Would you force a child to wear shoes that don’t fit? Then why force an education that doesn’t fit!

Well, that’s what is happening to hundreds of thousands of school children every day. And those in private schools or homeschooling programs are not automatically better off. As long as children are forced to use a traditional textbook/workbook curriculum without any concern for their learning styles, they might as well be wearing shoes that are too tight, or so loose that they trip over them.

An education that doesn’t fit is as painful, or perhaps even more painful, than ill-fitting shoes—after all, an ill-fitting education can scar a child for life.

Some readers might think I’m going off the deep end here. After all, the traditional school system has been in place for a pretty long time, and most people come through it just fine, don’t they?

Do they? Did you know that most adults are held back from what they could be doing or would love to do because of their school experiences? Did you know that being labeled slow, lazy, learning disabled, dyslexic, ADD, or even average or gifted stays with you forever, and affects what you believe about yourself and your abilities? Did you know that people in their forties, fifties and sixties, no matter what they’ve accomplished, are still controlled by messages they received in school?

I’m thinking of a woman who didn’t think she could advance in her business because when she was in school she got the message that she wasn’t very capable. What was the problem in school? She kept tapping her foot and wiggling in her chair because she is kinesthetic and needs to move to learn. Another adult comes to mind who spent years in a career she disliked because she didn’t think she was smart enough to do what she really wanted to do—teach. Others are held back because they are not great spellers or reading is not a strength or memorizing is difficult for them. So what? These things really have nothing to do with success!

The most powerful determiner of success is the belief that you are capable and can succeed. Yet, for thirteen of the most formative years of our children’s lives we emphasize mistakes, failures, and a narrow definition of what it means to be “smart.” These children grow up to be adults who settle for less.

Studies done several years ago revealed that 95% of kindergartners feel good about themselves and are eager to learn, and fewer than 2% of seniors in high school feel good about themselves. Pedro Garcia, then superintendent of the Corona-Norco Unified School District, commented on these results: “What happens to children between the ages of 5 and 18 that they lose that creative, inquisitive spirit...Children need to feel safe...We need to create a safe home and a safe classroom for them...Children need to be frequently validated, encouraged, supported...They need to know they have talents and abilities they have not yet discovered. Above all, they need to know they can be successful...”

Far too many pay a very high price in our one-size-fits-all education and testing system. Yet there is a very simple answer and the powers to be are not listening. Children learn differently—what works for some does not work for others. This is not rocket science! How long will it be before educators recognize this simple truth and act on it?

As long as we force all kids to start reading at 4 or 5 years old, force everyone to use textbooks and workbooks, and force all students to learn and be tested in the same way, No Child Left Behind will never come to be. Many, many children will continue to be left behind, along with countless adults who are not able to reverse the damage done to them as students.

What are the alternatives?
• Respect developmental timetables—realize that kids are ready for concepts at different ages, not when the State says they must be!
• Provide various ways for kids to learn and do assignments, such as games, books on tape, art supplies, building activities, scrapbooks, experiments, demonstrations, etc.
• Instead of using destructive labels, look at learning styles...for example, Picture and Hands-on learners are often labeled dyslexic, Inventing and/or Thinking/Creating learners most often end up being labeled ADD.

Impossible, you say, with a roomful of students? Not impossible at all. The best teachers have figured out how to do it even with all the constraints put on them. And if you are homeschooling, customizing to your child’s learning style is a snap!

Whether we are talking about the classroom or the homeschool, if your goal is learning success for EVERY child, you can do it. You can be a Success Coach for the children in your life! ©2009 by Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis

Author's Bio: 

Mariaemma is co-author of Discover Your Child's Learning Style & Midlife Crisis Begins in Kindergarten, and co-founder of LearningSuccess™ Institute, Ventura, CA. She is a California credentialed teacher with a Master’s Degree in Special Education, and is a consultant, speaker, and trainer, www.learningsuccessprofile.com