What to do when your kids don’t want to learn?

I think a lot about learning… in fact I think about learning pretty much all day every day. But one thing I have realised from my own kids and the adult learners I work with is that (GASP) not everyone loves to learn.

This was a bit confronting for me, since ‘love of learning’ has long been my theme. It was even more confronting since I took my kids out of school so that they could recapture the sense of adventure that learning brings, but every time I introduce a new project, they groan. The standard pattern is that Safiyah says “Okaaay. Just tell me what to do”. Diyana says “No. no. no. I am not doing it”. Shams says “OK – but when can we finish?”

This is not the love of learning I was hoping for. I was hoping for something a bit more like “Cool Mumma! What about if I go and research the breathing physiology of axolotyls?”

The difficult truth is that everyone approaches learning differently, and I have realised through experience that there are basically two kinds of people with regards to the attitude to learning… those who are in life to learn and those who are in life to prove themselves.

The ‘Learners’ are obvious… they ask lots of questions, love feedback, are good listeners and are always sharing some new piece of trivia they have picked up. There is a sense of openness about learners.

The ‘Provers’ on the other hand spend their time trying to show others that they are capable and worthwhile. They don’t like feedback because they take it as an insult, and they feel defensive about learning anything new. In my experience, Provers are often so insecure about themselves that they develop a tough outer skin.. .and another … and another until their true self is like an onion and the outer skin is something that looks like arrogance… a refusal to learn or be told. Learning is a vulnerability because it is admitting that you don’t know the answer. The tough outer shell covers up the insecurities, but the end result is very often depression, because they cannot live up to the image they have created for themselves of being brilliant and invulnerable.

I know all this because I grew up as a ‘Prover’. The pressure of school for me was enormous because I was at a selective school and was one of the strugglers for what seemed like the longest time. I was horribly insecure and felt the need to impress everyone around me all the time.

Now, 25 years later, I consider myself a ‘Learner’ and one of the turning points for me was discovering about Kolb’s Learning Styles in University. In this, Kolb explains that there are four different kinds of learners.

  • Divergers love looking at things from a lot of different perspectives and they love to collect information. They are often artists and researchers, because it gives them the chance to explore information. They FEEL and WATCH.
  • Assimilators have a more logical approach and their speciality is taking a wide range of information and bringing it down to the key points. They are more about ideas and are the typical philosophical types. They THINK and WATCH.
  • Convergers are problem solvers and their tendency is to want to find practical solutions to ideas. They tend to take on technical tasks with practical applications. They THINK and DO
  • Accommodators are very hands-on and use intuition rather than logic. Their speciality is to take ideas and create solutions, then carry these out. They are very action oriented and tend to let others do the analysis. They FEEL and DO

These four key learning styles are all equally important in the world, and as we learned in university, it was a big asset to have each kind in your teams in order to get the work done. I am a clear Accommodator and I felt so much better about myself when I learned this. Learners don’t have to all be out there madly finding information. I found out that I was gifted at bringing ideas together into core concepts and then designing strategies to solve problems.

So the point that I am trying to make is that there are different kinds of learners, and indeed some people are open to learning and others are not. But once we find our learning groove and deal with our self-esteem issues, ultimately everyone is a learner. In school everyone has to learn the same. Listen, collect information, remember it all, spit it out at the required time in exams. In homeschooling we have the opportunity to understand our children’s learning style and build them in that area. I am learning that this is a long process, but well worth it to produce lifelong learners!


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sharyn Ryan
    Jun 17, 2012 @ 07:41:05

    I have just finished an inquiry unit with my class on different learning styles (VAK – more accessible for children) and Multiple Intelligences. I also threw in some Bloom’s Taxonomy to look at higher order thinking and some thinking skills in the form of Tony Ryan’s Thinking Keys. The class loved it. We initially looked at how the brain works and then moved into discovering what learning styles the students had and their areas of strength and weakness using Multiple Intelligences and finished by complimenting or developing these through thinking skills. The culminating activity was an independent reading contract on any book of their choice. The activities were broken into the 8 intelligences and then each intelligence had an activity from each of the six bloom’s levels. They only had to complete 6 activities.The kids loved it, they were so creative!!!! So great when hard work pays off. Happy to send it to you if you would like a copy! Hang in there. teaching and motivating students is very difficult, I still struggle at times, after 15 years. Keep up all your hard efforts and persistence.It will pay off:-)


  2. dalishah
    Jun 17, 2012 @ 08:09:49

    Oh goodness I would LOVE to read it!! Can you email it to me? dalishah@yahoo.com Do you have access to the Multiple Intelligences quiz to assess learning styles? Kolb used to be free but now is pretty expensive but I would love to do something like this with the kids!


  3. Greg
    Jun 21, 2012 @ 23:22:05

    Hi Danielle. I thought your guest post on Penelope Trunk’s was very moving. How long have you been homeschooling?

    I think it can be hard for parents to recognise other learning styles as valid. They look so different from one another.


    • dalishah
      Jun 22, 2012 @ 06:26:16

      Thanks so much Greg. I tried to email you but the email was returned. We have been homeschooling for less than a year, but it is something to commit to for life I think. You are right about different learning styles, and I am really just learning that fully for myself now. Are you homeschooling? Are you with the Uni of Queensland?


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