One of the great things about homeschooling is that we can really tailor our kids education to their individual learning styles – and to our own unique homeschooling styles. Of course one of the problems we face is how to make this work when we join our kids up to a class – or bringing in an expert to help us develop one of our kids passions. So I was very interested to hear from Jen recently:
Jen Lilienstein is the founder of Kidzmet.com, a new web site that’s dedicated to helping parents expose their kids to the whole child curriculum in ways that embrace and celebrate each child’s spirit. At home, Jen is Mom to an extroverted five year-old daughter–who has already dabbled in music, swimming, gymnastics, ballet, nature, yoga and art–and an introverted two year-old son who loves to do tangrams, work on the iPad, throw balls and admire cars
I asked Jen to tell us more about her views on education styles, and to tell us more about her new service.
Embracing the fact that our kids all “learn different”
Perhaps its because as both individuals and parents, we’re acutely aware that we all “learn different”–in ways that appear to be as unique as our fingerprints. Some learn better in groups, others learn better by listening to lectures, some learn better in a structured environment, still others learn better when a subject is presented through a linguistic lens…or music lens…or naturistic lens.
In the same way, teaching styles are also not uniform. While some gifted teachers are able tailor their teaching styles in ways that will engage and motivate every one of their students, most teachers and tutors find it easiest to inspire a love of learning in kids that think in similar ways and have similar interests and strengths.
As the public school curricula has grown increasingly narrow due to federal and state budget cuts over the years, parents have needed to take over some–if not all–of our kids’ education…not just so that we provide well-rounded educations to our children, but so that our kids for whom linguistic and math tasks do not come as easily have the opportunity to feel smart and like they have an array of talents and abilities that are incredibly valuable to our society…even if they weren’t in the 90th percentile on the standardized tests that now begin in second grade.
As a homeschooling parent you quickly understand that in order for learning to be placed in a file folder in the mind that your kids can continue to easily reference–not just learn for a quiz or test–you need to place the subject matter in a context that the child finds relevant to truly cement the ideas. For this reason, knowing your kids multiple intelligence interests and strengths can help you make associations between their strong suits and weaker subjects.
So the challenge becomes how to take advantage of this knowledge when locating instructors that can help us nurture our kids’ passions when they lie outside of the traditional school curriculum and our expertise…yet stay within the family budget.
Every parent I know has had an experience where their child begged to take a certain type of class (e.g. violin lessons, karate classes, ceramics classes) and only after spending money on the series of classes and the “accessories” that went along with the class, did the child lose interest the subject two weeks into the session. Most times this loss of interest wasn’t because the child no longer liked the subject–it’s because they simply didn’t connect well with the instructor.
Giving kids the opportunity to develop mastery and expertise via passions goes far beyond just exposing your child to a broader curriculum. It also develops critical life skills–like precision, persistence, discipline, motivation, continually “raising the bar”/challenging oneself, and learning from mistakes–in an enjoyable way. And, if you believe the research that is included in Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, then “making time for a passion and treating it as a real priority instead of an extra…will bring a tremendous happiness boost.” And isn’t whether or not we’re raising happy kids that turn into happy adults among the most important goals of parenting?
A combination of all of these factors is what inspired me to build Kidzmet. My daughter has a kinesthetic cognitive style and her primary interests and strengths lie within the kinesthetic, musical and interpersonal realms…and already in Kindergarten my brilliant daughter has begun to think of herself as “not smart”.
I also started her in enrichment classes very early based on cues I saw at home. We got her into music classes and she connected well and was motivated attend with one teacher…but not another. (Same curriculum, same program–different class.) Then, the same thing happened with swimming at the YMCA in consecutive sessions. It’s important to note that ALL of these teachers had been raved about by one or more friends–each one thinking that the individual instructor they were recommending was the best one out there. For every poor match, my husband and I grappled with the decision of pulling her out (and losing the pricey investment we’d made in the class) or keeping her in the class (and risk squelching her initial passion for the subject).
I got to thinking that finding a compatible teacher/student match was very similar to finding a compatible spouse…or a compatible employer/employee relationship. I’d been introduced to MBTI testing in junior high school by my parents, and completed my senior thesis on Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences in college. I’d also grown up in a family of educators that could speak to the differences in cognitive styles and how different kids learn best through different modalities. So I began work on an assessment tool that young children could take with their parents (why we chose to use the “smile scale”) that could also work for adults, along with an algorithm that could assess compatibilities in each realm and give an overall score to the match.
I also took the assessment results for the children and began crafting a monthly newsletter for parents to give suggestions for introducing their kids to different aspects of the whole child curriculum in a way that celebrated and enhanced their kids’ unique spirits and gifts.
But unlike other screening tools that screen for exclusion of certain students, I’d like Kidzmet to be a tool that teachers and parents can use for better inclusion in their programs and lessons. This is why, when a parent prints a trial class coupon for a teacher on Kidzmet (or larger programs and schools use our back office tool to determine the most compatible teacher/student fits), we make sure they receive our recommendation of how to tailor lesson plans in meaningful ways for the student based on his or her unique blend of personality, interests/strengths and learning style.
I’m hoping that Homeschooling-ideas readers will take Kidzmet for a trial spin and let us know what you think. I’m determined to make this a tool that truly helps parents and teachers guide the next generation into the people they were born to become…and finally put our country’s legacy of trying to force square pegs into round holes behind us.
If you are looking for summer classes for your children, why not sign up for a free parent account and check it out. Plus, Jen tells me that while Kidzmet was designed for families, you can set up a “parent account” as a homeschooling group with all the kids that participate. Then, when you vet outside instructors for help, you can see how that instructor would work with the entire group on their teacher listing page. Enjoy!