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Learning Styles
As part of homeschooling, it’s important to discover how your student learns, how he processes the information presented, how he will explore subjects of interest. In the last several years I have spent a good deal of time learning to understand this with my highly gifted student.
You’ll find that homeschooling parents will often end up in conversations discussing learning styles. I met a lady from a Boulder homeschooling group one time by asking questions on the Internet about the home education climate in Boulder. We got to be “cyber-friends” and ended up meeting at an Air Force Museum and sure enough we ended up discussing how we discovered our student’s learning styles. Often those discussions will be under the cover of the “style” of homeschooling you incorporate. You’ll find that many homeschooling families try several “styles” or “methods” of homeschooling before they settle on a dominant “method”. When you ask them how they arrived at the “method” they chose, you’ll get a variety of answers, but most often it will get back to their discovering how the student learns best.

The topics you will find on this page:

Definition of Learning Styles

There is so much information written about learning styles that is can get very confusing. I find reading all the information very interesting, and have condensed much of what I have read into a very simple theory of my own. A person’s learning style is made up of three elements:

  1. How your student processes information.
  2. Personality.
  3. His preferred “intelligences”.

Of these three elements, how your student processes information describes in very general terms his learning style, but the other two elements can affect the learning style as well.

Active processing means that the student tends to retain and understand information best by doing something active with it--discussing or applying it or explaining it to others.
Reflective processing means that the student prefers to think about information quietly first.
Auditory/Verbal processing means that the student tends to get more out of spoken explanations.

Visual processing means that the student tends to remember best what they see--pictures, diagrams, flow charts, time lines, films, and demonstrations.

A great book about Visual Learners: "Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual Spatial Learner" by Linda Kreger Silverman

Our page on Visual Spatial Learners

Sequential processing means that the student tends to gain understanding in linear steps, with each step following logically from the previous one.

Global processing means that the student tends to learn in large jumps, absorbing material almost randomly without seeing connections, and then suddenly "getting it." Global learners may be able to solve complex problems quickly or put things together in novel ways once they have grasped the big picture, but they may have difficulty explaining how they did it.

So if you have a student that processes information in a sequential way and prefers to hear the material rather than read it, you might say that your student has an auditory/sequential learning style.

Personality Types
Personality type can effect how your student is learning too. A variety of questionnaires have been developed over the years that can help assess personality type but the most popular questionnaire is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI). Myers-Briggs is based on the work of Carl Jung in his theory of Psychological Types.

The output from the personality inventory or questionnaire provides an outline of one of 16 MBTI® Types. The output will be a four-letter type code like ISTJ or ENTJ. The codes are derived from combinations of the following preferences in dealing with the External World, Information you receive to process, Decisions you make and the Structure in which you deal with the world:

External World
Introverts find energy in the inner world of ideas, concepts, and abstractions. They can be sociable but need quiet to recharge their batteries. Introverts want to understand the world. Introverts are concentrators and reflective thinkers.

Extraverts find energy in things and people. They prefer interaction with others, and are action oriented.

Information Processing
Sensing people are detail oriented, want facts, and trust the facts they gather.

Intuitive people seek out patterns and relationships among the facts they have gathered. They trust hunches and their intuition and look for the "big picture."

Thinking people value fairness.

Feeling people value harmony. They focus on human values and needs as they make decisions. They tend to be good at persuasion and facilitating differences among group members.


Perceptive people are curious, adaptable, and spontaneous. They start many tasks, want to know everything about each task, and find it difficult to complete a task.

Judging people are decisive, they are planners and self regimented. They focus on completing the task, only wanting to know the essentials, and take action quickly. They plan their work and execute their plan. Deadlines are sacred.

Mutiple Intelligences
The theory of Multiple Intelligences was researched, developed, and published by a team of researchers at Harvard University, led by Dr. Howard Gardner. Its educational applications are far reaching and have led to everything from expanded classroom lessons to the development of whole schools termed "Multiple Intelligences Schools." The multiple intelligences defined by Dr. Gardner are as follows:

Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence
This intelligence is responsible for the production of language including: poetry, humor, storytelling, abstract reasoning, and the written word.

Logical/Mathematical Intelligence
This intelligence is associated “scientific thinking.” Deductive/inductive thinking/reasoning, numbers and recognition of abstract patterns.

Intrapersonal Intelligence
This intelligence involves knowledge of the internal aspects of self such as: feelings, range of emotional responses, self reflection, and sense of intuition about spiritual realities.

Interpersonal Intelligence
This intelligence involves the ability to work cooperatively in a group and the ability to communicate, verbally and non-verbally with other people. People highly here are good at working with others and working on group projects.

Visual/Spatial Intelligence
This intelligence involves the ability to create internal mental pictures. Deals with such things as the visual arts, navigation, map-making, and architecture. People highly developed in this intelligence are good at creating pictures in their mind.

Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence
This intelligence involves the ability to recognize and use of rhythmic and tonal patterns, sensitivity to sounds such as the human voice and musical instruments.

Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence
This intelligence involves the ability to use the body to express emotion as in dance, body language, and sports.

Naturalist Intelligence
This intelligence involves the ability to recognize plants, animals, and other parts of the natural environment, like clouds or rocks.

You can read more about this topic in Dr. Gardner's books: Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice & Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

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