Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Unlocking Gifts

I just re-started my computer after it was doing a strange typing language all of its own. Letters were added or dropped or capitalized so a word would look like: mdasfpafhjtjklath when I meant to write "muffin."

I called Paul at work, a maelstrom raging in my chest, and the phone kept hanging up on me.

At this point, I felt like a character in that terrible movie Maximum Overdrive. In this film, the machines rise up against the hapless humans. It also features an all AC/DC soundtrack. My brother, naturally, loved this film almost as much as he loved Dune and Big Trouble in Little China.

Did I have a point? Ah yes. Me get frustrated quickly. Like caveman.

It made me think about the ways that we are all smart. Howard Gardner, the Multiple Intelligence Guru, talks about not if we are smart, but how we are smart. It makes so much sense to me. I am not a logical, detail-oriented person, so at the first sign of computer issues, I freaked out and called Paul, who calmly said, "Why don't you restart it?"

Oh. Right. Paul is so logical, so patient, and so detail-oriented, which makes him a perfect counterpoint to my big-idea, impulsive, dreamy perspective.

I'll tell Paul, "I would like to go camping this summer." While I am daydreaming about mountain landscapes and fresh, icy-blue lakes,  Paul is doing a cost-analysis of the best tents, referencing Consumer Reports and the comments on

People would suggest that Paul's type of smart is more functional in the world---and yes, that very well may be true---but my kind of smart makes it a world worth living.

Gardner talks about spatial intelligence, which makes me think of my father-in-law, a man who hated school from the first moment and doesn't want me to see his writing. His deeply-instilled fear of evil English teachers and their Red Pens of Doom is no joke. He was taught from a very young age that he was "not smart."

This same man can fix any engine. He can unlock the systems of a motor and instantly understand the intricate dance of the gears. He fashions quick fixes out of wires and gum, and can competently do any mechanical task. I am humbled by his intelligence.

It's early, and I don't want to label my children, but I can tell that both boys learn best by doing. Owen is very logical, and he likes the cause and effect of experimentation. He is visual, and I suspect will do very well in traditional school.

Joel? Yes, he is not even two, but I already suspect that he will require some creative teachers to tap his skills. I don't think he's a verbal kid, in regards to sitting and listening. His learning will be messy, interactive, and relevant.

As a educator, I will have to allow my children to own their education. They need to learn that they are smart, and being smart means finding methods of learning that suit their needs.

Yes, there will be teachers that try to stuff them in boxes, toe the line, and check off the boxes. Part of being smart is learning how to deal with that.

But, at home, as they do their homework, study for tests, and make meaning of the world, it will be their challenge (and mine), to channel their natural intelligences, and let the world unfold like a daffodil.

What do you think? How do your children use their gifts? How do you encourage them? What are your (and their) struggles?


Cheeseboy said...

I teach a First Grade gifted and talented class, which is so ironic because I am neither.

This is my first year teaching this class and my eyes have totally been opened. Each kid has their own unique gifts and they use them in such diverse ways. It's almost magical to watch.

Mel said...

Very interesting post. I bought books for my kids that sound very much like Howard Gardener: 7 kinds of Smart and You're smarter than you think by Thomas Armstrong. My husband and I are both smarter than the average bear, but in completely different kinds of ways, different learner styles, I'm completely visual and he's methodical, and very different patience levels (he has lots, I have none) and it's interesting what a mashup our two kids are of our different kinds of smart. Very fascinating stuff. I wish my kids had teachers as smart and thoughtful as you, and your kids are mighty lucky you're their mom!

Angie Muresan said...

I homeschool both my kids. We tried the traditional schools and they were such a frustrated waste of time and energy that I decided that I could do a better job at teaching my kids myself.
I'm still not sure what type of intelligence I possess. I'm not really good at anything, but okay at everything. Hmm...

clearness said...

"People would suggest that Paul's type of smart is more functional in the world---and yes, that very well may be true---but my kind of smart makes it a world worth living."

(This line could very easily be changed to my husband for Paul and ME for you. So true!)

I love Howard Gardner. He is such a great man and gives me inspiration for each of my kids.

I really don't know where Isabella would fall into his multiple intelligence rankings because she does well in most areas. Maybe not kinetics.

Joey, I'm pretty sure he would fall under creative. He not only walks to the beat of a different drummer, he has a whole new drum that nobody has ever even heard.

Ms. Moon said...

My husband is the one who has educated me on how very narrow the definition of what we call "smart" is. That man can do anything with his hands and figure out complicated spatial things. And he's made some of the soundest business decisions anyone could make and it goes on and on. And yet, because he has what I am sure is a reading disability (not diagnosed because we grew up in the dark ages) he has always felt less intelligent than most.
It heartens me greatly to know that mothers are aware of how differently gifted children can be and that one can encourage the sort of learning each child needs to be the best at what is obviously an inborn ability.

mama-face said...

This seems like a dumb thing to say, but...we think so much alike that it is spooky. I can't think of one darn thing to add.

Coby said...

Shayne and I were JUST talking about this. Baby B is VERY musically inclined - is always drumming SOMETHING, and will come up with beats and rhythms on his drum set that we didn't teach him. He's very artistic. Baby A is a little more logical - likes to line things up and organize things. They're both perfectionists, and if they can't get something "right" right away, they get frustrated. It's a challenge to get them to stick with a difficult task, and it's a challenge for me not to jump in and "fix it" for them. We continually remind them that if they make a mistake or don't get something "perfect" that it's not a big deal.

adrienzgirl said...

Oh geez...Nancy I could go on and on about this subject.

It's interesting to watch the differences in our children. How they learn. Where they excel. Where they struggle and how they approach those challenges and overcome them.

Cat said...

My struggles are with patience and being social. Given that I have a headstrong, very social little boy, I get the feeling I'll be dealing with them a lot. As for him... I'm guessing he'll struggle with patience, just like his mama.

ModernMom said...

FOund you through LOL and love your blog already. I'm your newest follower.
My struggles with my girls (8 and 11) have been more social then academic. How to deal with bullys, finding their own niche in arts and sports etc. Growing up is such an adventure and can be so hard!

Melani said...

Well first I think I am so like you and your hubby is so like mine! Just the way you described how you want to go camping and he is checking into tents and what not!

Second, it must be me....I didn't really think of the way my kids are as "gifts" ....Brandon at 2.5 is very athletic and has no fear. Where Serena is into art and drawing and loves to color. They get this from their Dad, LOL except the coloring part, I love to color too! My oldest son is smart but lacks common sense and this is a huge downfall. My oldest daughter, she is also smart and actually likes school and will go on to college and have a career.

We encourage all our children to do what they like and to do their best no matter what.

We had Serena play soccer one fall season and we learned very quickly that sports is not her thing, yet we still encouraged her to do her best and decided to enroll her into an art class this summer.

Again, great post!

michelle said...

ooooh... don't get me started Nancy!

We just have to let our kids SOAR no matter how hard public school is trying to fit their round pegs in square holes.

or maybe it's the other way around

Bethany said...

great musings.
i love your mix with your husband and your understanding of smart and of your boys.
i have no idea what kind of smart i am. i don't often feel like any kind.
but i'll take your word for it.
i know i make lots of messes and am caveman like in the ay you described.

Marla said...

Nancy ~ It continually freaks me out how much you and Paul are like Bob and me. Scary, I tell you.

We homeschool and I find that Miranda and I are learning from one another, really. We both tend to lean to the creative so it has to be fun or we get bored quickly.