Don't buy into hype about learning styles
There is a lot of talk in education about finding a child's learning style. Families who are new to homeschooling are often instructed to find their child's learning style as if there is some secret to be discovered, some chamber in the child's brain that just needs a key to unlock the full potential.
While there are as many classification systems as there are theorists, one popular theory breaks learners into three categories: auditory, visual and kinesthetic.
According to this model, auditory learners learn by listening. These are the kids who listen to a classroom lecture and come away with useful information. They probably still won't hear you tell them to take out the trash.
A visual learner does better with information that can be seen. Such a child might retain more from a video or demonstration than by hearing the actual lecture. Those same visual kids will step around a pile of laundry rather than take it to the hamper.
Kinesthetic learners excel by having hands-on experiences to teach them — but show them how to load the dishwasher and they'll likely forget at every opportunity.
While it is acceptable to talk about learning styles, it isn't always as politically correct to discuss gender differences in learning. I'm one of those old-fashioned people who think that boys and girls learn and play differently. I am out of touch with modern thinking. The media tells me that boys and girls have the same interests, and thus we should make sure that all toys are gender neutral.
This past Christmas season gave us the great Easy Bake Oven Controversy. It seems that McKenna Pope of New Jersey wanted to buy an Easy Bake Oven for her 4-year-old brother, but was appalled to find that they only came in pink and purple. Her letter and online petition made headlines. Famous chefs, including Bobby Flay, weighed in with more than 40,000 regular folks to demand gender-neutral coloring and advertising for Easy Bake Ovens.
As a mom who encourages cooking at home, you might think I'd climb right on board that train, but the fact is, we have a gender-neutral oven in our home. It is a full-sized job, white with black accents. My boys take great interest in taste-testing everything that my girls and I pull out of it.
While my boys are waiting to see what treats appear, they engage in all sorts of hair-raising adventures that defy my feminine imagination. Barbies are used as crash test dummies, and ponies are usually part of a cavalry charge. Colors don't seem to make much difference around here.
I have no problem teaching my boys to do household chores and to cook; life skills are always a part of our homeschool. I just don't see the point in purchasing a box of plastic parts that use overpriced, premeasured mixes to make miniscule morsels under adult supervision. I'd rather use my supervisory skills to teach actual cooking skill with fresh, nutritious ingredients. Those are some gender-neutral skills that will serve children well in life. That argument didn't seem to come up in the articles about the colors of the Easy Bake Oven.
Time magazine called Miss Pope's efforts "heroic." I'd like to issue an apology to all the actual heroes out there who do things like pulling people from burning buildings and rescuing children from predators. Time magazine has put you into the same category as the young lady who strong-armed Hasbro into making a silver and blue Easy Bake Oven. Hasbro unveiled their new sketches with a smile and didn't even mention that previous ovens targeted at boys had dismal sales and were discontinued as a result.
Maybe it had something to do with different learning styles.
Rose Godfrey is a speech pathologist and homeschooling mom in Yuba County. Her homeschool blog can be found on the Appeal-Democrat website at appealdemocrat.com.