Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Enjoying Different Learning Styles

When I was in school I wanted to be a teacher. I even come from a family of teachers as both my father and my grandmother were educators. But by the time I started my college journey it was clear that teachers were at that time having a hard time finding employment. I didn't want to travel a long distance from my home so that ruled out teaching in some remote US community or working with the Peace Corp. etc. Yet while I didn't want to live far from my family I didn't want to live with my family. And so, in essence I chose a business career because I could get out on my own quickly and I felt it was reasonable to assume that one would be more successful finding a job with that type of educational background. In some ways, that showed an amazing mix of luck and foresight. Nowadays with the economic downturn, my job in subsidized housing is more "recession proof" than that of a teacher. However there were many times over the years that I missed the fact that I didn't follow my heart and pursue a teaching career.

However the goddess has a way of equalizing things out and by the time my eldest was in 6th grade we were launching a new journey as homeschoolers. Homeschooling Chet was fascinating. It was also occasionally frustrating as his lack of understanding of emotions and motivations made for special challenges when we started doing serious english lit work. I remember to this day being so proud of a paper he wrote on Cold Mountain because it really showed insight into character motivation and I knew how hard that was for him to achieve. He excelled in math and most science classes. Things that could be categorized, quantified and labelled made sense to him. Because we homeschooled we could focus more of his class time on these areas and adapt the other areas. He is the most tone deaf person I have ever met so music class morphed into music appreciation and a music history class that I cobbled together for him. We quickly learned that he is genuinely incapable of absorbing a second language and did not pursue that. Helping him adequately use and understand English was much more of a priority. Perhaps because of his Aspergers, perhaps because of his 5 years of previous public school experience, Chet had a deep need for order and a class schedule, testing, and grading that closely imitated public school.

Along came Rob. He too started in public school but increased class sizes and his reticent nature allowed him to fly below the radar of the teachers. His lack of knowledge became only fully known when we began homeschooling in grade 4 but through most of grade 3 I had a feeling that he was somehow just not learning. Rob has more of a challenge processing things and has had to be taught how to break things down into parts. Part of his issues also relate to the fact that he doesn't love learning for learnings sake. He'd much rather play baseball or mess around outside or (sigh) veg in front of the television or a video game. Homeschooling allowed me to sort of bring his interests into the classrooom in ways that public school couldn't. I have "edutainment cd's" that subtley teach while seeming fun. When he wasn't getting how to calculate per cents I wrote a series of word problems that used football and people from the New England Patriots. He got them all correct, simply because i had found something he cared about. He is a voracious reader though his written skills need work. But reading books together, either aloud or silently has given a vehicle to explore feelings in a way that feels safe to him. I feel that I have opportunities to understand how he thinks and that this enhances my parenting and our time together.

Then there is KC. I have never been an unschooler but with KC I probably could. I have never seen a kid so driven to learn. At 3 he was having his own "math class" because he saw me teaching Robbie. He could count to 20, count backwards from 10, recognize all his shapes and do simple adding and subtracting. We continue to build on that. He likes to copy words from books. I think he is starting to read. Twice this past week he has brought me things and told me what they say. Both times he has been right. He loves being read to and is highly musical. It is too early to say what his learning style is, but I think his homeschool journey will be drastically different from his brothers.

And there is Elisabeth. Still young, she shows a love of music, a great sense of rhythm and a love for tactile things. It is exciting to watch this all unfold. . . and to be a teacher after all!

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