If you’ve homeschooled for any length of time, you’ve heard a lot about learning styles. Learning style is how we take in, process, and store information. You’ve probably heard the terms auditory, visual and kinesthetic learner. Most of us know a visual learner can learn best by looking at things. An auditory learner remembers and absorbs what they hear and a kinesthetic learner takes in information when they can physically interact with it in some way.
We use all three methods in different combinations. To explain it very generally, our brain has 3 components: the conscious, the subconscious and the unconscious mind. I really like what Dawna Markova explains in her book How Your Child is Smart. She points out that we learn in all three ways. She says: “…the mind digests thought by moving it through itself in three different ways, sometimes called states of consciousness: conscious, subconscious and unconscious. Each state of mind has its particular function in learning.” Each state of consciousness also uses a different one of the three learning styles.
The conscious mind is responsible for absorbing what is happening around us and communicating back what is inside of us. It is our most alert and focused state of being. Think of it as being roughly like the librarian at the front desk of the library, receiving and passing out information.
The subconscious mind is like a transportation system. It takes what we’ve absorbed, sorts it and moves it on to the unconscious mind for storage. It also takes information from the deeper recesses of our brain and brings it up to the surface for our use. In our library example, it would be like an automated conveyor belt system for sending books back down into the lower reaches of the library stacks or bringing them back up to the main floor when someone needs them.
Unconscious Learning – yes, really!
The unconscious mind is just that, unconscious. In this state we are unfocused, out of touch, looking inward. The unconscious is responsible for comparing all new incoming information with what is already stored in your brain and making the connections, seeing the patterns, between them. It is like the deep underground shelves where all the library books are neatly categorized and stored with similar materials.
Each of those three states of mind utilizes one of the three learning styles. A person might take in information best if it is Auditory, sort and transport it easiest with a Visual reference, and store it in permanent, unconscious memory through Kinesthetic movement. We would refer to this as an AVK learning style. AVK kids are the ones who do best in school, by the way, because they listen so attentively (their most alert brain state is stimulated by sounds, like a teacher lecturing) and they sit still while listening. They tend to move when doing the deeper, introspective thinking, later on.
Understanding the full learning style of our students empowers homeschool parents to create a homeschool learning environment that allows our children to reach their fullest potential.