February 5, 2013

Longing for Expression

My mother-in-law focused during her professional life as a high school English teacher on her word-smart strengths. And she’s engaged her music-smarts throughout her life, playing accordion and clarinet as a youth, participating in a municipal band with her clarinet when her kids were young, and giving accordion lessons in recent years. When she was in her late sixties, she decided to pursue a long-held desire to learn to paint. She was nervous about enrolling in painting classes, but she dove in anyway. Now she pulls out her oils and canvases on a regular basis, producing lovely landscapes, and her picture-smart has been activated.

On the other end of the spectrum, I delight in observing how Leah, the 23-month old girl I babysit, chooses to play. She loves puzzles, Legos, and blocks, and has been able since just after she turned one to correctly put all the shapes into our rather complicated six-shape sorter toy. I’ve also recently noticed that she purposes to organize various toys into easily identifiable categories of her own choosing. And she spends quite a bit of time each day “reading” to her baby dolls from some of our many picture books, babbling in the same voice pattern I use when I read aloud to her, and turning the pages on a regular basis. Of course, it’s not a good idea to try labeling a very young child’s multiple intelligence strengths, but I can’t help noticing how logic-, nature-, and word-smart emanate from Leah on a regular basis.

All of that is to say that it’s never too late – or too early – to awaken any of the eight ways of learning. Of course, with young children, we simply provide a rich learning environment and a few carefully chosen, developmentally appropriate activities each day and watch each child’s particular set of strengths emerge over time. With older kids and teens, we can pretty readily identify each one’s propensities and should do whatever we can to build them up, while concurrently providing opportunities to stretch areas that are not their go-to strengths.

And we should also remember that it’s never too late to awaken or grow any of the strengths, even in adults. My mother-in-law is a perfect example of an adult who wasn’t willing to let insecurity prevent her from expressing the picture-smart strength that, though rather dormant for years, has been part of who God designed her to be from the beginning. I, too, activated a previously suppressed strength – in my case, body-smart – when I chose to begin exercising regularly in my mid-30s.

What about you? Are you curious about trying something new? Do you feel convicted to begin a new habit? Why not jump in and activate that multiple intelligence strength that’s longing for expression?

Artwork Attribution: Geraldine Hollenbeck


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