The best way to ensure that your homeschooling experience is successful (by whatever standard you measure) is to know how your child learns.
The reason for that is because there are a ton of ways to learn! Traditional schools focus on just a few of them, of course, by virtue of necessity. There are only so many ways of ensuring a group of 30 kids, with all different abilities and interests and learning styles can take in, digest, and apply information.
Homeschoolers are the
lucky fortunate ones, and I’ve just discovered another tool that will help you build your skills and help you teach your child better than ever!
The ABC’s of How We Learn is not really a book written with the homeschooling audience in mind. At least not that I can tell. The subtitle – 26 Scientifically Proven Approaches, How They Work, and When to Use Them – certainly has the air of a more scholarly work. The authors use the 26 letters of the alphabet to describe the same number of ways that students learn. And in that scholarly vein, at the end of each chapter, there are at least a handful of references and/or resource materials cited that the more intent of us might explore.
While they certainly lend an air of credibility to the authors and this work, I was impressed for other reasons…
This is one of those books that you can refer to when you have that sticky learning or learning-related behavior problem with one of your kids, and you need some fresh ideas or suggestions.
How the book is set up
The authors give a thorough explanation, in easy-to-understand words, of the concept presented (see the list of some chapter titles below). They then go on to explain:
- How it works – How that particular concept affects the learning process.
- How to use it – This is a terrific resource for activities that make use of the concept in question. They include both group and one-on-one ideas.
- The outcomes – Descriptions of what learning/behavior problems it solves.
- The risks of using this concept – Basically, other issues that may develop as a consequence of using this method, if left unchecked.
- Examples of good and bad use – Pretty self-explanatory, and a very interesting section of the chapter.
- References – That list of scholarly resources I told you about earlier. And…
- The “cheat sheet” – my favorite! This is a one-page summary of the entire chapter, great for when you’re in a bind and don’t have time to read the entire chapter and just need some quick insight and/or help.
Admittedly, I wouldn’t actively use this if I was only homeschooling little kids, although there are chapters on concepts such as Hands-on Learning, Listening and Sharing, and Reward, for example – methods you’d actively use with that age group. But I feel that those methods are often intuitive. (And what parent of young kids has time to read a 300+ page book?!)
When this book becomes most useful is when you’ve got middle- and high-schoolers at home and you’re trying to figure out how to best reach them. For example, what can you do when they’re not taking responsibility for their own learning? Or when they’re having problems getting engaged with their group in co-op? And in response to the length of this tome, let me say that it’s not the kind of book you read through, anyway, which, frankly, I was relieved to discover! The beauty of it is that you can read it through, but if you’ve got a specific issue to address or explore, you just turn to that chapter and read on!
And here is where The ABCs of How We Learn becomes a valuable resource!
At the end of the introduction, the authors present a chart with a list of outcomes and suggest some of the tools that can be used to accomplish them. For example, if you’re trying to develop your teen’s study skills, they suggest working on S (for Self-Explanation), Z for ZZZs (yup: sleeping!), and E (for Elaboration). Reading the background on those approaches alone may get you thinking of some ways to help your teen. And if not, you can always try the tools they describe as a starting point. At the very least I’ve found that having some sort of objective understanding of the situation helps me to step back, be less judgemental, and more pro-active. And they list eight other outcomes, each with three tools to help you get started.
Then, at the end of the book, the authors provide a Problem-Focused Index, which absolutely rocks! They list over 60 common problems that parents and teachers face and provide suggestions from their alphabetized list so you can get started finding solutions. Problems such as “Bad habits”, “Failure to monitor own learning”, “Giving up prematurely”, and “Missing the Big Idea”. Can I get an “Amen!” from any parents out there with tweens or teens?
There are 26 of them, so I won’t list them all here, but some of the ones that I enjoyed most were:
E – Elaboration (making memories meaningful)
G – Generation (building lasting memories. OK, so I actually found a few techniques to use for myself, as I experience the less-exciting effects of aging on the brain…)
J– Just-in-Time Telling (making lectures and readings work)
R – Reward (motivating behavior – I have 2 teenage boys at home, so that explains this one, right?!)
S – Self-Explanation (going beyond the information given)
Z – ZZZs (consolidating the memories of the day – This was a really interesting chapter, explaining not only the science of sleep but how to use it to enhance learning.)
My takeaway from The ABCs of How We Learn
This is a great book for those who are interested in the nuances of their children’s learning styles or even looking for ways to develop their own. I earnestly believe in homeschool teacher professional development. This book is an educated look at the process of learning, not something you need to read through to benefit from, and will prove to be a great resource in anyone’s homeschool library.
And straight from the author… If you’re into podcasts, take a listen to this interview with co-author Daniel Schwartz by NPR’s Eric Westervelt. This is how I first learned of the book.
Are you familiar with The ABCs of How We Learn? Have any questions about the book? Feel free to ask away in the comments!