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Homeschooling A Right-Brained, Visual Learner?
By Kerry Jones
For some time now, it has been widely accepted that children do not all learn alike. Through studies, at least seven different learning "styles" have been identified. Unfortunately, this knowledge is only slowly seeping into our traditional school system. Many children are still being daily lectured from a teacher's notes, or (if they are really lucky) from a lesson written on an overhead projector. This has disastrous consequences for the large percentage of children who don't happen to be auditory learners.
Research in the last decade indicates that today's short attention-span culture is creating children whose brains are actually wired differently from their parents' brains. From a young age, they have been exposed to an unprecedented amount of visual information via books, magazines, television, videos, video games, and the Internet. This visual influx seems to actually be changing the visual pathway in children's brains. On the upside, this new generation is able to process faster, multitask better, and actually score higher on most IQ tests. On the downside, this over-stimulation is creating problems for parents, schools, and even physicians who feel the need to somehow rewire the child's brain "back to the way it is supposed to be."
The fact is, that visual learners are rising in number, they are here to stay, and they have special educational needs.
Right brained, visual learners tend to have several things in common. They visualize images in their brain and can have long term memory of these images. They don't usually perform well on sequential, or linear tasks (such as following multi-step instructions or long division problems). They learn information in chunks, in a holistic way. They learn much better by demonstration than by explanation. And they are naturally creative problem solvers.
Homeschooling one of these learners can be a challenge, but fortunately there are more resources than ever available to aid you in the task. The most obvious helps are those that are naturally appealing to the visual child - - multimedia aids. Educational software can be found in virtually every office supply store and discount store. And used software is available from auction sites, from Amazon.com, and at homeschool sales and yard sales. For more expensive software, the key is trying before you buy. Most software manufacturers allow you to download a free trial of their product so you can make sure that the software is really worth the investment. Although educational software is not usually sufficient as a complete curriculum, supplementing with them for a visual child can be the key to true success.
If a full multimedia curriculum is what your child needs, one company now offers a full core homeschool program via the internet. It is called Time4Learning, and it provides all lessons in a colorful, interactive format. Best of all, this program is parent-friendly! The lesson planning is self-formatted, the child's progress is easily tracked, and the monthly cost will fit most any homeschool budget.
Other multimedia resources that can be invaluable to visual learners include educational video websites such as Brainpop and United Streaming. Most of the videos on these sites are available only by subscription, but educational videos can also be obtained free of charge on many websites, through your local library, or through a homeschool cooperative. And don't forget to take advantage of your cable or satellite stations. Online television listing guides allow you to plug in upcoming subjects you'll be studying into their search engines for programs up to two weeks in advance. Set your VCR's or digital recorders, and voila - - instant educational programming targeted to your child!
Visual learners soak in information from television, computers, and videos, but they also need time to let the information soak in, and time to do what they do best - - learn by demonstration. Field trips are incredibly important for right-brained kids. And almost anything you and your child study can be reinforced with real-world experience. If you are learning about US History, find out which historical homes in your area allow visitors. Studying food and nutrition? Grocery stores, and some restaurants are often willing to host "behind the scenes" tours. It's time to check out something locals never see - - their hometown visitor's center or website. Find out exactly what gems you may have overlooked right within your own backyard. Your visual student will never forget what he sees with his own eyes!
For further information about teaching your right-brained, visual child, you might want to check out a wonderful book by Jeffrey Freed and Laurie Parsons called "Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World." However left-brained you may or may not be as a parent, you don't have to feel that the task of homeschooling your visual child is an overwhelming one. Just like all of us, they have an innate desire to learn - - all you have to do is supply the proper resources. Their limitless minds will fill in the rest!
About the author
Kerry Jones is a freelance writer and web maintenance engineer in North Carolina. She has two sons, and has been homeschooling since 1999. Click for more information about the Time4Learning homeschool curriculum she uses for her right-brained visual son.
Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.
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