Homeschool parents are gifted with a unique perspective about their children. By watching them grow and learn, home educators have direct access to how their students process new information.
Knowing and understanding this learning process, labeled “learning style”, is beneficial to creating a homeschool environment suited to both parent and student. Working with your child’s learning style aids in their understanding and retention of the information you explore in your homeschool.
“A learning style is the way in which a person sees or perceives things best and then processes or uses what has been seen. Each person’s individual learning style is as unique as a signature. When a person has something difficult to learn, that student learns faster and enjoys learning more if his or her unique learning style is affirmed by the way the teacher teaches.” Marlene D. LeFever from her book Learning Styles
If you’ve asked the question, “What is my child’s learning style?”, we’ve got your answer.
In this guide, we explore different styles of learning and discuss complimentary teaching strategies to help you and your child get the most from each modality.
What are the different learning styles?
Children and adults learn new material in many different ways. If you know how to make the most of the particular style, you can generate amazing results.
The ways humans learn fall into eight general categories:
- Visual (spatial)
- Aural (auditory/audio)
- Kinesthetic (tactile)
- Verbal Linguistic (reading and writing)
- Logical (analytical)
- Social (interpersonal)
- Solitary (solo/individual)
- Naturalistic (nature/outdoors)
There are no fixed rules for how people learn. Sometimes we blend learning styles, but our preferred method usually dominates.
Teaching your children at home brings challenges and new viewpoints. Your children may not learn the same way you did, or the way you were taught in school.
Traditional school curriculum is based on the model of rote memorization. This method works for those suited to the verbal linguistic style but doesn’t resonate with children who learn best by listening or working with a group.
If diagrams and illustrations help your child retain that information better, reading and writing about facts for a visual learner is ultimately boring.
Compare the learning style descriptions below with what you know about how your child learns. We will offer you some tips on how to model your teaching to your child’s particular style.
Visual learners process new information best when they can see it. These students will draw diagrams and pictures. They retain ideas best with the help of charts or illustrations.
Do you have a child who loves to read instruction manuals? How about one who takes color-coded notes or makes lists? You have a visual learner.
Students who fall into this category absorb visual information from charts, illustrations, diagrams, or even stick figures. When they can view how a process works, they can understand it.
What are the characteristics of a visual learner?
- Takes time to process new information
- Creative with drawing or writing
- Excels in spelling and grammar
- Enjoys charts, graphs, and other colorful illustrations
- Sometimes seem shy and quiet, or appears to daydream a lot
What’s the best way to homeschool a visual learner?
Let them doodle and draw while you teach. Use flashcards so they can see what you’re presenting. For even stronger retention of the material, encourage them to create the flashcards.
Take advantage of every opportunity to show a concept to help your visual learner understand and retain what you’re teaching.
What can you incorporate in your lessons to help your child learn visually?
- Encourage them to showcase what they’ve learned by drawing, creating diagrams, or charting out the information.
- Give them time to go over notes, outline lessons, and have quiet study time.
- Use charts and graphs, maps, and illustrations to create lasting visual connections associated with lessons.
Auditory learners are great listeners who take in information through their ears and how they interact with the world.
Do you have a child who enjoys listening to you read aloud? Do they benefit from discussions or understand how something works through a verbal explanation? You have an auditory learner.
Students who thrive on hearing information engage in conversations around the curriculum, vocalizing their questions and answers. They don’t mind reading out loud.
Listening and repeating back information is how they learn.
What are the characteristics of an auditory learner?
- Connects with others through conversation
- Likes telling stories and can articulate well
- Easily recalls names and details
- Often interrupts with questions or repeats new information
What’s the best way to homeschool an auditory learner?
If your child learns best as a listener, they benefit from methods that allow room for discussion. Leave ample question and answer time. Structure your teaching more like a conversation.
Ways you can help them thrive in this style:
- Be ready to answer lots of questions. Hearing repeated information is part of their learning process.
- Ask them questions. Verbal feedback helps you see how they’re progressing.
- Sometimes you might need to be a sounding board. Let them bounce their ideas off you.
- Offer headphones for focused listening to audio books or presentations.
Kinesthetic or Tactile Learner
Kinesthetic learning is sometimes referred to as tactile. These children thrive with a lot of movement including whole body movement, or in the case of tactile, incorporating fine motor skills.
Do you have a child who uses a hands-on approach to understanding the world? How about a child who loves to touch, move, build, or even draw what they perceive and experience?
These children are more likely to put something together without the instructions. Or they’ll look at the instructions and figure it out themselves, learning by doing. Physical movement helps them remember things better.
What are the characteristics of a a kinesthetic learner?
- Can be fidgety when having to sit for a long lesson
- Enjoys taking things apart and putting them back together
- Finds anything hands-on exciting and challenging
- Has difficulty grasping abstract ideas like theories
- Can be overwhelmed by activity going on around them
What’s the best way to homeschool a kinesthetic and tactile learner?
With young children, incorporating movement with lessons is pretty easy. Getting them up and moving not only helps them with all their energy, but it will break up the lessons and they’ll learn faster.
As children move into middle and high school, the density of their lessons increases as heavy reading and memorization make up the bulk of their studies.
How can you present more complex lessons so they retain the information better?
- Give lots of breaks, even just a few minutes here and there, to help with their need to move.
- Encourage them to take written notes for better retention.
- When possible, include activities that let them get their hands dirty, literally and figuratively. If you can include real objects when teaching, the physical association strengthens the impact of the lesson.
- Include plenty of arts and crafts, cooking, and real science experiments in your homeschool plan.
Verbal Linguistic Learner
For the children who do well with the reading and writing, or verbal linguistic style of learning, this is what traditional school curriculum is based on.
Do you have a child who enjoys reading textbooks and written materials? How about writing out the information learned in their own words, so they can see what they’ve understood? Or who has an expansive vocabulary that is constantly growing? You have a verbal linguistic learner.
Like the visual learner, they will automatically gravitate to reading subjects they’re interested in. They’ll also take notes, but not necessarily color-coded ones. They prefer to read or study in quiet and by themselves and have no trouble memorizing facts and new information.
What are the characteristics of a verbal linguistic learner?
- Likes using dictionaries and glossaries to help them understand what they’re learning.
- Considers textbooks their friends, full of information and knowledge.
- Takes detailed notes.
- Learns best by reading and re-reading information for retention as their form of memorization.
What’s the best way to homeschool a verbal linguistic learner?
Children who learn through reading and writing could be described as pretty low maintenance. They do really well by reading and studying the material and taking notes.
These students prefer to learn this way, so providing them with a lot of material won’t overwhelm or distract them. They’ll revel in it.
Verbal linguistic learners can handle written directions and instructions, and may read over the information several times just to make sure they’ve taken it all in.
Simple strategies to make the most of lessons for this style:
- Encourage note taking and give detailed examples of the lessons
- Help with memorization of the material through short quizzes
- Assign written reports on the subjects they’re studying.
- Give them ample time to read and study, and provide a quiet spot for this to happen.
- Flash cards aid in memorization, and provide quick visual study aides.
Logical or Analytical Learner
The logical style of learning is also referred to as mathematical or analytical style. These children use reasoning and logic to absorb information.
Do you have a child who likes working with numbers? How about excels in logic games and puzzles and thinks analytically? You have a logical learner.
These children work well with structure and organization. They learn best when they are presented with goal-oriented materials. They tend to prefer problems which require analysis and logic to solve.
What are the characteristics of a logical learner?
- Has a linear thought process.
- Solves problems using abstract visual information
- Connects seemingly unrelated ideas to arrive at an answer that makes sense to them
- Possibly able to solve complex math problems in their head.
- Approaches problems methodically.
What’s the best way to homeschool a logical or analytical learner?
Logical learners retain information best when presented with problems which are visual, statistical, and analytical or by creating charts and graphs to demonstrate how something works. They also enjoy brainstorming ideas.
Setting up lessons oriented toward an end goal gives them a defined point to work towards through linear thinking.
Including methods which encourage critical thinking engages their brains more effectively than simply telling them how something works.
What are other ways of teaching a logical learner?
- Provide them with opportunities to work things out for themselves.
- Give them problem-solving tasks.
- Let them interpret abstract visual ideas and see what they can come up with.
- Ask them to provide solutions to problems after offering information and evidence.
Social or Interpersonal Learner
Children who are social learners are quite good at communicating with others. They tend to learn well when they have the opportunity to work in groups. They also listen well, being attuned to other’s views.
Do you have a child who loves being around people and bouncing ideas off others? Who enjoys social gatherings and has no trouble making new friends? You have a social learner.
These are the “social butterflies.” Known as the people-persons, they are good at interpreting the tones of others, and reading gestures and expressions. They are often concerned with how they appear to others.
What are the characteristics of a social learner?
- May struggle with solo activities and projects.
- Is vocal and not afraid to ask questions, sometimes lots of questions.
- Can be understanding and is usually very thoughtful of others.
- Enjoys activities that allow them to be social
- Needs approval and confidence-boosting validation of their work
- Is comfortable with learning in a group setting
What’s the best way to homeschool a social learner?
It can be difficult to achieve a social environment when you’re homeschooling a social learner, but there are many ways to help them get the interaction they crave.
Don’t underestimate the value of connection. The child/parent relationship is a valuable asset and can strengthen the bond when you’re teaching. Social learners benefit from being able to discuss ideas and information with others, and just like with auditory learners, talking over the lessons helps them retain information.
They have the ability to communicate effectively. By letting them express themselves, they can articulate their ideas and solidify new insights.
What are some ways to help your social learner thrive?
- Be available when they want to brainstorm or talk something through
- Provide them with an outlet to voice their ideas and consider new ideas and concepts.
- Organize study groups, or be the study partner for your child.
- Start a book club with others to give the opportunity to socialize and share information.
- Offer plenty of praise and feedback to encourage lifelong learning.
The solitary, or individual, learner could be called a lone wolf. They enjoy spending time in solitude and working on things by themselves.
Do you have a child who is independent and self-aware? Who enjoys quiet reflection and plenty of alone time to think things through? You have a solitary learner.
Preferring to be away from crowds, they learn best in quiet places where they can focus on the task at hand. This doesn’t mean they don’t like being around others, just that they need an opportunity to recharge away from people.
Solitary reflection is a big part of how they learn about the world around them. Observations are taken in and then the thinking takes over. They withdraw to process new information.
What are the characteristics of a solitary learner?
- Can be absorbed completely in their own bubble
- Is quiet and reflective, sometimes seeming quite shy
- Takes time to figure things out on their own, rather than asking for help
- Is comfortable taking course materials and studying them on their own
What’s the best way to homeschool a solitary learner?
Considering the solitary learner prefers time by themselves, short lessons with lots of time for study work really well.
Provide the information in the lesson and be available when, and if, questions arise. Your solitary learner will spend their time reviewing the material, fully immersing themselves in the concepts.
Understanding the way the solitary learner absorbs and processes information, you can provide them with the time and space they need to study in their own way.
Ideas for working with solitary learners:
- Connect lessons with familiar topics and issues to help them process new information.
- Take trips to the library and encourage them to dive into subjects they find intriguing.
- Make lists so they can check off items as they complete them. This helps them stay on track and see their own progress.
- Including social activities for your solitary learner isn’t out of bounds. Start small to encourage but not overwhelm them.
Naturalistic or Natural Learner
The naturalistic, or natural, learners are curious about nature. They can make connections and identify patterns in their environment and learn best when they’re outdoors.
Do you have a child who enjoys spending time in nature? Who is great at remembering the names of plants and animals or happily points out different cloud formations and includes the proper scientific terms?
They are perceptive and observant. They are like kinesthetic learners in that they enjoy working with their hands, digging in the soil, finding and identifying things in nature.
What are the characteristics of a naturalistic or natural learner?
- Loves being outdoors absorbing nature
- Prefers hands-on exploration of their environment
- Takes note of the world around them, and loves sharing this information with others
- May also take an interest in meteorology, astronomy, or other natural science
What’s the best way to homeschool your natural learner?
Understanding their learning preferences makes working with a natural learner simpler. Knowing they thrive in nature, even lessons that aren’t about nature can be much more fun when they happen outside. It’s not practical every day, but when possible, move the learning environment outdoors.
Science and nature come to life for these children when they can dig in and work with things on their own. Introduce unit studies on gardening or animal care. Build a weather station. Leave room around the house for collections of rocks, leaves, and other bits of nature.
Ideas for working with naturalistic learners:
- Offer stimulating activities which allow them to participate in the lessons to engage their interest.
- Give them the opportunity to observe, explore, and record the world around them.
- Be flexible with how your lessons are presented and where you teach. This opens up new ways of introducing them to a wide variety of material.
- Encourage their sense of curiosity with the world around them.
- Connect lessons to the natural world whenever possible.
A Strategy for Every Learning Style
For every learning style there is a strategy that works well. Every child is unique and will naturally gravitate toward one modality. Embrace learning styles. They’re a roadmap to creating a homeschool environment perfect for your family.
If you’re not sure which style is dominant, take some time to observe and make notes using this guide. Their preferences will show up, but remember, you can teach to more than one style as the circumstances allow.
As you recognize different learning styles in your child, apply the suggested teaching tips from the matching styles above. When something clicks for both of you, celebrate!
And be open to changing things up. Explore new ways of presenting things. Make learning fun you’ll see the benefits in your homeschool.