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!
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.
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 characteristics of people who tend to be more right or left-brain oriented:
Left brain vs. Right brain
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. 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 right-brain oriented children 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!