When you set out on your homeschooling adventure, one of the first things you will hear about from other homeschooling families is learning styles. Without understanding how your child learns, it’s harder to plug in the other homeschooling puzzle pieces, such as buying curriculum and planning lessons. Discovering how your child learns best begins by understanding the four main learning styles: visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic. These learning styles represent the acronym VARK.
A Short History of VARK
Neil Fleming, an educator, spent his career first trying to understand learning styles and then establishing his theory, first named VAK. In 1987, Fleming called his working theory VAK, an acronym for the Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic learning styles he discovered people learn through. In 1992 he found another style, reading, which proved to be the fourth style most people learn. This style also incorporated writing. VARK became an accepted theory in the education system.
While Fleming was a teacher, he was also a deeply interested learner in how people learn. His passion for understanding led him to establish VARK while he taught at the secondary and university levels in New Zealand. His years of hard work and research taught him that some people learn by seeing the information and others by listening to information. When he dug deeper, Fleming discovered some people learn by reading and writing, while others learn best by doing. With an understanding of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Fleming found how the mind and language interact to affect individual behavior, in this case, learning.
Breaking Down VARK
Breaking down the acronym VARK one letter at a time can help parents understand how their child learns best.
V – Visual. Fleming discovered that visual learners learn by seeing. Children who learn by seeing do well with charts, diagrams, illustrations, and videos. Visual learners can remember better when they visualize information in their heads. These learners have a high ability for visual recall. They must see information to absorb and remember it.
A – Auditory. Auditory learners, Fleming discovered, learn best by listening. Auditory learners have a high auditory recall ability. They do best with repetition and summaries. These children learn best when they listen, whether with an audiobook, discussion, or podcast. Learners who comprehend best when listening, as opposed to writing, often lean toward using abbreviations and slang. In today’s texting culture, think of acronyms and shortened word forms.
R – Reading and Writing. Learners who fall into the reading/writing learning style gravitate toward the written word. Typically, it’s the most used learning style in traditional classrooms by most teachers. These learners learn and thrive by using books and notebooks. They are avid notetakers. Their love of reading finds them turning to dictionaries and thesauruses. They are the diary keepers and journalers.
K – Kinesthetic. Kinesthetic learners are the doers of the four learning styles. These learners learn best when physically interacting with their learning environment in a hands-on approach. Because they rely on their bodily interactions during learning, they can easily recall information connected to the feelings they felt learning the information. These learners get the most out of walking and reciting a lesson. Field trips where they can hold and touch objects, like a touch tank at local aquariums, are ideal for kinesthetic learners.
VARK and Your Child’s Learning Experience
While determining learning styles seems like it requires professionals to assess your child, it isn’t all that difficult. Here are simple questions to ask when finding your child’s style:
Does your child love art? Are they fascinated by beauty? When you tell them to do something, like a chore, do they need reminders, like sticky notes, to finish it? Do they use hand movements when describing their day? If so, these are strong indicators that your child may be a visual learner.
Does your child tend to read out loud? Do you ever create songs to help them remember things? Do they enjoy listening to a lesson but push the book away? When assembling toys, do they get frustrated reading instructions but follow along when listening to you read them? If so, these are strong indications that your child may be an auditory learner.
Does your child love to read? Do they enjoy writing their own stories? Are they list-makers? Do they take notes while listening to presentations or reading textbooks? Does your child love to get worksheets? If so, these are strong indicators that your child may be a reading/writing learner.
Does your child love to touch things they are learning about? Do they love making models? Does your child love to learn how to cook with you in the kitchen? Does your child love building and working with wood? Do they get frustrated having to sit and learn but thrive when they can move around while learning something? If so, these are strong indicators that your child may be a kinesthetic learner.
These seemingly simple questions offer you a picture in your child’s mind. Once you have an idea of your child’s learning style, you can help your child not only learn but enjoy the learning process.
Why It Matters
It’s important to understand and apply your knowledge of VARK for your child. It matters because you understand every child learns differently as a homeschooling parent.
Maria Montessori referred to children as sponges, calling the child’s mind “the absorbent mind.” Montessori was an Italian educator who developed a curriculum that helps children become independent thinkers by encouraging their natural creative tendencies and intellectual curiosity. She believed that children absorb everything around them without effort and continuously. For the homeschooling parent, understanding how they can help their child learn using their own natural tendencies will help them toward a lifetime of learning. VARK is the first step on that learning adventure.
Don’t forget to use this knowledge to guide you in picking the correct curriculum.