All children are unique and learn differently from one another. However, some learn quite differently (Kinesthetic Learners) from what is considered the “normal” way of learning.
My family examples
- I am able to understand and retain more in a meeting if I can move around while standing at the back of the room. If I can’t do that, doodling or otherwise taking notes helps. Munching on something also works (carrots got me through long physics lectures one summer).
- My oldest son learns best by doing things and has a very difficult time in a traditional classroom setting. Whatever he becomes interested in he very quickly earns the equivalent of a degree by looking up information, viewing it, and trying it. Hydroponics to lost-wax casting to creating his own LED light fixtures for starting plants from seeds.
- My daughter has a very difficult time retaining information unless she hears it. She will have to go somewhere by herself and read a textbook out loud for it to sink in.
- My youngest seems to be more of a “typical” child, where he is able to learn by reading. Organizing helps him, though. For example, recently he was learning the Fijian language and was having a hard time making sense of the way pronouns were presented in his texts, so he made a new chart that organized it in a way that made sense to him.
All my children are super smart (if I do say so myself…although they probably get that from their mother), but all learn differently from each other, and all learn differently from me. My oldest son struggled, though, in traditional school. ADHD was even mentioned by teachers (the difference between ADD/ADHD and kinesthetic learners may be the topic of another post).
Neil Fleming and VARK
In 1987 a teacher in New Zealand named Neil Fleming introduced the VAK or VARK models of learning styles. VAK stands for Visual, Aural (auditory, or through hearing), and Kinesthetic – or movement. VARK is Visual, Aural, Reading and writing, and Kinesthetic. In my own family all four styles in VARK are represented. I’m sure you’ve recognized some of these attributes in some of your own children. To better find out, you can take this questionnaire.
Why Is this important?
As parents, we want out children to learn as much as they can and have a good experience while doing it. To achieve these goals their teaching experience needs to be tailored to how their minds are wired. Don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. Successful teachers are learning to provide a balance of all styles.
For kinesthetic learners you want to make sure to have hands-on experiences combined with instruction. This type of instruction also works for the other learning styles as well. That is, an auditory or visual leaner will learn effectively with hands-on opportunities in the mix. The flip side is not true: kinesthetic learners will NOT learn well through straight lectures or learning that don’t include experiential opportunities.
Curriculum choice and is key
Choosing curriculum that has a mix of teaching styles is important, especially for kinesthetic leaners. Field trips, labs, …anything that allows the student to get up and move around. The Edible Knowledge® courses are examples of courses that provide a mix of learning styles especially in the area of homeschool science. These have instruction that’s not too long, but with delves into the subjects deeply, followed by assignments and experiments, either kitchen based on using LEGO® bricks that require hands-on effort. Online course options can even be better, as many times text they are presented through audio or video recordings in addition to or instead of reading.
Kinesthetic learning can be a lot of fun
Whichever way you go, take heart! Kinesthetic learning can be a lot of fun for the teacher and for the student. HomeschoolIf you would like to learn more about the VARK theories and strategies, directly from the source, I would taking a look at Neil Fleming’s books, which can be downloaded in pdf form.
Good luck with your teaching adventures!