May 13, 2014

Proper Expectations

My body-smart child learned to count to 100 by skipping and hopping around the kitchen table as she chanted the numbers. I “tested” her sitting down one day shortly after she’d mastered it when moving, and she couldn’t get past 30.

My logic/word-smart girl masters spelling words and math facts using traditional memorization methods while her picture/word-smart sister prefers to incorporate spelling words into sketches and to employ visual cues and memorable stories to remember her math facts.

Both my daughters have always focused better while being read to when they color at the same time.

When I was a classroom teacher, I implemented a readers’ workshop in which I allowed each student to read whatever he wanted within a set of rather broad parameters. And I created a writers’ workshop in which one student met my expectations by writing 15 short essays on topics of her choice while her classmate met the same expectations by composing one 30-page novella.

I could have made all my students read the same selection in a literature anthology at the same time and do all the suggested ancillary activities before taking the same comprehension test at the end of the week. I could have required them all to write weekly five-paragraph essays on the same topic at the same time. I could insist that my own children sit still at all times during our homeschool lessons and study in “normal” ways – i.e., in a stereotypical “schoolish” manner.

But what good would any of that do? If the goal of education is learning – real learning – we need to consciously approach each child with a view to understanding how he has been uniquely created so we can help him maximize his God-given potential. If, in contrast, we attempt to run all children through a cookie-cutter, assembly line approach to schooling – trying to force all children to learn the same things in the same way at the same time and pace – we’ll find it untenable for ourselves and for them. And – far worse – we’ll be damaging the children we purport to cherish.

I used some specific terms above: body-smart, logic-smart, word-smart, picture-smart. Those are four of the eight multiple intelligences that make up a conceptual framework for looking at children (and adults) that acknowledges and respects each one’s individuality. If we want to maximize kids’ learning while reducing unnecessary stress for ourselves and for them, it’s imperative that we study and purposely incorporate a deep understanding of the intelligences into our interactions with the kids in our lives.

Several days ago, a Facebook friend posted a provocative question that brilliantly sums up this idea: "If you don't expect all kids to get their teeth at the same time or grow to a certain height at the same time, why would you expect them to learn all the same ‘academic’ concepts at the same time – or in the same way?" 


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