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Right-Brained Learners


Does your child skip around when doing math problems? Have trouble reviewing work or checking over details? Find spelling challenging? Require a tremendous amount of interaction during homeschooling? If the answer to many of these questions is “yes”, you may have a right-brain oriented child! Right-brain learner characteristics differ from those of left-brain learners.

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Right brain learners defined

Ned Herrmann, a pioneer in research on creative thinking and whole brain preferences for processing information, developed what is known as the brain dominance theory. This theory draws on the split brain research by Nobel Prize winner Dr. Roger Sperry, whose work in the 1950s demonstrated that the left and right hemispheres of the brain are responsible for different higher functions. Herrmann’s brain dominance theory posits that people have genetically-rooted preferences for how they think, learn, and process information, based on which part of their brain is dominant[1].

Although no one is completely “right brained” or “left brained”, this research has strong implications for those trying to teach children. The left hemisphere of the brain is in charge of verbal, logical, analytical processes, whereas the right hemisphere processes information visually, holistically, and intuitively. Consider some of the right-brain learner characteristics vs. left-brain characteristics:

Left brain vs. Right brain Learner Characteristics

Analytical vs. Intuitive

Logical vs. Emotional

Verbal vs. Visual

Details vs. The big picture

Organized vs. Random

Orderly and predictable vs. Spontaneous and flexible

Plan ahead vs. Impulsive

Few gestures when speaking vs. Many gestures

Logical vs. Creative

Sequential vs. Skipping around

Specifics vs. Main idea

Work independently vs. Cooperation in groups

Observation vs. Touching and feeling

Names vs. Faces

Literal vs. Contextual

Words vs. Pictures

Symbolic vs. Concrete

Right-brain oriented children often get left behind in traditional classroom situations, which are geared toward the left-brained learner. Worksheets, textbooks, and fact-based, detail-driven learning settings, which focus on independent work completion, naturally cater to the left-brain oriented child. Neurophysiologist Dr. Carla Hannaford found that amongst gifted students, only 22% were right-brained. However her research demonstrated that 22% of children in special education were right-brained learners[2]. As global, interactive, creative children are constrained to fit into logical, word- and independent-work oriented classroom situations, they can easily be labeled “struggling learners” when they are not able to succeed to their potential.

Fortunately, this is where home education can shine! Homeschooling allows parents to individualize the curriculum and teaching methods to the specific needs of each child. Parents of children with right-brain learner characteristics can provide a spontaneous, creative, discovery-based learning environment, which is focused on presenting information in a visual rather than auditory (lecture) manner. No classroom means plenty of interaction for the right-brained child, and teaching materials can be specifically chosen with right-brain tendencies in mind (No repetitive worksheets, please!). Rather than being seen as learning disabled, attention-deficit, unfocused, or special needs, right-brain oriented learners can flourish in a homeschool environment, which maximizes their strengths and potential.

Stay tuned for more information on right-brain oriented learners, and how you can best help them!

More right-brained learning resources »




Rebecca Capuano

Rebecca Capuano is the stay-at-home mom of three children (one of whom is in heaven) who also makes attempts at being a homeschooler, writer, photographer, scrapbooker, and truth-seeker. She earned her Master of Social Work degree from East Carolina University, and has worked in a variety of capacities (including group homes, day treatment centers, and public schools) with at-risk children and staff, including developing a therapeutic and educational day treatment center for delinquent youth in Wilmington, North Carolina. She currently resides in Virginia, and has written on a variety of topics for both and Home Educators Association of Virginia. Rebecca believes that family is created by God as the most fundamental institution in society, and she is dedicated to helping families nurture their children to become responsible persons of character and integrity.

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  1. Tracy

    All 3 of my children are this way. So far it looks like my two boys are dyslexic and I find myself everyday saying, “I’m so glad we are homeschooling”.

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