2e Tuesday: You say Sequential, I say Visual Spatial…

My hubby has a saying: “A place for everything and everything in it’s place!”

I also have a saying: “A place for everything and that is wherever I happen to put it down!”


In our tired, weak, end-of-the-day speak…when we let exhaustion overwhelm the tender love we have for each other, he calls my attitude ‘just being lazy’, and I call his, ‘OCD’.

Really, what it breaks down to is a difference of brain wiring. And even though hubby calls that a cop out, I’m sticking to it. Left brain thinkers tend to be sequential, orderly, methodical, and uptight. (Oops, I slipped that last one in there. I must have typed it subconsciously or something!) “The left hemisphere is sequential, analytical, and time-oriented.” (per Linda Silverman) The majority of school classrooms are set up BY left brain thinkers FOR left brain thinkers.

Right brainers, however, are a different story. Intuitive, messy, unorganized, fly by the seat of their pants, and totally divergent. “The right hemisphere perceives the whole, synthesizes, and apprehends movement in space.” (per Linda Silverman) These are the truly out of the box thinkers. Linda Silverman coined the term Visual Spatial to describe these people, and wrote a fabulous book called “Upside Down Brilliance” all about them. I can write down even more adjectives to describe them, but these are people who think in pictures rather than words, so I’ll let this cartoon speak 1,000 words on my behalf:


For those of you left brain thinkers, here’s the 1,000 words you may not have gotten out of the cartoon:

Visual-spatial learners are individuals who think in pictures rather than in words. They have a different brain organization than auditory-sequential learners. They learn better visually than auditorally. They learn all-at-once, and when the light bulb goes on, the learning is permanent. They do not learn from repetition and drill. They are whole-part learners who need to see the big picture first before they learn the details. They are non-sequential, which means that they do not learn in the step-by-step manner in which most teachers teach. They arrive at correct solutions without taking steps, so “show your work” may be impossible for them. They may have difficulty with easy tasks, but show amazing ability with difficult, complex tasks. They are systems thinkers who can orchestrate large amounts of information from different domains, but they often miss the details. They tend to be organizationally impaired and unconscious about time. They are often gifted creatively, technologically, mathematically or emotionally.

Parents can tell if they have one of these children by the endless amount of time they spend doing advanced puzzles, constructing with LEGOs, etc., completing mazes, counting everything, playing Tetris on the computer, playing chess, building with any materials at hand, designing scientific experiments, programming your computer, or taking everything in the house apart to see how it operates. They also are very creative, dramatic, artistic and musical.

In that article, Linda Silverman goes on to explain the distinctions between “Auditory Sequential” (left brainers) and “Visual Spatial” (right brainers). It’s a fantastic diagram and worth a look!

In the Auditory Sequential world of public school, Naturalist has a learning disability (dyslexia) which needs to be remediated by endless hours doing rote memorization so she can ‘fit in’ to the ‘normal’ mode of a left brain world.

In Linda Silverman’s world view, Naturalist is a powerful visual spatial thinker who needs to be taught to her own strengths so she can shine by being her own wonderful right brain thinker.

In public school she is labeled with a disability. Here at home, she is simply herself…a creator. If she has to have a label, I prefer that one.

I still talk to her about dyslexia, because she deals with the frustrations of it every day. However, instead of a reason for why she can’t do things, I try to acknowlege her struggles while at the same time focusing on the visual spatial strengths it gives her. A great way to talk to kids about this is here at the Visual Spatial website.

Understanding Visual Spatial thinking has revolutionized my way of homeschooling, dealing with my kids, and dealing with myself. Reading about it was like a lightbulb going off in my head–one of those *aha* moments where everything clicks into place and the world is right again.

If this is the first time you’ve heard of it, and want to know more, visit the links on this page. If you recognize yourself or your kids in the descriptions, we’d love to have you join in our discussions over at the Out of the Box group!