Practical Neuroscience Approach for Homeschooling Parents

Lisa R. Parker

Homeschooling parents undertake the monumental responsibility for facilitating their children’s education. Taking on the role of “teacher,” as opposed to being a “facilitator of learning,” is a potential deterrent to successful learning outcomes for parent and child, alike. The two greatest gifts a parent can bestow on their children are instilling a lifelong desire for continuous learning and helping them develop the life skill of “learning how to learn.” These two elements of practical neuroscience all but guarantee the development of young minds into responsible, successful and self sufficient adults and future leaders. This applies to all parents, regardless of whether they home school or not.

John Naisbitt, American author and futurist said:

“In a world that is constantly changing, there is no one subject that will serve you for the foreseeable future, let alone for the rest of your life. The most important skill to acquire now is learning how to learn.”

Many homeschooling parents may associate “learning how to learn” with learning styles. The practical neuroscience definition of learning styles is your child’s preferred sensory sequence to take in information and their cognitive preference to process it.

Sensory Pathway Preferences

It’s important that you, as a parent, and your child, both know the child’s most and least preferred ways to take in new and challenging information. For successful learning outcomes, the inflow of information must be presented in the student’s two strongest sensory pathways. Your child should pursue self-directed learning, whereby they request and select learning resources and delivery methods best suited to the way their brain is naturally wired to learn.

Sensory Learning Aids for:

Kinesthetic Children

  • Allow student to move around and be comfortable while learning
  • Encourage making flash cards for key learning points
  • Let student squeeze a small ball or work with another manipulative, while learning

Visual Children

  • Provide material to look over and read before class
  • Give instructions, homework, and key learning points visually
  • Minimize words and maximize symbols, pictures, charts, illustrations

Auditory Children

  • Allow extra time for questions and discussions
  • Suggest reading notes and study material aloud
  • Encourage student to discuss and tell others what they are learning

Cognitive Pathways Preferences

Cognitive processing is required to solve problems, make decisions, and develop skills and competencies to navigate life. Your child’s tendencies for Sequential and Global thinking may be established from birth or may be dependent on their environment and how you influence them. By the age of 7, the preferences for cognitive processing can usually be observed. The strongest cognitive preference should be acknowledged, while allowing opportunities to use and strengthen the least favored one. This approach helps build an integrated and balanced “whole brain.” If resistance is experienced, let your child follow their natural instincts. Both Leonardo da Vinci (Global) and Isaac Newton (Sequential) have made significant contributions in the world.

Cognitive Learning Aids for:

Sequential Gifted Children

  • Connect the key learning points and steps to one another to form central concepts
  • Organize assignments into logical steps and sequences
  • Encourage students to complete one assignment at a time
  • Formal physical environments are favored: straight back chair at table, quiet, bright and direct light, cool room temperature, snacks and drinks limited to breaks

Global Gifted Children

  • Explain major concepts and the big picture first; then provide the detail, if necessary
  • Allow student to multi-task as long as learning progress occurs
  • Provide for frequent breaks to maintain interest and focus
  • Informal physical environments are favored: Casual furniture, dim and indirect light, warmer room temperature, snacks and drinks while learning

In summary, each child has distinct interests, gifts and styles for receiving and processing sensory information. Homeschooling parents can lighten their “teaching load” by helping their children become self-directed, lifelong learners. Parents can also role model what they teach, provide a smorgasbord of learning opportunities and assist with making learning resources available.

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