How can we help our kids to learn? Besides approaching learning with both patience and enthusiasm, I recommend finding out how their brains are wired. Everyone has different strengths, which are great to focus on, and weaknesses, which are worth working on. Here is an excerpt from my book, Homeschoolers Are Not Hermits, which is available now on Amazon.
After figuring out your kids’ best learning styles (audio, visual, kinesthetic, reading/writing), find their dominant intelligences by using Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. Help them develop their strengths, make sure they know that they are intelligent in their own ways, and work with them on their less dominant areas. At the very least, expose them to all the different kinds of intelligences. You never know which strengths they might develop, and it will give them a better understanding of people with different intelligences. We certainly had no idea that our oldest would turn out to be highly musical, we just wanted to expose the kids to music to give them the experience. I suspect that my husband has musical intelligence, as well, he just never had a chance to develop it.
Gardner’s multiple intelligences that he describes are generally complementary to the learning styles mentioned above. An intelligence is different from a learning style. Style is how an individual approaches materials, whereas intelligence is their computational power in a particular area. I have found both to be useful in working with my kids, which is why I have included both here. Gardner, on the other hand, feels that labeling students with “learning styles” is unhelpful and unscientific. I have given some learning style suggestions at the end for each of his intelligences.
Summary of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory
In Howard Gardner’s theory, developed in 1983, he describes eight separate types of intelligence. Several types of intelligence can be present in a single individual. A strength or weakness in one intelligence does not predict a strength or weakness in any of the other intelligences. Just as there are multiple intelligences, there are also multiple ways to learn and understand something. Gardner now believes there may be 10 or more intelligences.
Linguistic Intelligence (Word Smart)
Children whose linguistic or verbal intelligence is highly developed have an easy time with both written and oral language. They have a natural way with words and an extensive vocabulary, and enjoy rhymes, puns, and telling stories. Skills such as learning a new language, explaining instructions, spelling, and verbal memorization come easily to them.
Logical-Mathematical Intelligence (Number Smart)
Children with highly developed logical-mathematical intelligence are curious about how things work, and enjoy numbers, abstract concepts, and strategy games. They use traditional mathematical reasoning, logic, and scientific thinking, and like to ask questions. They have an easy time understanding numbers and complex calculations and computer programming.
Visual-Spatial Intelligence (Picture Smart)
Children with strong visual intelligence need to be able to see things in order to understand them. Charts, graphs, visual displays and movies are quickly comprehended by them. They enjoy taking apart and reconstructing things, and working on puzzles and mazes. Because they have a strong visual memory, a good eye for details and colors, and good eye-hand coordination, many are artistic.
Musical Intelligence (Music Smart)
Children with strong musical intelligence can easily remember melodies and have a high sensitivity to sounds, tones, and music. Their sharp hearing lets them understand a story or lecture without visual aids, and tell when music is off-key. They enjoy rhyming, singing, playing an instrument, and composing music. These children tend to sing, hum, or move rhythmically throughout the day.
Kinesthetic Intelligence (Body Smart)
Children with high kinesthetic intelligence learn best by moving and using their body parts. They often excel in sports, acting, and dance. They are highly coordinated and are able to remember things through muscle memory. They enjoy working with their hands, learning things by touch, taking things apart and trying to put them back together, and building things. They often have trouble sitting still, and will tap or fidget when required to sit.
Interpersonal Intelligence (People Smart)
Children with strong interpersonal intelligence have lots of friends and enjoy socializing. They are able to create meaningful, lasting relationships with people. They are natural leaders, and are also willing to let others lead. They are sensitive and caring, understand feelings, and help others solve problems. They have strong communication skills and can explain their needs and wants easily.
Intrapersonal Intelligence (Self Smart)
Children with strong intrapersonal intelligence are very independent and self-directed. They have high self-esteem and self-confidence, and are usually introverted, not looking to their peers for approval. They are in tune with their emotions, abilities, goals, and weaknesses. They tend to learn from their own mistakes and successes, and march to the beat of their own drummer. They need quiet places for reflection.
Naturalistic Intelligence (Nature Smart)
Children with strong naturalistic intelligence feel connected to nature and prefer being outdoors. They are sensitive toward the environment and other living creatures, and enjoy gardening and pets. They are interested in the natural cycles of the world, from animals to astronomy.
Ways to apply all this information
Linguistic Intelligence (Word Smart) Learning: Through listening, taking notes, and discussions.
Possible Careers: Teachers, poets, writers, journalists, philosophers, lawyers, and politicians.
Logical-Mathematical Intelligence (Number Smart) Learning: By reasoning, questioning, investigating, and calculating.
Possible Careers: Economists, mathematicians, scientists, programmers, and doctors.
Visual-Spatial Intelligence (Picture Smart) Learning: Through visual displays, charts, pictures, and videos.
Possible Careers: Architects, engineers, mechanics, interior designers, and artists.
Musical Intelligence (Music Smart) Learning: Through rhyming and songs for memorization, and working with music in the background.
Possible Careers: Musicians, singers, composers, and conductors.
Kinesthetic Intelligence (Body Smart) Learning: Through doing and trying rather than watching or hearing.
Possible Careers: Athletes, performers, dancers, builders, firefighters, and surgeons.
Interpersonal Intelligence (People Smart) Learning: Through discussions and collaborative activities.
Possible Careers: Politicians, teachers, therapists, social workers, and managers.
Intrapersonal Intelligence (Self Smart) Learning: Through independent projects and study, and journal writing.
Possible Careers: Philosophers, researchers, psychologists, writers, and theologians.
Naturalistic Intelligence (Nature Smart) Learning: Through being outdoors in nature or connecting the topic to the natural world.
Possible Careers: Farmers, biologists, conservationists, gardeners, and astronomers.
Help your kids understand how they learn best, and give them opportunities to develop strengths in as many areas as you can. Love and appreciate their strengths, they are all valuable.
Multiple Intelligences: The Theory In Practice, Howard E. Gardner, Basic Books, 1st Edition (April 20, 1993)
Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice, Howard E. Gardner, Basic Books, Reprint Edition (July 4, 2006)