April 1, 2013

A Multiple Intelligences Pitfall

I am not particularly nature smart.

I actually had many opportunities throughout my childhood to develop any nature smart inclinations God gave me. For example, because my father enjoyed the outdoors, my parents took my brother and me on several camping excursions every summer. We also owned two dogs and dozens of cats in my youth, and I spent lots of time out in the dogs’ pen and absolutely doted on the cats. Additionally, I thought I wanted to own a horse, and my parents took me to riding stables almost every time we went camping.

Thus, at first glance, some might have considered me to be highly nature smart. But I distinctly remember disliking the camping trips by the time I was nine because I loathed the dirty, clammy feeling inevitable when one spends a few nights sleeping in a tent and eating around a campfire. I loved my pets, and I even thought I’d become a veterinarian. But I’ve since realized my attachment to my animals was more about a need for security and that my interest in veterinary medicine was more connected to my love for my particular pets than to a desire to work with animals every day. And, though I always loved the idea of horseback riding, the actual experience petrified me every time I sat in a saddle.

Does that mean I’m somehow deprived or deficient? Not at all. I was exposed to nature smart-related opportunities, so it’s not that I missed out on chances to develop a natural strength. But those experiences simply didn’t “click” with me the way they do some people. And that’s okay. I can participate in nature smart-related activities now – I still own cats, I occasionally join my very nature smart husband and daughters on camping trips, and I encourage my girls in their desire to collect and categorize rocks and sticks and dolls and stuffed animals. But there’s also nothing wrong with acknowledging that my main, God-given interests and abilities lay elsewhere.

And that’s something we need to acknowledge in and for our children and students. We must strike a careful balance between exposing kids to a variety of experiences on the one hand – so they might discover and develop their strengths – and pushing them to be strong in them all on the other. In other words, we must guard against the pitfall of expecting “multiple intelligences perfectionism.” God did not design any one child to be equally strong in all eight areas, and we actually harm our kids if we expect that of them.

Expose, yes. Encourage, yes. Push where we don’t see interest? Heaven forbid.

Photo Credit: kellec


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