Nurturing The Genius in Your Child
©Jan Andersen 2002
All children are born with the capacity to become geniuses. Children have twice as many brain connections as adults and because their natural creativity has not yet been stifled by the constraints of society, the foundations for evolving into talented individuals lies within all children. Did you know that we learn more in the first three years of life than we do in total throughout the rest of our lives? When you consider that fact, you realise a child's enormous potential to learn complex skills when they are very young. It's easy to underestimate the possible achievements and understanding levels of babies and small children and yet this is the time at which their brains are most receptive to new information.
Unfortunately, as a child grows, he or she is exposed to so many negative stimuli in our world and this includes influences within the home environment. Parents have a huge responsibility not to transmit their own anxieties, inadequacies or prejudices to their children and to attempt not to constantly criticise or judge harshly. Creativity cannot thrive in a regimented environment and whilst there is a need for rules, regulations and discipline, a child whose creativity is constantly suppressed will ultimately end up having more difficulties than one whose parents allocate time for their children to exercise total creative licence.
Harvard psychologist, Dr Howard Gardner, who recognised that we all possess different strengths and weaknesses and that not everyone learns in the same way, hypothesised the theory of multiple intelligences. Researchers have established that there are, in fact, eight different intelligences and that by recognising into which category a child falls, their learning style can be recognised and their full potential can be developed as a result. In fact, the law of multiple intelligences shows that there are eight ways of teaching or learning anything.
This intelligence includes all areas of the language abilities: writing, reading, listening, grammar and sentence structure. Children who fall within this group are sensitive to the sounds, rhythms and meanings of words and are also aware of the various functions of language. The linguistic learner has the ability to use language to persuade and convince other individuals about particular issues and uses language to remember information, with the capacity to also teach and learn through language. Children who possess this intelligence think in words, love reading, writing and telling stories and have a need for books, writing implements, conversation and stories. Linguistic learners are more likely to pursue careers in writing and journalism.
Logical-Mathematical learners have the ability to understand logical or numerical patterns and long sequences of reasoning. This intelligence applies to a child who is able to operate long series of reasoning, discern logical or numerical patterns and deal with number tasks such as counting, arithmetic and algebra. The Logical-Mathematical child is good at reasoning, loves working out puzzles, calculating and asking questions and has a need for exploration, science materials and trips to museums. The ideal career for a Logical-Mathematical learner would be a mathematician or scientist.
Musical learners are able to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch and tone and demonstrate musical articulacy. A musical child is sensitive to sounds and learns best by rhythm. Musical learners are adept at keeping time and remembering melodies and may be motivated to play a musical instrument or, alternatively, to fanatically collect records, tapes and CD's. Musical children think in melodies and rhythms, love singing, whistling, tapping and drumming their feet and hands and listening. The ideal career for a musical learner would be a Composer, Violinist, or Pianist for example.
Bodily-Kinaesthetic children are able to co-ordinate body movements and handle objects with extreme dexterity. They also express themselves best through movement and are likely to be gifted dancers, athletes or actors. These children also show an ability to use their hands for small or detailed tasks from an early age. They think via feeling, they love dancing, running, jumping and gesticulating and they have a need for movement, physical exercise, role playing and practical learning.
Children with spatial intelligence are able to accurately perceive and represent the visual-spatial world. They think in three-dimensional pictures and can easily see how objects relate to each other, being able to detect subtle changes in their environment. In order to retain information, they need to create dramatic mental images, but are adept at doing puzzles, deciphering maps, charts and graphs, are skilled at reading, writing, art, designing and constructing objects. They therefore make excellent sculptors, inventors, architects, interior designers and engineers.
Interpersonal learners are able to discern and respond accurately to moods, temperaments, and motivations of others by attempting to understand how and why other people think and act the way they do. These children tend to act as peacemakers and encourage co-operation in situations of conflict. They are good at listening, empathising and establishing positive relationships with other people. Interpersonal children make friends easily, work well in team situations and tend to be born leaders because of their problem-solving abilities. They think by bouncing ideas off of other people, they love organising, leading and socialising and need friends, social events and group situations. A future career might be a counsellor, salesperson or politician.
Children with intrapersonal intelligence have the ability to analyse their own feelings and use them to guide behaviour. They have a very strong sense of who they are, are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and can use this knowledge to confidently achieve personal goals. They are not particularly concerned about what others think of them and are often very solitary, preferring their own company to that of being in group situations. They think introspectively, they love planning, dreaming, setting targets and meditating and need solitude and self-designated projects and goals. Possible career paths might be in Philosophy or research.
The eighth intelligence, which is not always recognised, is the Naturalist. These learners have an affinity with the natural word and have an understanding of plants, animals and scientific studies. They have the ability to make distinctions about the natural world, can classify species of animals and plants, understand animal behaviour and have an understanding of natural energy forces, such as the weather, physics and even cooking. Naturalist learners might seek careers in Botany, Geology, Domestic Science, or Meteorology.
Recognising Your Child's Learning Type
Unfortunately, most educational systems tend to focus on only two of these intelligences; verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical. Whilst it might not be possible to change the standard educational system, parents who recognise their own child's pattern of learning will be able to enhance their education in the home environment. Once you have established to which learning type your children belong, you can help them to develop the other intelligences by adapting the teaching of every subject to suit their particular intelligence. If a child is having trouble understanding a certain subject, by modifying your teaching method to suit that child's personal learning style, can help him or her to develop an aptitude for a topic that might otherwise have confused them.
If you child is a Naturalist learner who has difficulty with mathematics, try incorporating elements of nature into the lesson. You could, for instance, use pictures of animals or plants instead of actual numbers, e.g. "Here are ten pictures of different plants. If I take three of them away, how many plants are left?" There are, of course, many creative ways of incorporating the other intelligences into lessons and not only is it fun, but it can also expand our own horizons and help to capitalise on our own strengths as adults and parents.