Ask An Expert
Learning Styles Experts: Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis and Victoria Kindle Hodson
The key to helping young children learn is to understand how they learn best. Every
human being, every parent and every child, has a way of absorbing and processing information
that is specific to their own brain function and personality.
Our experts, Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis and Victoria Kindle Hodson are the authors of Discover Your Child's Learning Style and Midlife Crisis Begins in Kindergarten. They have each spent more than twenty-five years teaching, conducting workshops and seminars for parents and teachers, and developing educational programs and materials. They are the founders of the Learning-Success™ Institute where parents and teachers learn how to coach every child for learning success. They have developed "The Learning Style Model of Education" that helps adults and children discover their unique learning needs.
They present a positive approach that is based on working with each person's natural gifts and dispositions, rather than applying dysfunctional labels such as A.D.D., Dyslexic, Hyperactive, or Learning Disabled. They help adults and children use their learning styles as doorways into their unique ways of learning in order to reach academic goals and to discover their direction in life.
Mariaemma holds a Masters degree in Education, and California Life Teaching Credentials for Regular and Special Education. She lives in Ventura, California with her husband, Ron, and poodle, Sophie. In her "spare" time she loves to read and garden. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Victoria holds a Masters degree in Psychology and a Bachelors degree in Education. Victoria has written several books for parents and teachers, and co-authored, The Compassionate Classroom. Victoria currently lives in Ventura, California with her husband, Stan. She enjoys reading, cooking, yoga, and walking at the ocean. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Mariaemma's and Victoria's best-selling book, "Discover Your Child's Learning Style" includes "A Self-Portrait™ Learning Style Assessment System" as well as other tools and information parents can use to help their children become successful, life-long learners. These materials are used by public and private schools, by therapists, homeschoolers, correctional facilities, literacy programs and families throughout the United States. For more information visit LearningSuccessCoach.com.
We asked Mariaemma and Victoria to share their thoughts on how to help young children learn...
Quiet - A Mind at Work: Product vs. Process
By Victoria Kindle Hodson, M.A. & Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis, M.S.
One of the most important gifts we can give our children is to encourage their own learning process or "figuring it out" process-to allow them to spontaneously discover the secrets of even the most common things.
Most of us, much of the time, are busy trying to produce finished products-the finished sweater, the clean garage, the fantastic meal, the finished report. We become impatient with so-called "set backs" or "mistakes" and make strict timetables for ourselves. We feel rushed and pressured to get things done, and then when the goal is reached, we collapse-tired, frustrated, and sometimes sorry for what we said or did along the way.
It is true that having a clear picture of the result you want is important. However, one of my youngest students just reminded me of how satisfying it can be to focus on what is unfolding moment by moment-the process rather than the product.
The Learning Process
Howie is a 4½ year-old boy I've been working with for several weeks. One day he was running his fingers through some glass beads, and it seemed he wanted a lot more of something to run his fingers through-to heap, pour, and spoon. I brought him a large bowl, about 1/3 full, of a small, round grain called millet. In the bowl was a tall bottle with a narrow neck (no lid), a small metal funnel, a 1/4 cup stainless-steel measuring cup, and a plastic spoon, and that was the beginning of a great adventure for both of us.
First there were the questions: "What is this stuff?" "Can you eat it?" "What is this thing?" he asked as he put his finger through the narrow end of the funnel.
Suddenly it became obvious to him that he wanted to fill the bottle with millet, so, with his little finger he plugged the small end of the funnel. He filled this self-styled scoop with millet then, placed the narrow end of the funnel near the mouth of the bottle, quickly removed his finger-plug, and jammed the neck of the funnel into the mouth of the bottle.
He watched with serious pleasure as the bottle filled and the funnel emptied. He repeated this many times without the slightest distraction, making subtle refinements to the way he placed his fingers and how fast or slowly he carried out the sequence of movements he had choreographed.
What keenness and precision! I was reminded of a scientist in a laboratory. I sat there beside him wondering whether he would discover the more common way to use a funnel. Seeing the fun he was having and remembering Maria Montessori's warning to refrain from spoiling the moment of discovery, I vowed not to show him.
After a while he put the funnel aside. He tried filling the bottle using the plastic spoon. This brought no satisfaction at all. Too slow was my guess. He picked up the measuring cup and began using it as a scoop, filling the bottle to the brim with as much grain pouring over the sides as was going in. He was happy with this activity and kept pouring scoop after scoop of millet from the measuring cup onto the full bottle just to watch the little balls cascade and bounce-a millet fountain! He chuckled to himself and beamed a broad grin all the while. He talked about how much fun a bathtub full of millet would be.
As if remembering something, he became quiet and very serious again. With no
input from me, my question about whether he would discover the "real"
way to use a funnel was answered. He looked over his tools for a few seconds,
and lickity-split, he reached for the funnel, hesitated another second, popped
it into the mouth of the bottle and began scooping millet into the funnel
using the measuring cup.
Something inside me leaped up, and I beamed with excitement for the display of intelligence I had just witnessed. Howie was filling the bottle in a new way, and he obviously liked this way best; I could tell by his level of calm. Any attempt at praise would have broken the spell, so I kept quiet. After filling the bottle many more times using the funnel, he was finished and went on to other adventures in the millet.
One of the most important gifts we can give our children is to allow them to enjoy their own learning process-to allow them to spontaneously discover the secrets of even the most common things. What if I had given Howie the bottle with the funnel already in it? What if I had shown him how to use a funnel "correctly?" What if I had told him what he was "supposed to" do?
There is a gift in this for you too-being able to witness intelligence unfolding. Since each of us unfolds only once, it is a special event worthy of our best attention. Our children offer us this possibility of witnessing "once in a lifetime" events-a gift from them that can easily be overlooked, especially if we are focused on products rather than process.
© 2004-2005 by Hodson & Willis - Reflective Educational Perspectives.
Learning Styles Experts, Mariaemma Pellulo-Willis and Victoria Kindle Hodson will be speaking at the The Link Homeschool Conference.