The Secret to Helping Your
Child Excel in School and in Life
Is your child struggling in school? Does your child stall when it
comes time to do homework? Does your childs teacher often
comment that your child is capable, but is just not working to his
or her potential? Or, does your child do alright in school, but
seems a bit bored or lacks enthusiasm for learning? There is a little
secret that you need to know in order to change this.
We are all born with certain propensities. We enjoy doing some
things more than others and we see the world and experience it
from a certain perspective. Parents can often say, Oh, Johnny
could stay outdoors playing in the dirt all day long, or
Susie is such a people person. At a very early age
children show what they enjoy doing and what they are naturally
interested in. Paying attention to this can be very beneficial
to parents and in turn, to their children.
Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University,
developed a theory called, Multiple Intelligences.
It suggests that the traditional notion of intelligence, based
on I.Q. testing, is far too limited. Instead, Dr. Gardner proposes
eight different intelligences to account for a broader range of
human potential in children and adults.
Here is a brief summary of these eight intelligences:
1) Linguistic intelligence (word smart) involves sensitivity
to spoken and written language, the ability to learn languages,
and the capacity to use language to accomplish certain goals.
This intelligence includes the ability to effectively use language
to express oneself rhetorically or poetically; and language as
a means to remember information. Writers, poets, lawyers and speakers
are among those that Gardner sees as having high linguistic intelligence.
2) Logical-mathematical intelligence (number/reasoning smart)
consists of the capacity to analyze problems logically, carry
out mathematical operations, and investigate issues scientifically.
In Gardners words, it entails the ability to detect patterns,
reason deductively and think logically. This intelligence is most
often associated with scientific and mathematical thinking.
3) Musical intelligence (music smart) involves skill in
the performance, composition, and appreciation of musical patterns.
It encompasses the capacity to recognize and compose musical pitches,
tones, and rhythms.
4) Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence (body smart) entails
the potential of using ones whole body or parts of the body
to solve problems. It is the ability to use mental abilities to
coordinate bodily movements.
5) Spatial intelligence (picture smart) involves the potential
to recognize and use the patterns of wide space and more confined
6) Interpersonal intelligence (people smart) is concerned
with the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and
desires of other people. It allows people to work effectively
with others. Educators, salespeople, religious and political leaders
and counselors all need a well-developed interpersonal intelligence.
7) Intrapersonal intelligence (self smart) entails the
capacity to understand oneself, to appreciate ones feelings,
fears and motivations.
8) Naturalist intelligence (nature smart) enables human
beings to recognize, categorize and draw upon certain features
of the environment. A number of schools in North America have
looked to structure curricula according to these intelligences,
and to design classrooms and even whole schools to reflect the
understandings that Howard Gardner developed. It takes a commitment
though from school boards, administrators and teachers to put
something like this into practice.
Dr. Gardner says that our schools and culture focus most of their
attention on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence.
We esteem the highly articulate or logical people of our culture.
However, Dr. Gardner says that we should also place equal attention
on individuals who show gifts in the other intelligences: the
artists, architects, musicians, naturalists, designers, dancers,
therapists, entrepreneurs, and others who enrich the world in
which we live.
Unfortunately, many children who have these gifts dont
receive much reinforcement for them in school. Many of these kids,
in fact, end up being labeled learning disabled, ADD,
or simply underachievers, when their unique ways of thinking and
learning arent addressed by a heavily linguistic or logical-mathematical
So, if your childs school does not teach based on these
principles, how can you as the parent use them to help your child
be successful in school and in life?
Lets first take a look at how Howard Gardners theory
would work in a classroom. Then, well look at how you can
use these techniques at home.
Lets pretend a teacher needs to teach a lesson about the
law of supply and demand. They might read to their students about
it (linguistic), study mathematical formulas that express it (logical-mathematical),
examine a graphic chart that illustrates the principle (spatial),
observe the law in the natural world (naturalist) or in the human
world of commerce (interpersonal); examine the law in terms of
ones own body [e.g. when you supply your body with lots
of food, the hunger demand goes down; when there's very little
supply, your stomach's demand for food goes way up and you get
hungry] (bodily-kinesthetic and intrapersonal); and/or write a
song (or find an existing song) that demonstrates the law (perhaps
Bob Dylans Too Much of Nothing? Or John Mayers
Waiting on the World to Change).
It isnt necessary for teachers to teach something in all
eight ways, just for them to see what the possibilities are, and
then decide which particular pathways align best with the topic.
As well, a teacher should also provide students with an opportunity
to discover which intelligence best describes themselves. After
students are aware of this they can take charge of their learning.
When they study for tests they can relate all the ideas to topics
that mean something to them. When they do a project they can present
it in a way that most makes sense to them.
If your childs school doesnt work this way then you
can still teach this to your child and they can still use the
strategy to study and complete projects and assignments.
The first step is to go to https://www.bgfl.org
Have your child take the test that determines their intelligence.
Then describe all eight intelligences to them, in language appropriate
to their age of course, so that they will have a clearer understanding
of each one.
Once your child is clear about how they learn and how this is
innately what they enjoy, then the next step is to show them how
they can use this with their school work.
When an assignment or project comes home tell them to put the
topic of whatever the project is in the center of a blank sheet
of paper, and draw eight straight lines or spokes
radiating out from this topic. Label each line with a different
intelligence. Then start brainstorming ideas for learning or showing
that topic and write down ideas next to each intelligence. They
might just want to do the assignment in a way that aligns with
their intelligence, but its important for them to know that
everyone has a little of each intelligence so they can mix and
With anything new, this process will need guidance and practice
however, you will be amazed at how quickly they catch on and how
engrossed in their homework they will be.
Our world has become smaller due to globalization and its
also becoming a world where different traits or intelligences
are needed. Lets help our children understand and feel good
about themselves. With these two things in place they will feel
confident to use what theyve got to help make their difference
in this world.
Erin Kurt, B.Ed, spent 16 years as a teacher and nanny around
the world. Now, she applies her expertise as a parenting expert
and author of Juggling Family Life. You can learn more about Erin
and her simple, loving parenting method, and subscribe to her
weekly parenting tips e-zine at ErinParenting.com.
February 12, 2010