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Adapting Any Curriculum to Fit Your Child’s Learning Style

Rachael Yunis|March 26, 2024

Homeschooling families have so many curriculum options available that evaluating each program for a personal fit for your student can be exhausting. There are, however, some key criteria that can help you assess and adapt any curriculum to fit your child’s learning style.

Adapt Your Curriculum to Fit Your Child Rather Than Expect Your Child to Adapt to the Curriculum

It’s a subtle difference in word order, but how you choose to teach a curriculum in your schoolroom makes all the difference in the world. If you’re looking at a curriculum and thinking that your child needs to “get on board,” you might be looking at the issue wrong. Try taking a closer look at the curriculum and ask yourself how you can adapt it to fit your child.

Kids of all ages are full of “why” and “wow.” When something catches their attention, they’re fun to watch; you can almost see their world expand as they build on their knowledge about the world around them. However, the learning style in which the information is presented could mean the difference between your child being engaged in their education or feeling overwhelmed.

As the parent and teacher, your job is to recognize the learning style that best suits your student(s) for the course material you are teaching. For example, a student might be an auditory learner in literature class and a visual learner in science. We all bounce around in our styles, but typically we have a preference for how we take in information, process it, and most importantly, how we remember what we’ve learned.

The best news is that you have the freedom to observe your student(s) and offer suggestions for different learning options. If one method doesn’t work, you can try a different one until you find the best learning style for your student. Homeschooling gives you the freedom to give your children a better way to learn. Remember, you control the learning environment, and the only limitations are the ones you set.

Here are some tips on how to adapt your curriculum to fit your child’s learning style so that your home is filled with grace and peace. I like to call this method “Learning at the Pace of Peace.”

Adapting Curriculum for Each of the Four Major Learning Styles

There are four predominant learning styles: Independent, Auditory, Visual, and Social.

Independent Learners

If your child loves to sit alone and read, take personal notes, and interact with you after finishing their studies, they are most likely an independent learner.

Independent learners love to read and write. They are content to sit by themselves and do their own work. Information is understood best when it is presented in written format, and they typically prefer to study alone. Background noise and commotion in their workspace may be a distraction, so let your independent learner decide their environment. These learners can easily read on a comfortable couch, a quiet porch swing, or anywhere that allows him or her to delve into their studies in a manner that suits them.

Adapting a course to this learning style will require having a preexisting lesson plan so that students can work at their own pace. If your course doesn’t offer an optional lesson plan, consider making one with your student so that you both know the goals you wish to obtain and your student can be in control of their coursework.

Independent learners work well with a student notebook. Many curricula offer ones that are customized to the course topic, but if you love a curriculum that doesn’t have a notebook option, help your student create one and encourage him or her to write their notes in their own words – not by copying it verbatim out of a textbook. This helps enforce retention and shows that they understand the course material.

Encourage your independent learner to notice important tools found in many textbooks, like glossaries, and share with them how to make lists to combine knowledge in written form. For example, your student(s) could create lists of new vocabulary words for each chapter they study or a master list of things to look up on the internet to dig deeper into a topic they find fascinating.

If the course materials you choose do not offer study guides, show your student(s) how to condense notes and create study guides for exams. Test preparation skills and the ability to condense information are critical no matter what their path is after high school.

Independent learners usually perform very well on written assignments. If your student loves a course you are teaching but is having difficulty with multiple-choice tests, consider creating a new option. Have your student write out the information and present it or describe charts and diagrams with a written statement as a means to obtain a grade.

Auditory Learners

If your child prefers you to read the information in a book aloud (typically in young elementary years) or listen to an audio recording (in upper grades) along with a textbook, you most likely have an auditory learner.

Auditory learners love lectures and discussion groups. Listening is learning for them. (This style blends well with social learning.) The biggest pointer I can emphasize for an auditory learner is to see if the course you want to teach offers an audio version of the materials your student can use with the textbook. I’m not suggesting you forgo the textbook, especially if it’s a course that requires pictures, diagrams, timelines, and such. Those are important in acquiring knowledge too.

Adapting a course to this learning style will require a version of the materials that is heard or spoken. Many curricula offer auditory versions to use with the textbook. In addition, you can see if there are co-ops in your area that teach a specific course so that your student(s) can attend lectures. You can even see if there are online courses available on the topic of interest.

If you are teaching an auditory learner in your home, include a lot of talking! This is a learning strategy that allows them to hear you as well as themselves. Stop and discuss what is being taught. See if you can locate some additional materials online that present the ideas in an auditory way. Some curricula have extra materials online that will help you easily find topics of interest to extend the learning environment in your home, such as Apologia’s Book Extras

Finally, when your student is preparing for exams, have him or her repeat back materials in their own words. You could give them an oral quiz or ask them about the topics on the test.

Social Learners

Social learners prefer to be around others. They learn best in groups and are a perfect fit for a live online course or co-op class where they can interact with other students.

Adapting a course to this learning style will require lesson plans that include teamwork or participation.  If you can teach multiple children, either within your family or homeschool friends, do it! The course will be far more engaging if your child can interact and ask questions (social learners love to ask questions!) in a fun environment. Apologia even offers free resources such as this Co-Op Kickstart guide to help you get engaged with others.

Mentally plan time to stop and evaluate your lesson plan, and create assignments that require your student(s) to reach out to family members to gather information or do experiments with others so there can be teamwork rather than individual studies. You can motivate social learners by using role-playing techniques or asking them to share stories or information they have learned so they feel encouraged to interact. Finally, consider having preplanned group activities with other homeschooling families, such as field trips, to expand your schoolroom.

Visual Learners

If your child soaks up information in graphs and diagrams, likes models and manipulatives, and color-codes their notes, you have a visual learner.

Visual learners soak up information with their eyes. They are super observers and can interpret graphs and diagrams with impressive skill. If you have a visual learner in your homeschool, consider purchasing colored pencils!

Adapting a course to this learning style will require lesson plans that include lots of color coding! When teaching with a whiteboard, use different colors for different types of information. Visual learners tend to be more analytical and appreciate logic, so connect colors to causes, patterns, and results while teaching.

Encourage your student to take notes with colored pencils, give them permission to use highlighters in their textbook materials, and buy them a full set of different colors so they can figure out the pattern that matches their thinking.

A visual learner will recall images and colors more easily than plain written text because they learn through seeing. Pictures, diagrams, graphics, flowcharts, and symbols can be key to understanding new concepts and recalling information. Seek out a curriculum that is heavy on these, or help your student create and add these to their notes as they interpret what they are reading. For example, if you are lecturing on the male and female characters in a novel, use the symbols for male and female. If you are teaching chemistry, use the plus and minus symbols for positive and negative charges.

There are no rules that say your student has to take notes horizontally across a notebook page. Give them permission to arrange their notes spatially and in a relationally descriptive manner. Again, include symbols like arrows that point to connections.

Also, add a lot of maps to your walls – whether it’s geography, a history timeline, or a diagram of the human body.

Shape Their Hearts, Minds, and Souls

Using as many activities and exercises as possible that cater to different learning styles will give you a better chance of connecting with your child. Your student will get the opportunity to learn in his or her own preferred circumstances but also find ways to adapt. You might find your student wanting a quiet place to read (or read and listen to) his or her lesson and then want to engage with you in a colorful manner to help retention. That is the beauty of homeschooling. There is order to our universe, and once your child starts to understand that order, school will not be a series of classes but rather a means to understanding everything around them. You can help them find the most beneficial way to absorb that information.

As a homeschool parent, you are blessed to be able to spend time with your child as they develop their worldview. Your curriculum choices should always reflect your larger end-goal perspective and your homeschool philosophy. Typically, the end-goal in choosing a curriculum for your family is not to create a transcript, but rather to shape your children’s minds, hearts, and souls. We want our children to become intelligent, wise, moral, street-smart, mature, and compassionate adults. So, while you’re planning out your school year and choosing your curriculum, be critical of what you allow into your home. Make sure nothing blocks your big-picture objective and that it fits with your philosophy.

A Note of Encouragement

If you find yourself burning out, anxious, or frustrated, if you dread opening a curriculum and engaging with your student(s), know that you are NOT alone. Every homeschool parent has been there. The trick is to recognize these moments and step out of the situation so that you aren’t caught in it. It might be as simple as saying, “Not today” or “Not this week.” Shelving a curriculum to gain perspective is always an option, too.

As I stated before, and I can’t state it enough – adapt your curriculum to fit your child rather than expect your child to adapt to the curriculum. This might involve chucking the schedule out the window. All schedules that come with any curriculum should fit your family’s rhythm. If you attempt to alter your life – you will find yourself discouraged. The trick is to recognize that it isn’t you, and it isn’t your child. You are the teacher, and your home is the school. There is no law that says you must complete a curriculum from cover to cover! Take an honest look at what you have chosen. Are there portions that just don’t need to be taught or tested?

Too often, we overwhelm our students with our good ideas. Each curriculum alone might be the perfect fit, but when you combine English, math, science, writing, history, and geography, you might have to get creative. Did the history curriculum this week require a written assignment? Why not give your student credit for English this week too? Look for innovative ways to combine subject matter.

In fact, some days, you just have to leave the homeschool room altogether. Remember that all kids learn through personal experience, practice, and examples. Teaching your child how to balance life’s stressors is a skill they will never forget.