Customize Homeschool to Learning Style | Emergency Homeschool Podcast
AoPS Online and AoPS Academy will be down for maintenance on Monday 9/28 starting at 9 pm PT / 12 am ET.
Emergency
Homeschool Podcast
Powered by Art of Problem Solving

EPISODE 2

Should I Customize My Homeschool to My Student’s Learning Style?

LISTEN ON: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Play | Stitcher


FEATURING:
Dr. Jennifer Frederick, Executive Director at Yale University’s Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning
TJ Schmidt, Staff Attorney at the Home School Legal Defense Association
The concept of customizing the at-home classroom to each individual student’s “learning style” can be compelling. However, parents should first examine some big misconceptions surrounding the learning styles theory. In this episode, we discuss personalization, with multimodal learning in mind.
An alternative approach strongly supported by the educational research is to invite students to think about their learning and identify how their study practices result in learning gains.
- Dr. Jennifer Frederick
Best Homeschool
Curriculum Recommendations?
See what our Art of Problem Solving parents say they use for their curious and motivated students
View Curriculum Recs

The Misconceptions of Student Learning Styles

What do you think of when you hear “learning styles”? When parents and teachers talk about learning styles, they're often expressing that an individual student learns most effectively in one specific way. This is a widely-held misconception.

There is zero research-based evidence that shows matching instruction to a specific learning style will optimize student learning. In fact, this approach effectively narrows opportunities for students to learn.

For example, a student may say, 'I'm a this-kind of learner.' The worry there is that if a student thinks they're a certain kind of learner, that might influence their confidence and motivation toward instruction that doesn't align with their self-described “learning style."

Alternately, a student may be attempting to express what we call a learning preference. This is a separate, and legitimate, concept meaning you prefer to learn in a specific way.

Benefits of Multiple Mode, or Multimodal, Learning

Thankfully, cognitive science does give us an alternative to learning styles. Multiple mode learning — that is, engaging in various learning forms together — actually reinforces the neural pathways that result in deep learning.

For example, students learn more deeply from the combination of words and pictures than from words alone. Students also benefit from reflecting on how they learn and improving their self understanding of the process.

This means that a student who identifies as a visual learner can definitely benefit from adding other approaches to engaging with information. Multiple modes is important to consider as you curate your student’s learning plan.

When you look at the cognitive science research… someone who thinks they're a visual learner can definitely benefit from other approaches to engaging with information.
- Dr. Jennifer Frederick

Should You Customize Your Homeschool Learning Environment?

While customizing curriculum to match your student’s learning style isn’t a data-driven approach, there are still potential benefits to personalizing at-home learning.

In a traditional classroom setting of 25 to 35 students, there will be a wide range of abilities and knowledge. Students aren't always at precisely the same comprehension level for every subject, even if they are at the same academic level.

Conversely, children at home have the opportunity to take breaks by going outside to get fresh air and move around. They can also do things that aren’t possible during school, such as interrupt their day to discuss what they just learned or find answers to an intriguing new question.

One of the main benefits within the homeschooling community is that you get to determine and decide what's best for your child. One of the things that is often missed is, many times your child can also have a say in that.
- TJ Schmidt

Before you start learning at home, think about whether your children might learn better independently or in a more structured environment. At-home learning provides an opportunity for students to take more ownership of their education.

And as your child gets into middle or high school, involving them in their own learning process is valuable. It gives them a voice in how they learn, and they’ll gain experience with making important decisions.

Emergency Homeschool - Episode 2 Transcript

Narrator (00:00):
We've had so many parents reach out to us and say, "We're trying to be prepared for whatever happens this fall. Can you recommend curriculum for other subjects, like what you offer for Math and Language Arts with Beast Academy, AOPS Academy and AOPS online?" To help them out, we surveyed our Art of Problem Solving families to find out exactly what curriculum they use for their curious and motivated students. See their homeschool recommendations for yourself at aops.com/homeschool. That's aops.com/homeschool.

Eric Olsen (00:35):
Some people describe themselves as a visual learner or say they learn best by reading or by hearing someone explain something to them. Do you think you might have a learning preference?

Child (00:48):
I'm definitely a visual learner because I have more trouble understanding what to do when I just hear it being said.

Eric Olsen (00:55):
Do you think you are just a visual learner?

Child (00:58):
Well, if being a visual learner means just understanding things that you see and read, then no. Another way I learn is listening to my music teacher sing and listening to her techniques. It's just harder for me to understand things when I just hear them being said.

Eric Olsen (01:23):
I'm Eric Olsen with Art of Problem Solving and this is the very first time we've ever considered home school options for our nine year old daughter. She loves her public school. She loves her teachers. She loves her friends. But we just don't know what traditional school is going to look like come fall and want to be prepared either way.

Eric Olsen (01:41):
So in this series, I interview some of the best minds in the education and at home learning spaces to figure out our options and learn how to craft an at home learning plan that's right for our family. This is Emergency Homeschool.

Dr. Jennifer Frederick (01:55):
The concept of customizing the at home classroom to the preferences of the individual student can be very compelling. However, there are some big misconceptions to keep in mind.

Eric Olsen (02:06): This is Dr. Jennifer Frederick, Executive Director at Yale University's Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning. Can you help us understand the concepts and common misconceptions of learning styles versus learning preferences?

Dr. Jennifer Frederick (02:22): When parents and teachers talk about learning styles, they're often expressing a widely held misconception that an individual student learns most effectively in a specific way. Let me separate this idea of learning styles from what I'll call a learning preference which means that you prefer to learn in a specific way.

Dr. Jennifer Frederick (02:41):
Some preferences, I think, are legitimate. The problematic part of the learning styles idea is as follows. There's no strong evidence that figuring out someone's learning style and then matching instruction to that style will optimize learning for the student. It just doesn't show that that bears out in the research.

Dr. Jennifer Frederick (03:01):
So to say a little bit more about the problem with using learning styles as a framework to organize instruction, this approach effectively narrows down opportunities for students to learn. An alternative approach that is strongly supported by the educational research is to invite students to think about their learning and identify how their studying practices result in learning things.

Dr. Jennifer Frederick (03:23):
Students benefit from multiple modes of instruction. For example, research shows that students learn more deeply from words and pictures than just from words alone. And students also benefit from thinking about how they learn and improving their self understanding about how these practices might work differently for them in different disciplinary contexts. So math versus reading, for example.

Eric Olsen (03:46):
What are the downsides of me pigeonholing my daughter and saying, "She is a visual learner." Or even with her self identifying with that learning preference?

Dr. Jennifer Frederick (03:57): Yeah, that's a great question. And as a teacher myself, I often hear students say, "Well, I'm a this kind of learner." So they may be getting that from teachers, from parents, from their own experiences, but the worry with that is if someone thinks they're a certain kind of learner, then that might influence their confidence and even motivation toward instruction that does or doesn't align with their self described learning style.

Dr. Jennifer Frederick (04:24):
So when you look at the cognitive science research, it shows that learning through multiple modes could be visual, could be auditory, et cetera, reinforces the neural pathways that result in deep learning. So someone who thinks they're a visual learner, to continue with that example, can definitely benefit from other approaches to engaging with information.

Dr. Jennifer Frederick (04:45):
Again, the idea we want to stay away from is that matching instruction to a perceived learning style is an optimal way to organize instruction. It's not.

Eric Olsen (04:54):
Is there anything else that should or shouldn't change from a personalization, customization perspective when teaching your child in an at home environment?

Dr. Jennifer Frederick (05:05):
Well, that's an interesting question that I've been thinking about and from looking at my own kids and their experiences learning at home last spring, there are a lot of ways that they customized the experience for themselves.

Dr. Jennifer Frederick (05:18):
And in the beginning, this involved some things that I had to take a while to get comfortable with. There were more breaks. They were going outside to get some fresh air and move around. But there were also things that they were able to do that wouldn't so much have been as possible during school.

Dr. Jennifer Frederick (05:36):
They asked to be read to instead of reading themselves sometimes. Sometimes they just interrupted their own day to tell me about something that they'd just learned or questions. So think about your kids and how they operate. You'll know, some do better with more structure. Others can handle more independence and so on.

Dr. Jennifer Frederick (05:56):
And again, this is an opportunity for students to take more ownership of their own learning so I think involving your kids where possible and setting up structures and routines will probably work out the best for everyone.

Eric Olsen (06:09):
In a traditional classroom environment of 25 to 30 kids, the curriculum needs to be able to teach to the mean. But in an at home learning environment, is there a benefit to choosing curriculum or supplementing your curriculum to better match your student? This is TJ Schmidt, Staff Attorney at the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.

TJ Schmidt (06:31):
I mean I think that's one of the main benefits within the homeschooling community is that you get to determine and decide what's best for your child. One of the things also I think that is often missed is many times, your child can also have a say or an involvement in that. Particularly if your child's older and as they get into maybe middle school or high school definitely, having them be involved is very, very valuable.

TJ Schmidt (07:00):
It gives them some buy in to what they're learning. It also gives them a little bit of exercise in independence or decision making. So I think it's very, very important. Obviously within a more traditional classroom setting, when you are teaching 25 to 35 kids, there is certainly going to be a wide range of either knowledge or ability or progress in just that classroom.

TJ Schmidt (07:30):
And all of the kids may be extremely bright and intelligent, but they just may not be at the same comprehension level and they just need more focus or more directed attention to be able to learn to their optimum potential.

TJ Schmidt (07:45):
In a personal example, when I was taught at home and I was in algebra, we had been using a particular curriculum for several years and it had been going well. But when I went to go through the algebra book, halfway through the year, I hit a brick wall.

TJ Schmidt (08:02):
And I enjoyed math. My mother enjoyed math. But we just felt like we were butting our heads up against a wall and it was very frustrating for both of us. And so my mom made the wise choice of deciding, you know what? We're going to change.

TJ Schmidt (08:17):
Even though it was in the middle of the school year, we changed to a different curriculum and the right curriculum for us and for me. And I ended up going through calculus. So just really, I think that is just an example of one of the ways in which homeschooling can certainly provide a significant benefit that you're not going to necessarily have even in the best public or private schools.

Eric Olsen (08:43):
TJ, thanks so much for your time today.

TJ Schmidt (08:45):
Well, it's my pleasure.

Eric Olsen (08:48):
In the next episode of Emergency Homeschool, we'll dig into the legal rules of that home learning. And all the differences, depending on what state you live in. Legal requirements, curriculum requirements, assessment requirements and more. We hope you'll stay with us as we interview the experts and navigate our at home learning options together.

Narrator (09:09):
You've been listening to Emergency Homeschool, an Art of Problem Solving podcast. Since 1993, Art of Problem Solving has prepared hundreds of thousands of motivated students for success in prestigious universities and STEM careers. Through engaging curriculum, expert online instruction and local academies. To learn more, visit artofproblemsolving.com. That's artofproblemsolving.com.

Invalid username
Sign In