individual learning needs

The following is a guest post written by Rachel Niskanen about catering to a child’s individual learning needs…


Every child learns differently. We all believe this. They might learn one or two things similarly to another kid, but they are not the same kid. Part of homeschooling is trying to make the best decisions for your kids- but sometimes that can be hard, especially when you do as well in a routine as your child does.

You may not want to change what you are used to. For your kid, you may have to.

Having twins is such a blessing and yet brings about many new situations. My first pregnancy was a 2 for 1 so I didn’t have the experience of a single child to compare to how things usually worked on an individual level. Starting out, my twins did everything together at the same time and pretty much in the same way. Eating, sleeping, diaper changes, weaning, eating whole foods, playing, singing and coloring; so many different activities and milestones -and yet it was like doing everything in stereo. It wasn’t until the twins turned four that they really started going their separate ways and doing things differently.

Suddenly I had to change gears and change how I handled each child.

My daughter is very driven. She is a go-getter and is all about fairness. She wants to get a new school concept the first day I teach it and won’t stop until she does. If she has a hard time understanding, she gets mad at herself and wants to keep pushing on. Her twin brother is more laid back. He likes to take his time on things, really understand every little bit of it and asks so many questions it makes my inner teacher both very happy and very frazzled. He also gets really frustrated if he works on something for too long. If we work too long on one concept he burns out and needs to stop for the rest of the day. If I try to get him to do more he shuts down completely.

My twins, who did everything together, have gone in two separate directions -skipping along as they go.

So, how did this change their school? When we first started out we all did school time together. We sang songs together, practiced letter sounds together, counted things together and practiced how to write together. School was quick and thorough and then it was on to play time. Now, my two individuals have their own individual school time with Mommy. My girl can show she can master a math concept quickly without her brother becoming frustrated when he doesn’t get it; And my girl can take her time on concepts she doesn’t understand without getting overly mad at herself because “Bubby can do it.” On the other hand, I can spend extra time with my boy and his reading without him sitting and just waiting for his sister to pipe in with the answer instead of trying for himself. They each have their strengths and weaknesses.

We have to teach to the individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

It is with this in mind that I look at curriculum and activities. I make sure to present the lessons with how they think in mind so I don’t accidentally frustrate my son early in the day or end up with my girl beating herself up over the fact that she doesn’t understand something. New concepts are taught to them -with them in mind. Also I have to make sure that concepts are reviewed or revisited for my daughter because I know that while she catches on fast, she has trouble retaining new concepts. They must be practiced often. Likewise I have to present things to my son in a way that will feed his curiosity and keep his attention without burning him out quickly.

It isn’t only my twins in school anymore though. My insistent little knight joins us too.

He is as opposite from the twins as the twins are from each other. He is so driven he wants to tell me how and when things should be done and in what order. If I don’t agree he has the most expressive face. With his learning path I have to make a point to give him some control over his day because we want him to keep his drive, not smother it, and yet, teach him how to handle situations that are just out of his control, like what order school is done in.

With so many different directions, how do we pull it all together?

Start with prayer, always.

I don’t know how I get things done some days except through the grace of God. After prayer I look at how each of my kids learn. Then I put it together like a puzzle. There are some subjects that are done as a whole family like history, science, art and music. Then there are the individual subjects like language arts, math and handwriting. After figuring out what we did together and what we did one on one I looked at what time of day to do what subjects. My older boy seems incapable of doing any school work after 2 o’clock while my daughter seems able to keep going literally till bed time. My youngest does his school in bits and pieces as he can sit down in between my twin’s subjects.

With all that written down, I have a basic schedule.

While we are teaching these precious gifts, it can be quiet exasperating trying to keep up with them. It seems like every time I get school set up in a way that works for all and they start thriving in it, they mature and grow. Maybe that is the point. We are teaching to them at the level they need at that time so they can grow out of that and into a new level. They grow and we have to jump to it, goring with them and always keeping in mind that they are an individual and need to be taught, talked to and seen as such: God’s individual gift to each of us.

How has this post helped you?  I pray that you’ve found some encouragement in what Rachel has to share about catering to her child’s individual learning needs.  For more encouragement, listen in to the homeschool podcast.

About Rachel Niskanen

Rachel is a stay at home mother of 8 year old twins (one boy and one girl) and a 5 ½ year old knight in training. Her homeschooling adventure started when her twins were two, and her husband deployed for a year. With a new born in the house and Daddy gone the twins needed a little something to preoccupy them. Enter the idea to do preschool in the home. Once she started she didn’t stop and it has been one blessing after another since. Her husband is a Navy veteran and is currently serving in the Army National Guard while going to college. It was through her husband that Rachel came back to God and she has ever since been in awe of His love and mercy. Rachel enjoys serving in the church by helping with the young children and also with the vacation bible school. An enthusiastic animal lover, when she is not schooling her kids or trying to keep up on the house work she can be found out training her dogs or cuddling with a cat while reading.

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