How to Be a Good Homeschool Quitter: Part 2

In the last post, I talked about changes you might want to make if a book or curriculum is not developmentally appropriate or is loaded with twaddle (low-quality, low-density content). Those aren’t the only times you’d quit, supplement, or adapt a curriculum, though. If you have a gifted student or are trying to teach an auditory learner with materials for a visual learner, or teach a visual learner with materials ideally suited to the kinesthetic student, you may also want to do a bit of tweaking.

The fundamental point remains that trial and error is part of the learning process for both you and your students. Don’t expect to get every curriculum choice right the first time. You’ll get better and better at making choices, though if you’re anything like me, it’s easy to be drawn to resources that fit your own learning style and interests rather than your student’s ;-). Being willing to set aside something when it’s not working isn’t a weakness — it’s an acknowledgement that you are the teacher, and it’s your job to help the student learn, not to check off pages in a textbook.

Okay, back to the article . . .

Have a gifted student? Step back.

Thomas Edison seated at desk, using his dictating machine, c. 1914

Thomas Edison attributed his success to his mother.

If you have gifted students, there is very little chance you’ll be able to stay ahead of them, especially in their areas of interest. Frankly, you don’t need to. Gifted students learn differently from others, with intuitive leaps that help them connect disparate knowledge areas.

You’ll find them delving deeply into a chosen topic for a period of time, emerging saturated with deeper knowledge based on far more information than you would have ever required them to study. If you provide books, resources, unstructured time, and access to learning mentors for foundational skills,  cultural literacy basics, and areas of special interest, your gifted student can thrive.

Can gifted students learn through ordinary textbook/workbook curricula? They can learn a little, but holding a gifted student to the pace and structure of many programs is similar to feeding an Olympic athlete on a diet of Twinkies® and soda and expecting good results. A steady diet of canned curricula is usually a waste of the gifted student’s time and gifts; a squandering of natural curiosity; and can provoke a gifted child (often keenly attuned to illogic or injustice) to wrath. Ordinary texts can be part of a scope and sequence for learning or used for areas of weakness, but gifted students need a great deal more. (This is important, and there’s much more I want to say, but it will have to wait for another day, another post.)

Learning style matters

Most people have a way that they most easily take in information. These natural learning styles include auditory, visual, or kinesthetic strengths. A few brief generalizations (not intended to be a comprehensive overview):

  • Auditory students learn best by hearing. The auditory student will usually be the talker/singer/noisemaker in the family, is often musical, remembers things without taking notes, and tends to spell things as they sound. An auditory learner will almost always prefer to listen to a book than to read it, and will remember a great deal more about a book he reads if he’s able to discuss it with someone.
  • Visual students tend to learn by seeing. They’ll often be early and avid readers, excellent spellers, and appreciative of art, nature, and other visual beauty. They’ll usually take good notes in lectures because they won’t remember anything without the visual clue of their notes. A visual learner would rather read than be read to, and is often considered a model student.
  • Kinesthetic students learn by doing. These active students are usually on the move, have to have their hands on everything, and tend to be later readers than their visual and auditory counterparts. Spelling is usually a major weakness, as they don’t remember how a word looks and don’t easily associate the sound of the whole word with individual letter sounds (they get better once they begin using the computer and can easily see and edit mistakes). Although they are capable of understanding and absorbing information at a level far above their reading level, they often end up labeled and drugged in institutional schools.

Presenting materials in a way that fits the student’s learning style can be like walking through an open door, while trying to teach using a method that doesn’t fit can be like trying to shove tidbits through a closed window. Even when a student is completely cooperative and doing his or her best, knowledge is more completely grasped when presented through the open door. I am a visual learner, but I have auditory and kinesthetic learners among my boys. We did a bit of adapting, and they all learned to read, write, calculate, and spell, (though on dramatically different schedules).

Adapt to fit learning style

If you are using materials that are incompatible with a students’ learning style, consider how you can adapt them. If your auditory student is using Excellence in Literature, for example, try using audiobooks and active discussions to supplement (or even instead of) the reading and writing in some of the assignments. This can change intense frustration into a process of learning to understand and appreciate great literature.

If you are using a manipulative-based math program, your visual learner may become very frustrated because they usually understand concepts as they are presented in text, and don’t have the patience for fiddling with blocks or beads. If you are teaching subjects to all your students together, it can be beneficial to allow the student who is strongest in a subject to lead discussions or experiments or even bring in additional materials. Our auditory learner loved to do the reading-aloud portions of our school day, and he also brought in many supplemental facts and resources from his personal learning journey.

Make decisions with ultimate goals in mind

The Music Lesson by Johannes (Jan) Vermeer c. 1662-65It’s true that faith, perseverance, and hard work can lead to success, but it’s important to understand the difference between reaching the goal of a well-educated student and the assumed virtue of completing a book just because it’s been started. If something is not effective for your student and not easily adapted or supplemented, additional time wasted is not likely to change that. If the goal is to nurture a literate student who loves to learn, then “convictions of honor and good sense” will remind you to be a good quitter and focus on what works. The homeschool years are too short to waste.

“Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make you a happier and more productive person.”
Dr. David M. Burns

The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.
Proverbs 16:21 NIV (© 1984)

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