Homeschooling parents are usually people who love reading. Get a group of us together and the conversation will often turn to books. What are you reading? What are your children reading? It can be hard to understand how someone could not like books. After all, books can take you anywhere. The words on the page can convey ideas and help you explore new worlds. If there is something you want to learn, chances are, you can find it in a book
What do you do, then, when you have a child who doesn’t like books? Who doesn’t like to listen to stories? Who struggles to learn to read? Who, given the choice, would probably pick almost any other activity?
One of the challenges of homeschooling (or education in general) is to help someone learn who has a different learning style than the one you use to learn. If you are someone who learns primarily through reading or a combination of reading and images, it can be challenging to understand how someone would prefer to learn primarily through hands-on tasks, images, and videos.
Reading Being Visual: Raising a Generation of Innovative Thinkers by Bette Fetter was a true eye-opener for me. Fetter is an artist, educator, and founder of Young Rembrandts, an art program for children. She explains, “Visual-spatial thinkers thrive in the world of images, to words. They need to see, to think. When they don’t see, they can’t think. When they don’t think, they don’t learn.”
It is estimated that about 25% of the population relies primarily on words to learn. 45% use both words and images. 30% of people are visual-spatial dominant. This last group tends to have the hardest time with traditional school.
Schools, and no doubt many homeschoolers, structure lessons to teach to auditory-sequential learners. Visual learners need a different approach. They tend to be big-picture thinkers who “see the whole before the separate, smaller parts. They process information by seeing mental images. When they hear or read information, they need to translate it in their brain into an image in order to be able to fully understand the concept.
This can result in a slower processing time. This doesn’t mean that they are unintelligent; indeed, these children and the adults they grow into have many wonderful and useful skills. As one might expect, visual thinkers often enter creative fields, but many also become scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and computer programmers. We need people whose brains work differently.
How Can You Tell if Your Child is a Visual Learner?
Bette Fetter offers the following list of signs on her website:
- They learn best when they ‘see’ what they are learning.
- They’re conceptual, big picture thinkers that often miss the details.
- Visual learners struggle with organization and time management.
- They have good long-term, visual memory and poor short-term memory.
- Visual learners thrive when doing art and other creative activities.
- Visual-spatial learners like puzzles, Legos and three-dimensional play.
What do you do as a homeschooler if you have a child who learns primarily via images?
- Make sure lessons have a multi-sensory component. Allow them to see what they are learning. Use tangible examples, images, and/or videos to explain concepts or how to do something.
- Allow children to draw or build with blocks or use clay while listening. Contrary to what you may think, this will help them focus.
- Use visual organizers so that they can see what they need to accomplish. These can also help them organize their thoughts.
- Allow them to draw out their ideas before they have to explain them using words.
- Use games and practical lessons to help them learn.
- Support their creative interests and out-of-the-box thinking.
- Many visual learners are also kinesthetic learners. They learn by doing and moving. Allow them to move while they learn or give them plenty of breaks for movement between short lessons.
One of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that we can tailor education to fit our individual children’s learning styles. If you have a visual learner, embrace the gifts God gave your child. Work with those gifts to ensure a positive educational experience.