Home Schooling Your Child’s Multiple Intelligences
by Carolyn C. McKeon, M.S. Ed.
The author describes Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences and explores home schooling as a way of addressing children's unique abilities.
One of the first questions many home schoolers ask each other is what curriculum they use and why? While there are many well designed and highly recommended ones on the market today, most still follow the same generic outline for all students, a kind of one size fits all curriculum. Howard Gardner (1993) calls it the “uniform view”. “In the uniform school, there is a core curriculum, a set of facts that everybody should know, and very few electives” (Gardner, 1993, p. 6). Along with the uniform school is the uniform assessment of all students using paper and pencil instruments, which yield percentile ranks and stanines for all students nation-wide. However, in 1983, Howard Gardner proposed his Theory of Multiple Intelligences in the now famous book, Frames of Mind. In his book, Gardner (1983) proposed that there were seven, and more recently eight, distinct intelligences that worked succinctly to create a unique person. This idea has radically changed the view of many educators, including myself, and permanently altered the manner in which many children are educated. More recently, this concept of Multiple Intelligences (MI) has erupted in the current phenomenon of home schooling. Howard Gardner in 1993 proposed the “concept of an individual-centered school that takes this multifaceted view of intelligence seriously” (p. 6). Let me propose that home schooling can be the ultimate individual-centered school, which without a doubt takes the multifaceted view of intelligences seriously.
Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences
For years, the Western educational elite considered a high IQ score to be the ultimate indicator of a person’s intellectual abilities. Yet, during those years many defied the norm. The inventor Thomas Edison was known to have had a learning disability, but no one would challenge his intellectual giftedness (Shearer, 1998). However, one psychologist named Howard Gardner became dissatisfied with the concept of a unilateral intelligence and developed a new theory called the Theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI). He believes that society should get away from all kinds of tests and correlations among tests, and look at the whole person and the skills they use to manage their life (Gardner, 1993).
In 1983, Howard Gardner established new guidelines to ascertain whether a talent was actually an intelligence, and thus came up with eight categories of intelligence that can be seen in unique combinations in almost everyone (Campbell, Campbell, & Dickinson, 2004). His research changed the way educators began to look at intelligence and eventually education. They include logical/mathematical, verbal/linguistic, spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intra-personal, and naturalist intelligences (Gardner, 1993). Gardner believed that these eight intelligences transcended culture, ethnicity, and gender, but that each of these influenced how the eight intelligences manifested itself in a particular person (Gardner, 1993).
Next is a brief description of each of Gardner’s eight intelligences as stated by Campbell, Campbell, and Dickinson (2004) in their book, Teaching and Learning through Multiple Intelligences.
1. Verbal/Linguistic intelligence consists of the ability to think in words and to use languages to express and appreciate complex meanings.
2. Logical-mathematical intelligence makes it possible to calculate, quantify, consider propositions and hypotheses, and carry out complex mathematical operations.
3. Spatial intelligence instills the capacity to think in three-dimensional ways as do sailors, pilots, sculptors, painters, and architects. It enables one to perceive external and internal imagery, to recreate, transform, or modify images, to navigate oneself through space, and to produce or decode graphic information.
4.Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence enables one to manipulate objects and fine-tune physical skills.
5. Musical intelligence is evident in individuals who posses a sensitivity to pitch, melody, rhythm, and tone.
6. Interpersonal intelligence is the capacity to understand and interact effectively with others.
7. Intra-personal intelligence refers to the ability to construct an accurate perception of oneself and to use such knowledge in planning and directing one’s life.
8. Naturalist intelligence consists of observing patterns in nature, in identifying and classifying objects, and understanding natural and human-made systems.
Basic Principles of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences
Gardner envisions the ideal school of the future as having two basic principles at its core. First, is that people have unique and varied interests and abilities, and should be allowed to explore them (Gardner, 1993). Secondly, no one person can possibly learn all there is to learn, so people should be given informed choices as part of their educational experiences (Gardner, 1993). Gardner (1993) states,
An individual-centered school would be rich in assessment of individual abilities
and proclivities. It would seek to match individuals not only to curricular areas,
but also particular ways of teaching those subjects. And after the first few grades,
the school would seek to match individuals with the various kinds of life work
options that are available in their culture.
Remarkably, this sounds very similar to what home schooling parents attempt to do every day with their children. The parents of home schoolers attempt to discover the strengths of their students and prepare a curriculum that is helpful in indicating what kinds of experiences their children might profit from being involved in. Yet, they also tend to acknowledge their students’ weaknesses, and try to develop substitute ways of educating or covering an important skill area. In this type of environment, assessment then takes on a completely new meaning.
Up until this point in the western educational system, the two intelligences that had received the plethora of assessment attention were the linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences. With Gardner’s enlightened view of intelligences it would only seem reasonable to begin to try to assess the other six intelligences more directly, in order to reveal the strengths of many over looked students. Gardner proposes the use of several specialists in order to get this done. He calls for an assessment specialist, a student-curriculum broker, and a school-community broker (Gardner, 1993). Furthermore, he suggests that the teachers be left to teach and that there be master teachers, who keeps all this in balance (Gardner, 1993).
I submit that the home schooling parent is all of these and more. Moreover, many of them do look to master home schooling teachers to help them balance their home schooling practices. Many parents also hire more experienced teachers in areas in which they believe they lack expertise. The home schooling phenomenon has emerged as a legitimate alternative to public and private schools simply because parents can align their educational goals for their child with those that Gardner identifies as fundamental in developing the whole child.
The Home Schooling Environment
Many home schooling environments encompass several of the elements that Gardner considers crucial to the development of a child’s full potential. Statistically, parents who home school tend to have more than one child (Houston Jr. & Toma, 2003), and from the very beginning of a child’s induction into a home-schooling family the environment is richly furnished with visual, auditory, and kinesthetic cues about life. In most home schools where there are older children learning, the exposure of the younger child to a wide variety of learning experiences is ultimately unmatched. It is like returning to the one-room schoolhouse where peer tutoring and cross-age tutoring were highly favored (Bowman, 1996). According to Dr. Thomas Armstrong, a well known supporter of Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, the child is exposed to a variety of learning experiences, which tends to be healthier over the long run, and eventually finds his or her niche among the intelligences (Bowman, 1996).
However, it does not end there. Home schoolers use the abundant resources of their communities to enhance their schooling environment. Gardner (1993) explains that while schools attempt to provide some group activities, it is usually not in situation-specific contexts, and that schools are often dissociated from real-world contexts. In contrast, home schoolers tend to have rich situation-specific contexts that involve collaborative, contextualized, and situation-specific thinking, which Gardner (1993) contends are more intellectually stimulating and productive. Even John Dewey expressed concern for the artificial environment of the public school system (Lines, 2000). He explained that it was so isolated from the ordinary circumstances of life that it is the one place in society where it is most difficult to get actual life experience (Lines, 2000). On the other hand, most home schooling children spend time at libraries, museums, factories, nursing homes, churches, or classes offered in the community, which increases their exposure to real-life situations (Lines, 200). More importantly, this kind of environment utilizes unique combinations of students’ multiple intelligences, as they would experience in actual life scenarios.
How Can You Develop a Home Schooling Curriculum Based on MI?
While there are many approaches to home schooling, most of these approaches seem to view education as an interconnected array of subjects related to daily life (Sheehan, 2002). One method in particular, called "Creative Home Schooling," tends to align its thinking with that of an MI enhancing environment. According to author Lisa Rivero: “Creative home schooling is based on principles and an understanding of creative learning, divergent thinking, immersion learning, and self-directed learning” (Rivero, 2002, p. 199). Creative Home Schooling offers parents a way to integrate the best of several home schooling approaches that meet their individual child’s needs. The focus of learning in a creative home school is to allow the child to fulfill his or her human potential rather than to educate for the next purely academic milestone (Rivero, 2002). According to Rivero: “Creative home schooling offers parents a chance to create a truly individualized education based on a firm theoretical foundation unique to their child’s needs” (Rivero, 2002, p. 200). By using the Creative Home Schooling approach, a parent can develop a curriculum based on the needs of his or her child which involves an integration of an MI program.
Campbell, Campbell, and Dickinson (2004) suggest that there are two methods of using the Theory of Multiple Intelligences to develop a curriculum. One is to simply develop lesson plans that use the appropriate MI to cover the content topics. Here the curriculum is already in place, but the teacher uses multi-modal learning strategies to deliver the content. The other idea is more complex, but includes equal development of all the intelligences through a planned MI centered curriculum. Here the curriculum is driven by the intended MI outcomes.
While I have chosen to use Creative Home Schooling to develop my MI curricula for my children, I believe that any method of home schooling can support an MI approach to teaching and learning. The benefits of such an approach will certainly enhance your home school, and tap all your child’s potential abilities.
From the Editor: More information about Lisa Rivero's Creative Home Schooling can be found in a book review in this issue and in this article at HomeSchool Zone.
Bowman, J. (1996, Nov.-Dec.) "An Interview With Dr. Thomas Armstrong." Home Education Magazine. Retrieved on 2/01/2004 at http://www.home-ed-magazine.com/INF/SPCL/spcl_tai.html
Campbell, L., Campbell, B., & Dickinson, D. (2004). Teaching and Learning Through Multiple Intelligences (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice-A Reader. New York, NY: BasicBooks.
"Guest Editor’s Comments: Innovative Programs and Home Schooling to Meet the Needs of Gifted and Talented Students." Roeper Review, 24 (4), 184-185.
Lines, P.M. (2000, Summer). "Homeschooling Comes of Age." Public Interest, 140, 74-85.
Pelullo-Wills, M., & Kindle-Hodson, V. (1999). "Discover Your Child’s Learning Style". The LINK Homeschool Newspaper, 4 (3). Retrieved on 1/31/2004 at
Rivero, L. (2002, Summer). "Progressive Digressions: Home Schooling for Self-Actualization." Roeper Review, 24 (4), 197-202.
Sheehan, M. (2002, Summer). "Dancing with Monica: Personal Perceptions of a Home-School Mom." Roeper Review, 24 (4), 191-196.
Carolyn McKeon is first and foremost the mother to 4 boys ages 9, 6, 5, and 2, and a devoted wife to her husband Brian, who is simultaneously working on
his PhD at Binghamton University in Philosophy of the Mind with a minor in
Medical Ethics. Carolyn earned her B.S. and teaching certificate from SUNY
Cortland in Teaching Speech and Hearing Handicapped Children in 1995. She
graduated with an M.S. as a Reading Specialist from Duquesne University in
1998. She has been home schooling along with her husband, a college
professor, for nearly 5 years. Carolyn is currently a PhD student through
Capella University in their Advanced K-12 Teaching and Learning program.
Carolyn has worked for the Duquesne University Reading Clinic as well as
been a private tutor for several public school children. She and her family
reside in Upstate New York where they are involved in several home schooling
activities as well as supporting single moms at the community college level
with free babysitting while they take time to study for their exams. In her
free time she loves to write poetry and children's stories.|
copyright Carolyn McKeon
Growing Together Family Learning Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 3, page 2