YOUR QUICK WHAT, WHY, AND HOW-TO GUIDE
You may have heard it said: “That child is so smart! He’s the smartest child I’ve ever seen!” “Oh, that child is brilliant! She’ll be her school’s valedictorian some day!” “This child is a genius!”
But what do those statements really mean? Are these particular children able to write elaborate and creative stories? Are they able to throw, catch, kick, or hit a ball better than most adults? Are they able to pick up a new musical instrument and teach themselves to play complex pieces?
To answer all these questions, we first have to ask ourselves one very important question: What is intelligence?
This is a rather difficult question to answer. It is, after all, a very complex idea. But we here at Kimber Hills Academy believe that intelligence is the ability to learn, and to apply that knowledge in appropriate ways.
To explain this definition in a more concrete way, suppose this: you care stranded on a island, which is inhabited only by plants and vicious animals. Who would be the best, most intelligent person to help you? A world-renowned musician? A writer of epic novels? A psychologist? Or perhaps you would choose someone who is a bodily-kinesthetic learner (see description below), who can hunt as well as catch fish bare-handed, and can run faster than anyone else you know. Here is another scenario: suppose that you were trying to solve a difficult mathematical problem at the store, at home, or at the bank? Who, then, would you choose as the most intelligent person to assist you? Would you choose an athlete? A philosopher or theologian? Or, perhaps, you would choose someone who is of the logical-mathematical intelligence, who can do quick and accurate sums in their heads?
As you can see, learning and intelligence are multi-faceted, and there are several different types and styles. And to help you get to know the different styles/types, they are listed here, along with their quick explanations:
Logical-Mathematical Intelligence: This intelligence/learning style is all about logic, reasoning, and numbers. A person or child who is a logical-mathematical thinker is keen on reasoning, is always curious, is a scientific thinker, can easily recognize patterns (even abstract ones), and can usually perform complex reasoning or calculations. They may be good at games like riddles and chess. Children who are logical-mathematical thinkers may grow up to be computer programmers, lawyers, scientists, accountants, and the like.
Visual-Spatial Intelligence: This intelligence/learning style is all about the ability to imagine/evaluate surrounding areas without pen and paper (by “doing it all in their heads”). People who are visual-spatial learners are typically good at puzzles (often being able to do them in without pictures and images to assist them), and can be very good at art, especially drawing. Many children who are visual-spatial thinkers grow up to be artists, designers (fashion, graphic, interior, etc.), photographers, and architects.
Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence: This intelligence is all about words- written, read, and spoken. People who are verbal-linguistic thinkers are typically good at reading and writing, taking notes and gleaning information from lectures, creating and telling stories, oration, and debate. They are usually the “chatter boxes,” and can often learn new languages seemingly without really trying. Children who are verbal-linguistic learners may grow up to be writers, politicians, public speakers, preachers, teachers, broadcasters, and actors/voice actors.
Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence: This intelligence has to do with bodily movement, and the ability to coordinate the body skillfully. These people are usually “fidgety,” enjoy performing, building, or making things, and would prefer not to remain in one spot- especially a seated spot- for long periods of time. Children who are of the bodily-kinesthetic intelligence may grow up to be athletes, dancers, performers, or multiple forms of craftsmen- such as carpenters, contractors, builders, etc.
Musical Intelligence: This intelligence is all about sound, rhythm, composition, and tone. People who are of the musical intelligence and learning style are usually able to compose, play, and sing music. They find lectures the easiest way to learn, though they are often found singing quietly to themselves, humming, or tapping their feet rhythmically as they go about their daily business. Children who are of the musical intelligence often become musicians, singers, composers, conductors, and record producers.
Interpersonal Intelligence: These are the charismatic people, the people who easily make friends and keep them- the social people. They empathize easily, and therefore can “feel” with others as they encounter strong emotions. Children who are of the interpersonal intelligence often become diplomats, social workers, receptionists, counselors, child care providers, and therapists.
Intrapersonal Intelligence: These are the introspective people, the reflective people. They may have a deep understanding of themselves, and of what makes people “tick.” They are excellent at finding strengths and weaknesses, what makes each individual unique, and are amazingly self-aware. These are the philosophers, the members of clergy, and the theologians.
Now, perhaps you’re thinking: “Yes, I understand what the intelligences/learning styles are, and how they’re different, but how does this knowledge affect me, or my child?”
Just as the earlier examples demonstrated, there is no one intelligence that is best suited for all situations. It also showed that we possess different intelligences (even if we are related by blood). These differences make us unique, but they can also cause breakdowns or difficulties in communication, and in learning and understanding, between children and adults. This is why it is so important that we all realize which intelligence/learning style we possess in order to better help our children.
For example, suppose that you are a verbal-linguistic learner and your child is a bodily-kinesthetic learner. You may verbally tell you child to finish a task, and will do so repeatedly to get him to understand and remember, but your child always “forgets” and “just doesn’t seem to understand.” Or, you may try numerous times to verbally teach him how to finish a part of his homework, but again, he “just doesn’t seem to get it.”
If we identify our own learning styles, as well as those of our children, we can work efficiently with them.
You may have read through the list earlier and thought, “I’m this one, and this one as well!” or, “This one is certainly my child; but then, this one is too!” or perhaps even this, “Oh, I wish I (or my child) was of this type of intelligence!” And these are all common responses, as God has given our minds all of these intelligences/learning styles, even though some may not be as strong as others. But within this idea lies the good news- we have the ability (and our children have the ability) to develop all of these intelligences! All our children need is a little help.
Just as they need us to provide them with food, warmth, and shelter, children also need us to help them develop, learn, and grow by working in tune with their already strong and developed intelligences. And the best way to do this is to learn which intelligence we (and our children) are, so that we can parent and teach them in ways that best serve and develop them.
In the coming days, take some time to observe your child (or children) and make note of anything that you see- does your son seem to know every song on the radio- even if he’s only heard it played once? Does your daughter seem to count everything she can, and organize things into patterns without realizing it?
When you’ve done this for a few days, refer back to these descriptions to see which intelligence/learning style best describes your child. Compare this to your own learning style/intelligence, and come up with ideas that will best serve you and your child in your day-to-day relationship: would adding a physical slider-chart help your bodily-kinesthetic learner remember to finish all of her chores? Would writing a list help your verbal-linguistic learner remember to pack all of his school items in his backpack?
If you would like assistance in coming up with ideas, or if you would simply like to discuss or ask questions about learning styles/intelligences, contact the staff here at Kimber Hills Academy. Our teachers would love to work with you and your child. We work daily to make sure that we are teaching each of our students in the best and most effective way we can, by ensuring that we are aware of each and every different learning style.
Tobias, Cynthia Ulrich. The Way They Learn. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publisher, 1994.
Vail, Priscilla L. Learning Styles. Rosemont, NJ: Modern Learning Press, 1992.
Armstrong, Thomas. 7 Kinds of Smart. New York, NY: New American Library, 1999.