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  • Writer's pictureYvette Appiah

How To Personalize Your Child’s Learning Experience

First off, notice I say experience in the title because learning is not an activity or event, it is an experience, hopefully a lifelong experience.

Experience is a great word to kick off this blog because it is one of the most common learning styles. A learning style is a particular way a person learns best. There is research that uses the verbiage ‘prefers’ but I steer away from preference because it is not a choice, the learning style just ‘is’.

As parents we all know that reading to your baby, toddler, young child is the best way to spark an interest in books, to trigger imagination and to actually teach reading. I remember an advertisement that said read to your child for 15 minutes each day and that would be enough to teach your child to read.

Let’s be real. I am a realist so I will never sugar coat issues in my blog. If you want to discuss it, please comment below.

Some children can listen to the stories night after night and not catch on to the rhythm of reading. I don’t care if you read for 15 minutes or an hour, you know it is true. I have experienced this first hand. At first I was worried, when my child turned 6 and there was no sign of him reading. Then at age 7, I was really upset. People gave different excuses. He is a boy is one I hated the most. Gender has NOTHING to do with ability, but it has everything to do with style. I am getting to that, but bare with me as I make my point. By second grade teachers, school officials and even I were all in agreement that something must be wrong with my child.

After all, I had read to him since the womb. We went to story time at book stores, we read each day. We had favorite books. Books at bath time was a great hit in my house. I had shelves of books in the house and read often myself. But still his reading skills were falling behind his level from the start.

The guilt set in. Where did I go wrong? All the while I was beating myself up, I was getting him checked out by specialist, by doctors and he noticed it all. He also noticed his reading skill was not the same as many in his class. He noticed he was in a special group for reading. Kids are not blind, they are not devoid of emotion. He reacted to all of this by sinking into his own world and fading out of what was going on in class.

The saving grace was that I was also in school for my doctorate in Education. As I started my dissertation, I began to research and learn about learning styles. I was familiar with the concept because I had used it in the past during my Master’s studies and working as a Director of a tutoring company. Light bulbs started to turn on in my brain. I remembered when I taught fourth grade and I showed my students how to play ‘the spelling game,’ everyone in the class had better test scores. I even remembered the time I was an education reporter in Baltimore and did a story on a program that separated boys and girls in class and taught them the same objectives in a different style based on the notion that boys and girls learn differently.

The final light bulb revealed that my son was not the problem. The problem started with me holding the books, turning the pages, guiding the conversations. Then the teachers, passing out the worksheets, standing in front of a room of 25 to 30 kids, expecting them all to sit, listen, respond as they guided the conversation and expected a particular result.

This part reminds of the a line from a Bob Marley song, “guiltiness, rest on their conscience.” But I didn’t let guilt beat me up, I learned from it. I began to apply a personalized teaching method to my instructional designs, to my training workshops with adults, and to my son.

Once I cleared my mind of levels, measurements, diagnosis (because if you ask a doctor to tell you something is wrong, the doctor will tell you something is wrong) and wiped the tears of guilt and frustration away, I realized my son learns best by doing, not listening, and only partially by seeing. He must do it to grasp it.

He shows his skill all the time by writing and drawing comics, telling stories and making up scenes with his toys. He makes awesome videos and has such a zest for science that he knows all the facts about planets and the universe. He made us stay up last night to see the lunar eclipse because the moon was going to be closer to earth and blood red in color. I didn’t know any of this was happening and had to Google it, but he knew it all.

He is a brilliant child. I bet your child is too. Some of you may have to open your eyes to what your child has been doing all along, like I did, while some of you are already on the right path.

The first step to personalizing the learning experience is to tune into your child. Think back to all the things your child does and likes and talks about. Use those things in your lessons. Create a worksheet? No! Tear worksheets up and burn them. Unless you have a child, like my daughter who loves a worksheet with a word puzzle, or space to write a story and color a picture or read a story and answer questions.

Step two, you probably already know the answer based on your own parental intuition and experience with your child but if you can’t break away from labels, go ahead and get your child a learning style assessment test. You can download one online for free. The most popular is the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, but I prefer the Felder-Silverman Learning Style Assessment. Felder-Silverman is a shorter assessment with simplistic results. You will discover if your child is an intuitive learner, an active learner, visual learner or sensory learner. Because no one learns one way all the time, this assessment scales the style for you and provides a definition for each type.

Once you figure out how your child learns best, you can begin to tailor your home school lessons. My son is an active learner, so I took the stress out of reading and applied reading to everything we actually did. For example, on our way to the park, I would have him read all the signs. As he played Minecraft, I would have him read all the instructions, put in all the passwords, learn how to set it up, change the characters ect… and communicate with other players via texting on the screen. He became a very popular player.

At story time, we do not always read a book, in fact we have not read a book in a long time at night time. We tell stories. I tell a story or have him tell a story. He always puts me to sleep. When we do use books, which is during homework time, he chooses the books, holds the book, reads where he wants to read. If he asks a question I have him google the answer. I also give him tasks that require reading like helping me cook and reading the recipe. He loves to make noodles and has to read the instructions. Since reading is a part of everyday life, why not apply everyday situations to it.

Now he writes stories and I am going to get him published. The thing I notice the most with him and other children is they latch on to familiarity. His characters are based on people that he knows. Replace the names in the stories you read with your child’s name, his/her friends and family member’s names and watch their eyes perk up with greater interest.

If your child is resistant to sitting, curling up and nestling somewhere cozy with a book it is not because your child does not like or know how to read, your child may be telling you something, listen.

This week’s blog is just the tip of an iceberg I am melting down to uncover a better, personalized way to educate your child. There are so many workbooks, curriculums, online companies that all claim to have the best, the easiest, the most effective way to educate your child but the truth is, if it speaks to a group of learners and not to one, it may not work for your child.

Your child has already been showing you what he/she likes and how he/she likes to do it. Tune in to your child and change the way you educate to fit the way your child learns best.

Your child should not conform to the lesson, the lesson should conform to your child.

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See you next week!

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