Q. How can a parent tell if the problems a child is experiencing are behavioral or are related to learning?
A. To help discern the difference, first ask yourself if the child has recently begun exhibiting a problem behavior. What was happening just prior to this behavior? If the problem seems to be a poor behavior, you should be able to pinpoint the event(s) that caused the child to react negatively. The key is that the situation caused the child to react. If the problems are related to the learning environment, they are usually more long-standing problems such as poor attention, low self-esteem, or anger related to working on the academics. When a child's learning style(s) is being met, he is happy, more self-reliant, and interested in pursuing his own interests.
Q. Can a learning style change with age (i.e., be different at 8 and then at 12 or 14?
A. I don't believe that a style changes, but the child does. Compare a little child's emotional, behavioral, and social developments with those of a teenager. The older student should be becoming more abstract in his studies. An example of this is the study of geometry. The younger child needs to feel the dimensional cube figure and count the sides with his finger. The older student can abstractly imagine the shape and 'count' the sides by 'turning it' in his mind.
I believe that children can move from concrete random to abstract random. However, I think it is more difficult for a child to move from concrete sequential to abstract sequential.
Q. How can I make things more exciting for my child if he is very 'hands-on' and I am not?
A. A good teacher is not afraid to: 1) ask questions, 2) ask for suggestions from others, and 3) use teacher helps such as texts, magazines, and guides. Bring your basic subject ideas to the support group and ask others how and what they did to spice up their teaching time. If you are really low in your creativity, ask them to be as specific as possible and to let you borrow their patterns. Try not to feel defeated if you are not as hands-on in your approach as 'Mrs. Jones' who has homeschooled for years. Remember, she has had plenty of time to develop her ideas.
Attending workshops and conferences for homeschooling parents and those for teachers in the public and private schools is helpful, too.
Q. What if a child constantly complains, doesn't want to do anything, isn't motivated, but doesn't want to go to school?
A. This scenario makes me think that more is needed than just discovering his learning style and how best to work with him. I wonder what else has been happening that has created such a dramatic behavioral attitude in this student. Complaining is born out of boredom, sorrow, fear, or a feeling of powerlessness. Determine whether the child has just recently adopted this attitude or if it has been more long-standing. If the former is true, what changes have occurred in his schooling or home life or social life? If the latter is true, other issues are underlying such as a possible learning problem. It would be important to seek professional counsel to work with you to determine the best approach to turn the situation around.
Passive resistance could be the child's motivating factor when he does not want to do 'anything'. When I hear parents say, "My child won't do anything," I question them closely What do you mean? Does your child lie in bed in a coma? Does he only play with the computer? Does she only work on crafts? I try to find out what the child is doing to take up the time that the parents want spent on other things. Perhaps the child is angry and chooses passive resistance to be in control. Perhaps he is depressed or feels defeated and is choosing this quiet action to cope.
What can be done to remedy the scenario depends on finding the root of the problem. No one magic solution will turn it around. My experience has taught me that hard work examining the situation, trying appropriate solutions, and keeping an open line of communication work best for parents and child.
Q. Is putting your own curriculum together more difficult than a 'prepackaged' deal?
A. The quick and easy answer is "Yes" because it is a simpler decision to purchase a 'one size fits all' curriculum. At least initially. Later on you may regret purchasing this type of curriculum unless you have predetermined what types of materials and activities work best with your student as you consider the child's learning style and the educational plan for the year. Most prepackaged curriculums cover all subject areas. They arrive at your home in a box and take up little space on the shelf and there are usually items that are never used because the child has either quickly grasped the concept and doesn't need the extra practice or needs to use a more custom designed program.
Putting together your own curriculum takes a little more time as you search out the best materials for the best price. You must keep in mind how your child approaches learning. Is she artistic, does she prefer workbooks, can she work on her own once she has a well thought out plan? You will also need to think creatively. "How can I make this subject more interesting? What activities will make it come alive?" You must also be organized and know where to find the materials you stored away for specific studies.
The beauty of a custom-designed curriculum is that the components can be purchased as needed by the student and as funds allow. It is more difficult to store because it will be used in a variety of ways for more than one year. You fit the curriculum to the student, not the student to the curriculum.