Whether you’ve been homeschooling for just a few days, or you’ve already been at it for many years, at one point or another you’ve probably asked yourself at least one of these homeschooling “frequently asked questions”:
- How do I make sure my kids learn all the right things?
- What if I leave out important material?
- What is the best curriculum for [insert subject name here]?
- What if my child won’t do his/her work?
I don’t think I’ve met a homeschooling family yet who hasn’t faced these uncertainties at some point along their homeschooling journey. In fact, I think many of us have probably bumped up against these questions multiple times as we gain more knowledge and experience, and as our children reach new phases of development and maturity. The reason you won’t find a printed FAQ with easy answers to these questions, though, is that the answer to all of them (and numerous others) is the same: “It depends.”
One of the primary reasons so many of us have chosen to educate our children at home is because we want them to learn in a way that fits their particular needs and goals, and that allows us to be responsive to our students’ interests and abilities. Once we make this choice, though, we often find that this level of freedom and flexibility is also one of the biggest challenges of homeschooling. There are so many options, so many possible paths, that many of us begin to feel overwhelmed, or afraid to make a mistake, or concerned that our kids will miss out on important opportunities.
This is where learning and personality assessment can be incredibly helpful. Understanding our child’s particular learning preferences and strengths is a great starting point not only for developing our homeschooling plans, but also, as our children get older, for starting to think about post-high school plans, including higher education and career options. One of the most thorough and helpful assessments I’ve found is the one developed by the LearningSuccess™ Institute called the “Self-Portrait™ Power Traits Assessment,” and I recently had the opportunity to interview Mariaemma Willis, a learning specialist at the LearningSuccess™ Institute. (Please note: the above link will take you to a page with more information on this assessment, along with a link for purchasing the assessment at a reduced price.”)
Here are some of the questions I asked, along with Mariaemma’s responses…
- What are the most important things I need to know to homeschool?
The most important thing you need to know is who the student is. When students are in school, teachers and administrators begin their planning by thinking about things like the curriculum, learning materials, and the physical classroom. The individual students, including their learning preferences and interests, are rarely considered in the planning. As homeschoolers, however, you have the freedom to begin with knowing who the student is, and then all the other decisions can flow from there. And while some parents already have an idea about how their children learn best, sometimes a formal assessment can also be validating, in addition to providing insights about areas you may not have considered, like what the best learning environment might be for them. What’s more, students love learning about themselves, and the results of the assessment can be a great basis for involving your child in the decision-making process.
- What are some of the areas the “Self-Portrait” assesses?
There are five basic dimensions included in our assessment are:
- Disposition (personality),
- Preferred learning modality (auditory, visual, or tactile),
- Talents, and
- Best learning environment.
There are five main dispositions we look at, each of which tends to be pretty stable over time. The best learning happens when we understand that a “spontaneous” student, for example, needs to be able to move around and release physical energy while they’re learning, versus an “imaginative” student who learns best when they can piece ideas and information together for themselves. The first won’t learn well if confined to a chair for much of the day, and the second needs the freedom to explore their thoughts and ideas on their own. The three other types of dispositions include “organized,” “supportive,” and “curious,” each of which requires different types of support and opportunities to accomplish their best learning.
In addition to disposition, knowing how your student prefers to take in information, how to incorporate their interests and talents into their learning plan, and creating an optimal learning environment for them (considering factors like noise levels, lighting type, and social groupings) are each important individually and together as you make decisions about different types of classes, curriculum, and other educational activities.
- Could learning style information also help with home issues, such as chores?
Yes, because you can match chores with your child’s disposition. For example, if your child has more of a “supportive” disposition, you can ask them to do chores that involve working directly with other members of the family, like helping to make meals. If you also factor in their interests and talents, you can create a list of chores that they’ll be more likely to remember to do, and will do well.
- Can a learning assessment help me with a child who resists doing school work?
Yes! If a child is balking about doing academic work, it’s a clue that something is going on, and that you may need to find a different approach. The learning assessment is a good starting point, and a learning coach can help you incorporate the results of the assessment into a plan that works for both the parent and the student.
- How do I know I’m teaching the right things? What if I leave out important material?
Nobody knows for certain if they’re teaching the “right” things, not even experienced teachers. Every school teaches different classes in different ways at different times – nobody teaches all the same things, so there’s no important material you can leave out. As homeschoolers, as long as you teach your children the basics, including understanding and valuing their learning preferences, they’ll have the tools they need to be lifelong learners and will be able to fill in any “gaps” in the future.
So, as many of us in the homeschooling community wind down one academic year and begin planning for the next, taking some time to look more closely at our child’s “power traits” could be a great starting point. The LearningSuccess™ Institute would like to help, and is offering two types of support to our community:
- A reduced-rate learning strengths assessment, and
- A free teleconference where you can ask Mariaemma questions about how to incorporate your results into your plan for next year.
Here’s the link to more information about the assessment and how to get your assessment at a reduced price:
The free teleconference will be on Thursday, May 4th, at 10:00am Pacific. You can join the teleconference even if you choose not to do an assessment — you’ll still be able to ask questions and learn a lot from the conversation! Please RSVP here, and we’ll send you the details on how to call in:
(*Please note that the link to the assessment is an affiliate’s link, which means that if you purchase an assessment you will be helping support my work. Thank you!)