Define a Learner: Part One

I have been overthinking lately (very typical of me) and mulling over “what is a learner? Can we define a learner?” especially in regard to homeschooling and my goals for my girls.

I find myself asking questions such as, “Is it ok to just say a learner is someone who learns?” or “how many different kinds of learners are there?” Even, “I know we can have reluctant learners, but are they really learners if they are reluctant to learn?” At 3am these are really not the best questions to be asking, as I never really get back to sleep as I fight my need to turn on my computer and ask the internet.


I would define myself as a life-long learner, as I know that I never want to stop learning new things. You can often find me delving deep on a rabbit trail through the topics I am interested in (or most likely fact checking). 

When it comes to my girls, my heart is for them to love learning and to also be life-long learners. I really try not to pressure them, but deep down, I would be heartbroken if they ever decided that they really didn’t want to learn beyond what was expected of them. It is very hard not to project my motivations and allow them to develop as they need to. I can provide the opportunities and enrich them with activities. I can also model what being an active life-long learner is, and show them my love of learning. But I can’t make them like me.

This is the first part of defining a learner and just some of the different types of learners there. I could take you down my rabbit hole, but I won’t. For those of you who ask similar questions to me, I hope this helps. For those of you who are homeschooling and wondering about how your child learns, this will assist you. 


Here are some of the characteristics I like that define a learner – a successful learner:

  • Take the lead in their own learning
  • Question everything
  • Think for themselves
  • Cultivate good habits
  • Are willing to fail and learn from their mistakes
  • Push through challenges 
  • Are driven by their interests
  • Know when to ask for help

Here are 5 different kinds of learners, and how we can help them:


A competent learner is aware of how they learn and the process they use. They will adapt that process to what they are learning. They are more than adequate to be learning on their own.

I like how a competent learner will discover knowledge for themselves and retain that knowledge. They will also apply it to solving problems. 

For these kinds of learners, it can be good for them to know more about their learning style, or to take tests like Strengths Finder. 

girls smiling on mountain top


A dynamic learner is interested in self-directed learning. They learn from the results of their experiences. Intuition is relied upon. They often seek challenges and can be risk takers. 

If you are homeschooling a dynamic learner, you will want to provide more opportunities for them to discover and learn on their own. Let them be actively involved in the learning process. 


The main characteristics of an autonomous learner are self-discipline, self-motivation, logical thinking and independence. While they can look like a dynamic learner, what sets them apart is that an autonomous learner will tend to plan and monitor their own education. 

If you are homeschooling an autonomous learner, you can assist them in monitoring their education, providing insight where it is needed in the planning and implementation. 


A conceptual learner will learn best from key concepts and central ideas rather than a traditional curriculum that focuses on subjects and topics. They will draw from what they have previously learned and use that to help understand new topics. 

You can help a conceptual learner by providing activities that use categorizing, naming and sorting. Show them how to make connections between ideas and encourage it as learning new material.


Adaptable learners are constantly learning new skills and tweaking previously learned ones. They are willing to do new things and to work in a group. A lot of employers like adaptable learners. 

If you have an adaptable learner you can provide group work opportunities, along with focusing more on skills based learning. Provide feedback to their learning and skills as they will use it to adapt and learn. 

Group of multiethnic school kids working together

Can you define a learner? Could you define yourself as a learner? Do you know what kind of learner you are? Do you think you might be a mix of these or more dominantly one? I love learning about how I think, so I have been learning more about my enneagram type and my strengths (within Strengths Finders). As I have been thinking more about learners, I realized how much I wish I could have learned more in the style I am (beyond being a visual learner). From the learners above, I relate most to competent and perhaps some autonomous (not just because I am an adult). You can bet that I am going to be observing my girls more to see how they learn so I can support them in that. 

If you don’t know your main learning style, here is a quiz that can help you with defining that part of you.

Here are some videos on the different learning styles:
1. Helping Kinesthetic Learners Succeed
2. Helping Auditory Learners Succeed
3. Helping Visual Learners Succeed

Homeschooling a Gifted Child
Define a Learner: Part Two


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