"Here comes the first one!"
The atmosphere in the delivery room was charged with excitement and
anticipation. It was a planned C-section, so I was fully awake to witness the
arrival of our two sons that April afternoon.
The doctor held up a tiny red baby and whispered, "He's beautiful!" Two
minutes later, the doctor held up another baby.
"He looks just like the first one!" a nurse cried.
I recognized them both immediately. On arrival, each boy already
seemed to exhibit many of the same behaviors he had demonstrated during
the last several months in the womb. The boys and I had started the process
of getting to know one another almost from conception, and now I was
amazed to see how different these two "identical" babies were from each
other. While it will take years to become familiar with each boy's complex
nature, their differences were evident from the very beginning.
Friends and acquaintances, gazing at the redheads, often ask "How do you
tell them apart?" My standard reply: "Just watch them for a minute-you'll
know." If you listen to the way they speak to each other and to you, if you watch
the way they interact with people and situations, you will have little doubt that
these boys, who share the same birthday, are very much individuals.
When they were still very small, a favorite toy for the twins was a small
workbench with hammer and pegs. Robert, our go-for-the-gusto son, took
great pleasure in vigorously pounding the pegs. Michael, more analytic by
nature, was fascinated by the fact that in the middle of the workbench was
a hole just the right size for storing the hammer.
If you are a parent with more than one child, you've already discovered
that even children growing up in very similar circumstances and environments
can have dramatically
dissimilarapproaches to life. You begin to realize
that people are
fundamentallydifferent. The individual bents that cause
each person to be unique, often bring an overwhelming challenge to parents.
It is not enough to simply decide how children should be reared and then
apply the same techniques to each child. Parents need to get to
no two will be the same!
Often, with the very best of intentions, we set out to chart the course and
plan the events of our children's lives according to what makes sense to
way we did it. After all, we are living proof of what works! But what
seldom occurs to us is that other people, perhaps even those in our own
family, may view the world in an entirely different way than we do. It therefore
stands to reason that when we try to teach or communicate with our
children and others, they are not all going to benefit from the same
If you're like many busy parents, you may become frustrated when you
try to help your child follow directions, do homework, or review for a test.
You may be convinced that your child simply isn't
tryinghard enough. The
fact is, each of our children perceives the world differently from the way we
do. Each child is a unique individual with his or her own natural strengths
and preferences. These individual gifts or bents are called
Although we accept and even cherish each child's uniqueness, it's often
difficult to work with the combined variations of all our children when we're also
trying to juggle family schedules and the many demands of school and work.
Knowing I was to be the mother of twins, I did a lot of reading. One article
had an excellent suggestion for
everyparent. The writer suggested taking
at least 15 minutes a day to spend alone with each child. It recommended
you choose a safe and fun play area and then let your child show you how
he or she prefers to play and interact with you. Short of absolute necessity,
you should make no corrections, suggestions, or negative comments.
Simply enjoy being with your child. Give as many positive comments as
possible, and make some mental notes as to how your child prefers doing
things. If you do this consistently with your children, you will be amazed to
see how easy it is to identify their different learning styles!
Getting to know each of our children as individuals is an exhausting but
rewarding proposition. The busier and more complicated our lives become,
the harder it is to remember that each person in our family has a unique and
valuable contribution to make from his or her own perspective.
It is my intention to help you discover these different perspectives and
to aid you in developing quick, practical ways of helping your child adapt his
or her inborn strengths to the varied demands of learning, both in school
and throughout the rest of life.
intentionallyfrustrate their children, but intentional or not, it
happens. By reading
The Way They Learn
, you can learn to identify many areas
of frustration and conflict that can be directly attributed to a mismatch of the
child's learning style and the parent's. This is not a deliberate defiance of parental
authority by the child. The challenge for parents is to find positive ways of building
on their children's natural strengths without sacrificing desired bottom-line
outcomes. Believe it or not, it
Another important task for parents is to help their children effectively
work with a variety of teachers who will undoubtedly have a number of different
teaching styles. After reading this book, you will have gathered some
very positive information to share with your children's teachers. Having been
a teacher myself, I can tell you that if you will approach both administrators
and teachers from a positive perspective, you will be surprised at how open
they are to learning about your children's individual styles.
When I first started teaching, I quickly realized that many of my students
did not learn the way I did. However, I honestly thought it was just because
they didn't know
. Surely, if I could teach them to learn
myway, it would
eventually make perfect sense to them.
As a new teacher, I was determined to keep my students excited about
school. Since I assumed that they were a lot like me, I decided that boredom
was their greatest enemy. I began a one-woman crusade to prevent
boredom in my classroom.
The first day of school, after my students left, I rearranged the desks into
a new, creative seating plan. I didn't post a formal seating chart, so I was not
expecting some of the reactions I got the next day.
"Where do I sit?" several students asked.
"Sit anywhere!" I replied enthusiastically. "The desks make a butterfly
today. See the wing tips?"
"Well, where do you
wantus to sit?" they asked uncertainly.
Now I was becoming a bit frustrated. "I don't
," I insisted, "just
choose a part of the butterfly and enjoy a new seat!"
Now they were walking around the room, peering under the desks.
"Where's the seat I had yesterday?" one student muttered.
That day many of my students notched their desks so they could find the
same one the next day. I soon realized that one person's boredom is another
person's security. Although I was well-loved and respected for my concern
and creativity as a teacher those first years, many students seemed to really
struggle with some of my methods. When I later discovered learning styles,
I began to accommodate the students many different ways of learning. It was
a great relief to know that those students whose styles were so different from
my own weren't deliberately trying to annoy me!
This book is just the tip of the iceberg about learning styles. In it, I have
highlighted the most practical aspects of five leading research models on the
subject. An annotated bibliography is included so that you can continue
more in-depth reading or studying. I think you will find it fascinating. For
far too long we have had writers and researchers putting people into tight
little boxes. But because each person is so complex and unique, no one
learning styles model can fully describe what a person
. As enlightening as
each new chapter of information in this book may be, please remember:
Each is only a
pieceof the puzzle. We can recognize and identify patterns
of behavior and communication that will become keys for understanding and
appreciating style differences. What we dare not do is insist that each person
fit neatly into a category.
Even though you will find some potentially invaluable checklists and
assessments throughout this book, you will also discover that identifying and
understanding individual learning styles is an ongoing journey of observations
and impressions. As you read through and begin to use these concepts,
keep in mind the following general guidelines:
Observe patterns of behavior. When you or
Observe your child experiences success, what are
the circumstances that brought about that
Listen to the way a person communicates.
If you only talk to others the way you want
Listen them to talk to
, you may discover
you're speaking a language that is foreign
to them. Listening carefully can teach you
how you need to talk to them.
Experiment with what works and what
doesn't. Keep an open mind and remember
that even if an approach to learning
Experiment does not make sense to you, it may work
for your children. We do not all learn in
the same way.
Focus on natural strengths, not weaknesses.
Unfortunately, it's so much easier
Focus to pinpoint areas of weakness that need
improvement than to bolster sources of
strength. But you can't build much on
weaknesses-strengths provide a much
Learn more about learning styles in
Learn general. Pay close attention to your children's
and your own learning styles in
Everything you discover in this book is only part of the larger picture.
There is much more to learn, and that is why I have included an extensive
bibliography. While you are reading this book, look for additional pieces of
your children's learning style puzzle. Resist the temptation to put labels on
your children or anyone else. Don't box them into any one learning style.
Once you begin discovering your natural strengths as well as those of your
children, you will probably be relieved to learn that much of their struggle and
behavior has more to do with inherent style than with something you failed
to do as a parent.
After receiving some learning styles training, one harried home-school
mother seemed particularly relieved to find out her young son was "normal."
She admitted it had been very difficult to work with him, especially when it
came to teaching him music. "Now I understand why," she said. "When I tell
him the stems on the notes must be straight, he makes them diagonal, and
when I ask him to name the notes, he gives them names like 'Larry.'" This
child was not being deliberately difficult. He did not have learning disabilities.
He simply applied his own unique perspective to the learning task.
Karen was a lively, mischievous first grader when her teacher and principal
began to suggest that her parents have her screened for possible hyperactivity
or Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.). Even though Karen was
bright and creative, they explained, she simply didn't follow directions. She
was often restless and had difficulty staying at a task for more than five
minutes at a time. She rarely completed written assignments, and her social
interactions with her classmates were frequently immature and moody.
Karen's parents took her to a pediatrician. Subsequently, she went
through an intensive screening process to determine whether or not she had
a learning disability. The results of the testing led the doctor to conclude
that Karen, indeed, had a marginal case of A.D.D. It was recommended that
Karen begin a mild dose of medication to control her behavior.
Karen's parents and grandparents were troubled at the prospect of putting
their bright, cheerful, six year old on serious and regular medication. They
began to explore other alternatives, and in the process, they heard about learning
styles and how they affect study habits and behavior. As they began to understand
Karen's natural learning style, they realized the way in which Karen
learned was often not compatible with classroom demands.
For example, Karen is a very kinesthetic learner who thrives on movement
combined with listening. The teacher wanted her to sit still. But her
parents decided to try another approach. Instead of forcing Karen to be still
and look at them when they were giving her directions, they decided to let
her fidget, squirm, and look around. Then they checked to see if she had
been listening and were amazed to find she could repeat what they had said
almost word for word.
Karen's global nature made it possible for her to continually scan the environment,
listening and paying attention to multiple voices and stimuli. Her
dominantly random mind was constantly searching for alternatives and seeing
possibilities not obvious to most people. Her CR characteristics made her very
impatient when learning anything that didn't immediately interest her.
Her parents also discovered some emotional problems that seemed to
explain Karen's sometimes immature behavior with her friends and classmates.
These were addressed.