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Homeschooling a visual spatial student?

Welcome to Our World: The Visual Spatial
When we first started homeschooling in 1999, I knew that my student was gifted and really thought it was going to be such an easy journey. Our first few months we used a purchased curriculum from one of the well known "homeschool friendly" curriculum providers. My student literally "sucked" that dry in a few months and was looking for more. I had pulled him from a private school that was well known for academics because he wasn't being challenged enough. I didn't want a repeat of that in our homeschool so we took a trip to Florida when we reached the end of all the books this purveyor of knowledge had sent as a "school year". While on this trip, I realized that my student really had a different way of absorbing ideas and had an intense memory for the obtuse details. Talents I didn't have, but I admired. When we returned from our trip I "winged it" for the rest of that "school year" using videos and trips to the library and museums. What I found from this experiment was that my student, for lack of a better description, saw most things in pictures and diagrams and learned things from pictures and diagrams where I saw the world as an ordered place and ran my life with lists and post-it notes.

It was over that summer I read two books: Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice & Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. both by Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard University. These were very enlightening to me. I had read all the "gifted books" I could lay my hands on at the time and not one touched on the ideas Dr. Gardener had. Even if an author had tied the words "gifted and multiple intelligences" together, it would have been a help in our situation. I tried to use as often as I could, really visual resources in our learning experiences. Still, my student and I locked horns for the next three and a half years over what I saw as the simplest tasks. Multiplication tables from flash cards was a nightmare for both of us. They are visual right? But I could only try to impart the "stuff" I thought my student needed to know in the way I learned it....I read more books on how kids learned through those three years, In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child's Multiple Intelligences and In Their Own Way by Thomas Armstrong were really good at helping me to eventually realize that "child led" learning was really the best way to go for us. It wasn't until I stumbled onto a website in Denver that I found a pretty good description of my student:

Visual-spatial learners think in pictures rather than in words. They learn better visually than auditorally.
They learn all-at-once, and when the light bulb goes on, the learning is permanent.
They do not learn from repetition and drill. They are whole-to-part learners who need to see the Big Picture first
before they learn the details.
They are non-sequential, which means they do not learn in the step-by-step manner in which most teachers teach.
They arrive at correct solutions without taking steps, so "show your work" may be impossible for them.

by Linda Kreger Silverman

At that point, I had my "label" and I could find all the good ways to bring the world to my student. There aren't many books written about the visual spatial learner, but after spending the last 8 years exploring the world with one, I "get" what homeschooling a visual spatial is all about. I can even write stuff now that makes me sound like an expert, though I know I am only an expert on how my student is. But because of the path I took, I would wager it is similar to the path many other homeschooling parents stumble along with a gifted visual spatial. I have gathered a bit of understanding in what it means to homeschool a visual spatial.

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How I Arrived at Our “Gifted” Homeschool Method
There are several styles or methodologies homeschooling families embrace: School-at-Home, Unschooling, Eclectic, Montessori, Waldorf, Charlotte Mason. You rarely hear of a “gifted homeschool” method, so you’ll need to invent your own. Here is how we invented ours.

I found that there are four elements in getting your student interested and invested in his own personal academic outcome. These elements add up to your "method". It's not really all that complicated, but these four items are important:

1. Recognize how your student learns
2. Recognize how you learn
3. Determine the best style to present opportunities for your student to learn.
4. Take on the role of mentor and let your gifted student be the student and the teacher.

I am mostly a verbal-sequential learner(auditory-sequential). My student’s dominant learning style leans towards a global, visual style. It wasn’t until my student was age 11, that we were actually aware of a label for his learning style, Visual Spatial.

A verbal-sequential learner and a visual-spatial learner are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Linda Kreger Silverman describes this beautifully in her book Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual Spatial Learner" :

There appear to be two major ways of learning:auditory-sequential (more left hemisphere) and visual-spatial (more right hemisphere). Auditory-sequential learners are good listeners, learn well in a step-by-step process, tend to be rapid processors of information and are generally able to express themselves verbally. They are often able to compartmentalize their reasoning from their emotions.

In contrast, visual-spatial learners are excellent observers, comprehend holistically -may have sudden “Aha!” understanding that leaps over steps - appear to think in images, may need translation time to put their ideas into words and sometimes have word retrieval problems. Their thinking and emotions are very intertwined.

My student is also more of an introvert. So he’s a visual-spatial-introverted learner. I am mostly a verbal-sequential-extraverted learner. This combination made for an interesting couple of years in our homeschool.

Early on in our homeschool journey, I recognized that a couple of “gifted” traits or tendencies in my student worked well as themes for our homeschool.

My student... has an evolved sense of humor & takes pleasure in thinking divergently.

It was recognizing these themes that helped me through those early years before I realized the importance of recognizing learning style and personality. With the ever changing environment you have with a gifted student, you just may hit some frustrating dead ends. So recognizing these themes and utilizing strategies that follow those ideas can help. In our homeschool, these themes have dominated most of our strides forward and have helped transform dead end paths to forks in the road again and again.

So to total it all up, we use a mix of eclectic-unschooling-school-at-home.

Here’s a magic formula:

Homeschool Method = [(student’s dominant learning style) + (teacher dominant learning style)] + [(student’s personality) + (teacher personality)] / (theme(s))

Here's how we plug in what we know about ourselves to get our "method":

eclectic-unschooling-school-at-home = [(global, visual style) + (verbal-sequential)] + [(introvert) + (extravert)] / (humor+divergent-thinking)

Got it?

The import ant idea to get from this discussion is that your homeschooling method will be more successful, and you will expirieince less frustration, if you take a little time to understand your own personality type and learning style and your student’s.

Resources We Have Used
There are times when I go through my closets and clear out all those items I thought would make learning a joy for my student. Some were hits, some were real bombs for us. This lists the books, materials and other resources we have used that were "hits" in our homeschool.


MIT's OpenCourseWare:
a free and open educational resource (OER) for educators, students, and self-learners around the world.

  • Is a publication of MIT course materials
  • Does not require any registration
  • Is not a degree-granting or certificate-granting activity
  • Does not provide access to MIT faculty


Boy do we use video! Our laptop plays DVDs so we take videos everywhere. I list these resources because they offer more academic type video, like History Channel, Discovery movies and even courses on video.

Here are some great resources that will keep your supply fresh.

The Teaching Company brings engaging professors into your home through courses on DVD, audio CD, and other formats. Since 1990, great teachers from the Ivy League, Stanford, Georgetown, and other leading colleges and universities have crafted over 200 courses for lifelong learners like you. It's the adventure of learning without the homework or exams. [Courses I have for sale]


Great Math & Science Resources
My student is very into Math and Science, with more of a slant towards robotics, physics, general engineering.

Getting Started in Electronics
by Forrest M. Mimms III (A Radio Shack publication)

Backyard Ballistics
by William Gurstelle

Creative Projects with LEGO Mindstorms by Benjamin Erwin

Building Bots: Designing and Building Warrior Robots by William Gurstelle

Cartoon Guide to Physics by Larry Gonide and Art Huffman

Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification by Thomas J. Elpel

Building a PC for Dummies, Fourth Edition by Mark L. Chambers


Math·U·See's goal is to help produce confident problem solvers who enjoy the study of math. The reason we study math is so we can apply what we learn in everyday situations. The students learn their math facts, rules, and formulas, and are able to use this knowledge in real life applications. [Our set is for sale]

Elementary Algebra by Harold R. Jacobs

A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe: Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, and Science by Michael S. Schneider

Sacred Geometry: Philosophy and Practice (Art and Imagination) by Robert Lawlor

Everything You Need To Know About Math Homework (Everything You Need To Know..)by Anne Zeman, Kate Kelly

Looking for a curriculum for a gifted student?
Here's what we did

Techniques That Work
Techniques that we have used and that work....

Taking Notes in Picture Form: A Powerful Strategy for Visual-Spatial Students by Alexandra "Allie" Golon

Who are “visual-spatial learners?” Visual-spatial learners, or VSLs, are those among us with powerful gifts of the right hemisphere. They are our artists, inventors, builders, creators, musicians, computer gurus, visionaries and healers. They are empathic and often very spiritually aware, even when they are very young. They think and learn in multi-dimensional images. However, most schools, most teachers and most curricula are a haven for left-hemispheric thinking, or auditory-sequential learners; children who think and learn in words, rather than images, and in a step-by-step fashion. [read on]

Organization Skills for Visual-Spatial Learners by Alexandra "Allie" Golon
Most, if not all, visual-spatial learners (VSLs) are accused of being hopelessly unorganized. However, it has been my experience that these right-hemispheric learners (think “absent-minded professors”) truly can find a needle in a haystack. My son, Matt, for example, whose room on any given day may look as though multiple tornadoes have hit, never ceases to amaze me in his ability to locate just the perfect LEGO TM piece he was searching for. [read on]

The visual (spatial) learning style (from
If you use the visual style, you prefer using images, pictures, colors, and maps to organize information and communicate with others. You can easily visualize objects, plans and outcomes in your mind’s eye. You also have a good spatial sense, which gives you a good sense of direction. You can easily find your way around using maps, and you rarely get lost. When you walk out of an elevator, you instinctively know which way to turn.
The whiteboard is a best friend (or would be if you had access to one). You love drawing, scribbling and doodling, especially with colors. You typically have a good dress sense and color balance (although not always!).

Teaching Mathematics to Non-sequential Learners by Linda Kreger Silverman
...children who show superior grasp of mathematical relations, but inferior abilities in mathematical computation. These children consistently see themselves as poor in mathematics and most hate math. This situation is terribly unfortunate, since their visual-spatial abilities and talent in mathematical analysis would indicate that they are “born mathematicians.”

"Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual Spatial Learner" by Linda Kreger Silverman

Other Resources

Visual Spatial Learners (Gifted & Creative Services Australia)
Many gifted children struggle in school because their intelligence is not recognised and neither is their unique learning style. These children are gifted visual spatial learners who have great ability in abstract random thinking coupled with marked weaknesses in auditory sequential information processing.

Visual Spatial Organization

  • Does your child remember what is seen
    but forget what is heard?
  • Does your child have a vivid imagination?
  • Can your child visualize objects from
    multiple perspectives?
  • Does your child enjoy solving puzzles and mazes?

    These are children who would reather spend the day with a new box of LEGOs than do nearly anything else in the world. Kids who can get so absorbed in creative play, they lose all sense of time. Often labeled unorganized, unfocused, poor spellers or worse, visual-spatial learners can be equal parts pleasure and frustration to parent. We're here to help!











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Last Updated: March 20, 2007