Learning problems are fundamentally a mismatch between the child and the learning environment.
Dr. Jane Healy
As we wrap up this blog series about learning styles, I want to do something a bit different. Rather than examining another model of learning styles, I’d like to share with you some big-picture ideas about how our unique wiring impacts our education.
The first is from Dr. Jane Healy, who wrote the book Different Learners, among others. She is not someone who doesn’t believe that ADHD exists or that there is no such thing as learning disabilities. But here’s what she writes in her introduction:
“I would quite willingly hazard a guess that 3/4 of so-called learning disabilities are actually a mis-match between the child’s natural mode of learning and the way that material is presented in school.”
What do you think of that? Do you agree?
Many of us who are homeschoolers might agree. I was a special education teacher for 10 years and would never argue that we don’t need special supports for children who have disabilities. But as a homeschooler and a mom, I was not quick to have my daughter diagnosed with any type of delay at age three just because she wasn’t acting the same as her peers for a season (I wrote about this on day three of this series.)
Many of you are homeschooling because you don’t have any other viable options. Perhaps you live and serve overseas with your family. Perhaps you live in an area where public schools are in a critically failing state.
Others of you are homeschooling for reasons related to Dr. Healy’s quote. Maybe your child is an extraverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiving type (see days three and four if you missed them and have no idea what I’m writing about). Maybe he didn’t read until he was seven or eight. Maybe her imagination was so active that she lost track of time during standardized school testing.
Maybe one or more of your children just didn’t fit the mold, so you decided to bring them home to teach them before labels were slapped on them and the little light that is a love of learning in them began to wane.
Dr. Healy also writes: “Raising children today has become a battle to preserve healthy common sense in an out-of-control world.”
I am not a conspiracy-theorist or anti-public schools. For certain types of kids, public education is wonderful. For some, it offers enriching opportunities that their bright minds would not have had otherwise. For others, it offers them any opportunity at all, which is more than their families could have provided. For those who have significant disabilities, special education programs can connect them with the resources and opportunities they need to reach their full potential.
But most of our kids are not, statistically speaking, in the top or bottom 5%, at least not in measures of school success. Most of our children are in the great middle, and we have a hard time standing by and watching the great factory of schooling swallow them up and try to shape them into conformity with a system that seems to have very little basis in their future reality. (This makes me think of Dr. Ken Robinson’s TED talk here.)
We see their love of learning slowly replaced by knots in the stomach over repeated days of testing. We see clearly how the way that our children were made doesn’t fit into the mold, and so they seem to grow invisible in the place where they spend most of their waking hours five days a week.
And so, we decide to homeschool. Or we’re thinking about homeschooling.
I want to encourage you on this journey. It is a noble one, for you are fighting for your children. Please understand, I’m not disparaging anyone with kids in public schools – you are also fighting for their children in different ways.
In that “out-of-control world” to which Dr. Healy refers above, homeschooling is one way – and a big way – that we can resist.
But when we do this, when we take back the education of our children, we can stagger under the weight of responsibility.
Because we love them, we must become curriculum experts. We must understand the ways that they learn and process information.
Whether or not we are naturally inclined to do so, we must become somewhat structured and organized in order to keep everyone at least a little “on track.”
Whether or not we were ever inclined to major in education, we are now professional educators in that this has become our day-to-day profession.
We all probably know parents – usually moms – who seem to have been made to homeschool. Their particular cocktail of strengths are perfectly-suited to do all of the above.
And then there’s the rest of us.
In order to homeschool well, we need to help each other. That’s why we named Learnwell a “Home Education Collective.” As we were starting out not too long ago, I found that everyone I talked to was really receptive. Not in a “good for you, Melissa!” kind of way, but in the way that a truly thirsty person would listen to a description of a tall, cold glass of perfect lemonade.
I’d mention that Learnwell – or rather, the leadership team of experienced educators – would be selecting the curriculum. Great, they’d say – that’s one huge burden off our back.
Then I’d tell them about our teachers – experienced K-5 teachers who develop lesson plans week-by-week and are available for emails and Skype chats when we hit bumps in the road. Wow, they’d say. That would give moms a lot more margin if they didn’t have to pick out curriculum OR develop the plans for the year, week after week, day after day.
But then I’d tell them about the heart of Learnwell – homeschooling in community. I’d begin to see whoever I was talking to light up with the realization that they would no longer be fighting for their children by themselves. They’d be equipped with the teacher behind them, for sure.
But they’d be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with like-minded parents who were also passionately dedicated to resisting the tide of culture, armed with what Dr. Healy calls “common sense” and the opportunity to do this together.
We’d begin talking about how they could just shoot a message out to the other 14 or so moms in their class when they forgot where the online project list that someone suggested was located. We’d talk about how they could join in book clubs or Scripture studies with moms across Learnwell who they might actually “click” with. We’d get excited talking about how, if there were several Learnwell families in the same area, we could organize meet-ups or field trips or even (and this is one of my dreams) retreat weekends.
And then, after we talked about all that, they would get it. They would understand why Learnwell is different. The parents who join us at Learnwell recognize that they are stronger together, and so they take intentional steps to gather the resources they need to homeschool and parent successfully.
We sure hope that you’ll be a part of the Learnwell tribe. If any of what I’ve written here rings true to you, we think you’re our kind of people. We sure would love to have you join us, because we know that we’ll be stronger if you do.