look for resources with clear directions and standards of evaluations. Make sure your expectations are clearly articulated as you launch into a subject of study.

Material developed for the classroom can easily be adapted for this kind of learner. However, look at a sample lesson. How many concepts are presented per lesson? Does the math workbook jump around between concepts or move from simple illustrations to complex problems too quickly. This learner is the one who will have the most difficulty switching gears. She likes to travel the well-worn rut in the road.

The routine learner will naturally divide big projects into smaller steps and segment out subjects for study. This is an effective tool for accomplishing goals, but make sure she doesn't lose sight of the larger picture. She may have memorized the dates of the major Civil War battles, states of the Union and Confederacy, etc., but does she understand how economics, politics, scientific inventions and religious movements converged to create this cataclysmic moment of our history?

Don't just settle for correct answers on a multiple choice test; essay tests for the older routine learner are a much better method for assessing her understanding of the larger concepts. For younger routine learners, have them orally paraphrase their reading for you as another method for assessing and reinforcing their understanding of material.

It is easy because of her compliant nature to just settle for routine and traditional materials for this learner. But it is not in her best interest, she needs to learn to invent and take risks. Reward her for creativity and trying new ventures: food, sports, travel, an academic competition, a creative story. Build open-ended assignments into your program ones that require her to make choices and develop her own ideas. Teach her to handle these in a step-by-step fashion.

This learner has an innate desire to be helpful. Teaching other children is an effective strategy. It will appeal to her nurturing nature and has the added plus of reinforcing her own learning in the areas she is presenting to the group.

Next time: The Focused Learner

In His Sovereign Grace,


Recommended Resources:

The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, Debra Bell. An entire section on learning styles is included in my book.

The Christian Home Educators Curriculum Manual, Elementary, Cathy Duffy.

The Christian Home Educators Curriculum Manual, Junior/Senior High, Cathy Duffy

Learning Patterns and Temperament Styles, Dr. Keith Golay

Shepherding a Childs Heart, by Tedd Tripp

[Editor's Note: If you would like to receive Debra's weekly column via email let us know by sending a request to]