By Barbara White
Just as every snowflake is unique, so is every child. The way that your child learns depends a number of different factors, which combined together, create his unique learning style. By helping your child discover how he learns the best, you will set him up for life time success in learning, and reduce the frustrations that come through trying to learn in a way that does not use his particular strengths and to him seems uncomfortable.
Every parent has been through the school system and hopefully discovered ways that facilitated a style of learning that worked for them. However it is a fallacy to presume that a parent's style is necessarily going to be the best way for their child, in fact it could have a detrimental effect to insist that they learn in that way.
For example the traditionally accepted environment to do homework is to sit at a desk in a quiet spot to help concentration. However this is only likely to help learning for a percentage of students. If this is not a comfortable way of learning for a child it can actually inhibit the flow of ideas and create a learning vacuum where the mind becomes a blank. Some may need to spread out on the floor, sit cross-legged on the bed or even in front of the TV to find an environment where their best learning can take place. Some students need music or background noise, food or drink and to feel comfortable before real learning can take place. Some remember best when they can move about or learn by doing, some need to visualize or see pictures, write or read the information for themselves, and others need to hear the information and speak it back in order to remember it. Using a combination of two of these modes may work best for some students.
Another important factor that comes in play is the way a child perceives and orders information in their mind. The conventional method is for information to be structured in a logical step by step process, which leads in a linear form from the beginning to its logical end. This method works for many students, however some may have learning styles which in take information and put it into meaningful bits or chunks, which are stored in the mind in a more random way. Such a student will reach the desired result, but will not use a sequential logical format in the learning process.
There are two main ways the brain makes sense of the information it receives, and although we all use both ways there will be a leaning towards one way or the other. The first way can be termed the `analytical style'. The analytical style has a preference to focus on the details, and fit them together to make sense of information. The `global style' however needs to see the bigger picture and fit in the information within it so it makes sense in the wider scope of things. A global style sees all the parts are related to each other to make up the big picture, but may have difficulty in separating the parts within the bigger picture. The analytical style has no problem focusing in on the parts, but may have difficulty seeing the bigger picture and how the details fit together in the wider sense. An example of this can be seen in the approach to doing a jigsaw. The analytical style preference will focus in the jigsaw pieces and how they fit together. A person operating strongly in this style may fit together several sections before looking at the picture to see where they go. The global style, on the other hand will probably do the edges pieces first, and frequently refer to the picture to see where a piece would go.
By observing your child in natural normal situations you will be able to pick up clues as to the innate strategies he/she uses to understand the world, to concentrate, and remember. By giving your child opportunities to try a variety of methods of learning you can help them discover and encourage their unique style of learning. The earlier a child discovers what works best for them, the more success and self confidence will be attached to their learning experiences in life. As a parent you are in an ideal position to help them in the process of discovery.
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