Mom-to-Mom Support/Homeschooling Students With Different Learning Styles

Homeschooling Students With Different Learning Styles


You’ve heard about learning styles, but what are they? And how can you use learning styles to enrich your homeschool? 

The four main learning styles

There are four main learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing. 

Visual learners

Visual learners learn best by seeing. A visual learner remembers details in images, notices patterns and shapes, and learns well from pictures, diagrams, and demonstrations. Visual learners often have a hard time “getting it” when listening to verbal instructions or an audiobook. Skip to tips for visual learners.

Auditory learners

Auditory learners find it easiest to absorb information when hearing it and responding verbally. An auditory learner understands verbal instructions best and remembers stories read out loud to him better than stories he has read himself. Skip to tips for auditory learners.

Kinesthetic learners

Kinesthetic learners learn best by doing. A kinesthetic learner likes to make things with his hands, loves physical activity, and remembers things best that he has participated in physically. Skip to tips for kinesthetic learners.

Reading/writing learners

Reading/writing learners learn best by—any guesses?—reading and writing. This kind of learner remembers things best when he has read them on the page and prefers to communicate by writing rather than by speaking. Skip to tips for reading/writing learners.

Learning styles might explain a lot of things you’ve already noticed about your children. For example, why does Rita read every book she can get her hands on, while Karl doesn’t get excited about a book unless he does a hands-on project related to it? It could be that Rita is predominantly a reading/writing learner, and Karl is predominantly a kinesthetic learner. 

Try to make use of all four learning styles

Actually, most children learn through all four methods of learning but have one or two dominant learning styles. For example, my primary learning style is reading/writing. I also learn well through visual and kinesthetic methods, but auditory learning is challenging for me. I have to make a special effort to understand when listening to an audiobook or a lecture. 

With practice, I have become much better at auditory learning. I’ve also learned ways to compensate for my weak auditory-learning skills. For instance, when listening to a professor’s lecture in college, I would take extensive notes. The process of writing the notes helped me organize and understand the information I was hearing, even if I never referred to the notes later on.  

Just because children have different learning styles doesn’t mean that if you have an auditory learner, you should switch to reading everything aloud to him. A child needs to be able to learn through many different methods because he will often be in situations where he won’t be able to choose how he wants to learn a necessary piece of information. 

For example, the owner’s manuals of cars are not available in auditory formats, and college professors’ lectures are not usually available in written formats. With practice, children can develop their abilities to learn through methods that don’t come naturally. 

Encourage all of your students to use as many of their five senses as possible in learning—this will enrich their experience, help you discover what their primary learning styles are, and help them develop their non-primary learning styles.

Make challenging subjects easier

If children should be able to learn through all different methods, why is it useful to know about learning styles? One reason is that you can adjust a challenging subject so the child can approach the topic through his primary learning style. For example, a kinesthetic learner who struggles with math might begin to excel with a hands-on program that uses manipulatives. This child will still have opportunities to practice the other methods of learning (visual, auditory, reading/writing), just not in the subject he struggles with.

Make school more enjoyable

An awareness of learning styles can also be key to making learning more enjoyable. Oftentimes students are perfectly capable of learning through a non-primary learning style, but the subject doesn’t “come alive” for them without the addition of elements that appeal to their primary learning style. For example, Veronica the Visual Learner can understand history books printed in black and white without illustrations. But she will enjoy her studies much more with full-color history books that feature illustrations, maps, and diagrams. Similarly, Karl the Kinesthetic Learner is quite capable of learning science from a textbook, but the concepts seem dull and uninteresting until he completes hands-on science experiments.

Adapt your teaching style

Knowing about learning styles can also help you adapt your teaching style to your children’s needs. With Rita the Reading/Writing Learner you might be able to hand her the workbook and let her read the directions herself. In contrast, Adam the Auditory Learner needs you to read or explain the directions orally. Adam’s need for you to introduce the lesson doesn’t mean he is less intelligent than Rita; it just means that written directions are not his forte. 

Of course, Adam still needs to move towards the goal of understanding written directions because this is part of becoming an independent learner. You can help him develop this skill by asking him to read the directions to himself first (reading them aloud might help) and then tell you what he thinks they mean. Praise him for his effort, and discuss the directions together until he fully understands the lesson. Over time, Adam will develop his ability to understand written directions to the point that he will no longer need your assistance.

Practical tips by learning style

Here are some practical tips for ways to help each style of learner:

Tips for visual learners

As mentioned above, visual learners learn best by seeing and being able to imagine what they are learning. Below are our top tips for visual learners.

Use pictures, diagrams, & other demonstrations

When working with visual learners, it’s helpful to use full color, illustrated textbooks to help them engage with the material more deeply. Diagrams and/or demonstrations are also useful for illustrating concepts. For example, as you’re working through a lesson, you can help your child organize information by making a flowchart, spider diagram, or other graphic organizer to show processes and connections between concepts.

And even if you think you don’t know how to draw, simple stick figures on the whiteboard can make a huge difference for comprehension and retention. The more unrealistic the stick figures look, the more likely the student will be to remember them!

Allow your child to use paintings or photos as starting points for creative writing compositions, and encourage him to use manipulatives and/or drawings to visualize math problems. Drawing pictures can be incorporated into almost any subject if the student finds drawing/painting enjoyable. For example, have your child sketch out a historical event—even if it’s just stick figures! Or, after a visit to the park, ask him to draw a favorite plant or insect he observed.

Connect assignments to something visual or imaginative

Another strategy for helping visual learners is to connect the assignment to something your child enjoys—likely, something visual or imaginative. Let’s say, for example, your child loves superheroes. Consider bringing out his favorite superhero figurine during his math lesson. Tell the student that finishing his math worksheet is part of an imaginary game that will release the superhero from the villain’s clutches. Seeing the superhero and imagining he’s been captured can be great motivation for visual learners.


Color-coding can also help visual learners. Encourage your student to use colored pencils or pens in his assignments. For example, use a blue pencil for spelling words that use “au” and a green pencil for words that use “aw.” On a history timeline, the student might enjoy writing the most important events with sparkly gel pens. If your child has trouble following instructions or schedules, try color-coding or highlighting the most important parts.

Educational videos

Educational videos can be good enrichment tools for visual learners, including movies set during historical periods or movie adaptations from literature. On the other hand, many documentary-type videos include a lot of visual stimulation. Some visual learners may be too distracted by the visual stimulation to process the information well.

The same goes for illustrated textbooks. The right textbooks can be extremely engaging for visual learners, but other books may be too flashy or distracting. It’s a fine line—take cues from your child as you’re introducing new visual materials, and soon enough, you’ll find a balance.

Write down important information

A visual learner finds it easier to remember something he’s seen and read rather than something he has heard. Consider writing important information on a note and handing it to your child. For example, “Mrs. Curtis is visiting today, so remember to clean up the living room before lunchtime.”

If writing the information down is not practical, try to add a visual component to your spoken instructions—dramatic gestures, for example. At the very least, make eye contact with your child so he can see your lip movement and expressions. These accompanying visuals will help your child understand, remember, and act on instructions more consistently.

Tips for auditory learners

Auditory learners learn best by listening, so it can be helpful to turn written or visual lessons into something they can hear or listen to. See our tips for auditory learners below.

Make lessons auditory

Use dramatic voices or gestures as you explain concepts from math, history, and science. Allow the student to answer review questions orally instead of in writing. You can even allow your child to dictate his writing assignments, either to you or into a voice recorder, instead of writing them down. Even for advanced students, not every writing assignment has to be an essay—substitute a few with oral presentations or speeches.

The same goes for simple memorization tasks—have your student recite flashcards, vocabulary, and spelling words out loud. Encourage your student to talk out loud to himself as he works through challenging assignments, perhaps in a different room so he won’t distract his siblings. If your child is easily distracted by background noises, playing classical music can help mask the distracting sounds.

Audiobooks, educational videos, and songs

Insofar as possible, use audiobooks for literature and historical fiction assignments. Educational videos can be good enrichment for auditory learners, including movies set during historical periods or movie adaptations from literature. If the student struggles with a particular subject, consider switching to a program that uses a lot of lectures, such as an online class (live or recorded). For Saxon Math, the DIVE into Math lectures can be a lifesaver.

Likewise, educational songs or rhymes can help auditory learners better absorb key facts like multiplication tables or the 50 states. Check out YouTube for dozens of options, or challenge your student to make up a song to fit the information he needs to memorize.

Read out loud

Be sure to apply an auditory approach to your child’s work as well. Though it may feel awkward at first, encourage him to talk through test questions, word problems, or anything he’s working on. This can even happen while you are cooking or doing laundry. Finished an essay? Have him read it out loud to a family member. Ask him to teach new concepts to a younger sibling, his dad, a grandparent, or a peer. This requires him to verbally explain the concept—and that will help him better understand and apply the lessons learned.

To encourage independent learning, ask the student to record himself reading the lesson aloud. Later, have him listen to his own recording and try to understand it without your help. This will help him work independently while ensuring he has the auditory engagement he needs.

Bring it back to what he can hear

Overall, if you’re supporting an auditory learner, it’s helpful to keep bringing lessons back to what he can hear, not just what he can read. Remember the Mrs. Curtis example from the visual learner section? For a visual learner, it would be most effective to hand him a written note or write the information on a whiteboard. But if you’re working with an auditory learner, you’ll want to make a point of telling your child directly, “Mrs. Curtis is visiting today, so remember to clean up the living room before lunchtime.” Talking aloud about instructions and schedules will help your child to understand and remember the information.

Tips for kinesthetic learners

A kinesthetic—or “tactile”—learner does best when he is actively engaged in his own education. These students thrive in less traditional learning environments—movement, testing, and trial and error help them to retain and apply what they have learned. Find our tips below.

Act out instructions

How to engage kinesthetic learners? Start by having students write or act out instructions and information—for example, have students write vocabulary and spelling words multiple times. Encourage the student to count off the steps in a process on his fingers, or use his hand or arm movements to talk through an event in a story. The student should use manipulatives to work through math problems. Cooking math is another good way to reinforce math for kinesthetic learners.

Physical movements can serve as memory cues, so educational songs and rhythms are also good strategies: ask your child to tap his knee, clap, or snap along while memorizing and reciting information. Involve your child in any active prep work for the lesson—have your child create his own flashcards, make his own visual aids, and gather supplies for hands-on activities.

Incorporate movement games

You can also integrate fun movement games. One of my favorites? Have your child stand at the bottom of the stairs while you quiz him on spelling words. As he spells the word aloud, have him jump up one step for each letter in the word—so as he spells “house,” have him jump up one step for “h,” one for “o,” and so on. No stairs? Put pieces of paper on the floor in a circle and have your child jump from one to the next as he spells out each word. (Tell him to pretend the floor is lava!) This will reinforce spelling in a way that resonates with a kinesthetic learner. You can use this same activity to practice math facts and other information.

Use graphic organizers

In that vein, keep in mind kinesthetic learners may benefit from using graphic organizers to process information—similar to visual learners. Flowcharts, spider diagrams, and Venn diagrams aren’t as hands-on as a science experiment, but they are more hands-on than just reading a textbook. Be sure to have the student create the graphic organizer himself.

Use an active approach

To reinforce learning and encourage retention, ask your student to share what he’s learned in a concrete, physical way—demonstrating and explaining a science experiment to siblings, acting out a historical event or a scene from literature for Dad, or teaching a math concept with manipulatives to grandparents through a recorded video, for starters.

The same active approach should be followed for evaluations. Consider substituting hands-on projects for essays and reports. Instead of writing an essay on the Crusades, for instance, have your child create a model of a medieval fortress and explain its features to family members in an oral presentation. Yes, junior-high and high school students should still learn how to write a good essay, but it isn’t necessary for every assignment to follow that format.

When written assignments are necessary, connect them to something active that the child enjoys—an essay on the Crusades could focus on medieval armor and weaponry, for example, and as part of the assignment the student could create model weapons and demonstrate how they were used.

Hands-on activities

As you’re curriculum planning, you’ll want to keep these best practices and activities in mind. Be sure to integrate lessons that include lots of hands-on activities. Check out The Treasure Trove of Literature series and the hands-on projects included in CHC’s lesson plans for From Sea to Shining Sea and All Ye Lands. Here, you’ll find lots of games, drama skits, crafts, and cooking projects you can dive into immediately.

Short breaks to help focus

One final tip for engaging kinesthetic learners: be sure and build in time in your day for frequent, short breaks so your student can release energy and refresh focus. Some families find that having their kinesthetic child run around the house every 15 minutes can do wonders for his concentration. In between those breaks, try letting your child study in a rocking chair, or pace back and forth while he listens or reads.

Tips for reading/writing learners

Given the nature of traditional education, which leans heavily on reading and writing, reading/writing learners have a bit of an advantage in the classroom. See our tips for reading/writing learners below.

Encourage independent learning

Reading/writing learners are well equipped to take on—and learn from—tasks such as reading a book or passage silently or out loud to themselves. Provide dictionaries, glossaries, and other written resources for your child to learn from. Allow the student to read review and test questions and respond on paper. Repetition is also a good strategy: ask your child to rewrite important information in his own words for greater retention.


Note-taking can also benefit the reading/writing learner. At the appropriate level, have the student take notes on projects, experiments, and reading, making use of lists and headings to organize information on paper. Notes can also be organized by symbol or color. Younger reading/writing students can try writing captions or descriptions for images, while more advanced students can try out different kinds of note-taking, including Cornell’s Notes, mind-mapping, annotating, and marking in the book when possible. 

Make it engaging

For reading/writing learners, it can be easy to fall into a “boring textbook” approach to education. Whereas Karl the Kinesthetic Learner cannot endure school without hands-on activities, Rita the Reading/Writing Learner can plod away at reading and writing all day long. But that doesn’t mean Rita won’t eventually get burned out and lose her love for learning. 

It’s still important to add some “spice” into Rita’s education through visual, auditory, and hands-on aids. Hands-on activities are enjoyable to most students, and historical fiction and literature is especially attractive for reading/writing learners. Plus, using multiple senses when learning is a powerful way to increase the child’s retention, regardless of the child’s primary learning style. See the Tips for Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Learners above for concrete ideas on how to utilize different senses. 

Help them learn other skills

Another thing to look out for with a reading/writing child is that he or she develops the ability to learn through other methods, especially auditory skills. This is especially important if the student has plans to attend college, since it requires auditory learning skills to follow college lectures. 

An enjoyable way to develop auditory learning skills is to have your reading/writing child occasionally listen to audiobooks, whether they are historical fiction, literature, or simply for entertainment. Following the story in an auditory format will likely require careful attention for a reading/writing child, but will gradually become easier as he develops his listening skills. 

In high school, it would be ideal for a reading/writing learner to attend an online class or watch a series of video lectures in order to practice listening and note-taking skills. This will prepare him to learn from college lectures.

Putting it together: organizing the right curriculum for your unique learner

The key? Understanding your child’s unique learning style and introducing activities that reinforce his learning and development. By leaning into your child’s strengths and challenges in the classroom, you’ll ensure he’s best absorbing and applying lessons and, with that, building confidence, clarity, and a passion for learning.

At the same time, don’t lean exclusively on learning style-specific methods. Especially as your child gets older and takes on more complex academic challenges, he’ll need to be equipped to handle information and insights no matter how they’re delivered. As he progresses into upper grades and, from there, college and career, he’ll need to be able to learn from classes, assignments, and general feedback, regardless of how it’s delivered. With that in mind, be sure to incorporate activities and approaches outside of his immediate comfort zone to change things up – and to ensure he’s ready for whatever comes next.

The photo at the top of this article was submitted by Sarah from Texas. In the photo, her son is finishing his “Human Body Felt Project” from Behold and See 4.

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