Professor Howard Gardner, of Harvard University. penned the theory back in the early-mid 1980’s that the traditional notion of intelligence (such as what is captured via IQ tests) is too limited in scope – and that there are, in fact, multiple types of intelligence. For a homeschooler, this can mean that your learners may have all have specific strengths and weaknesses which can be accessible through varied instruction.
Identifying the various intelligence types:
- Visual-spatial: Learners who are intelligent in this area are very good at understanding their environment and how to approach it via spatial reasoning. They respond to activities that allow them to problem solve, organize, or create with their hands.
- Bodily-kinesthetic: Learners who are intelligent in this area are very much in tune with their body, and are prone to athletic and/or dexterous tasks. They respond to activities that require them to move, act, and learn with their hands.
- Musical: Learners who are intelligent in this area generally are, by nature, musicians who understand rhythm and sound better than most. They are known to respond to musical activities, and anything that involves rhythm or creating sound.
- Interpersonal: Learners who are intelligent in this area have an easy time connecting with people and love to help others. They respond to anything that involves working in a group, participating in a discussion, or activities that require them to make connections with people around them.
- Intrapersonal: People who are intelligent in this area are in tune with themselves, are good at setting goals, and keeping themselves on track to accomplish them. They respond to independent and self-driven learning because it allows them to take control of their own progress.
- Linguistic: People who are intelligent in this area are very good with words. They understand the language and how to use it to their advantage. They respond to activities that require them to read, use words creatively, and/or solve word puzzles.
- Logical-mathematical: People who are intelligent in this area are very good at reasoning and calculating things. They respond to activities that require them to work logically, reason things out, and solve puzzles.
Approaches and differentiation when dealing with multiple intelligences:
Here is where you find a point of contention in the educational community. Differentiation is a buzzword educators and advocates love to throw around without actually helping homeschoolers best understand what it actually means. Homeschooling parents can fear differentiation, because they are afraid of the amount of work the idea brings with it. However, differentiation does not have to be scary, especially if you take some simple steps to differentiate how your learners are taught, keeping in mind the need to appeal to those who have different abilities and learning types.
- Get to know your learners: There is no way to vary instruction to your learners if you do not find out information about them. There are a few different ways you can research their learning styles, starting with the most straightforward – asking them. This strategy works better with older learners, and often yields the most honest results. The second way is by giving learners some sort of benchmark assessment early on. Using this strategy can give you a lot of information, but it can also be skewed by apathy, distractions, poor testing abilities, etc. The third way is through observations during learning and related activities. You may have guessed the best course of action is not one of these strategies alone, but rather a combination of all of them. As a homeschooler, it’s important to use everything at your disposal to better understand what works best for your learners.
- Be prepared with a toolkit of teaching strategies: Now that you have a good understanding of how they learn best, you need to be able to access your vast repertoire of instructional strategies in order to facilitate your learners’ needs. These instructional strategies should be very diverse, covering a wide array of styles, including:
- Direct instruction: People like to discount this old school, traditional method of teaching, but it works in the classroom as long as it is not the only strategy that you are using.
- Cooperative learning: Cooperative learning is a very trendy teaching style because it allows students to take responsibility for their learning, and is conducive to a student-centered learning environment.
- Inquiry-based learning: According to many experts, this is one of the most rigorous forms of teaching because it requires students to create their own questions or hypotheses, research, experiment, or explore these questions or hypotheses, then draw conclusions based on their findings. The skills involved in this process are complex, and if you are able to help your students get used to successfully going through this process, you will see huge results.
- Information-processing strategies: These types of lessons ask students to practice and deepen their core skills in order to become better writers, readers, and thinkers. Students are getting the practice they need in the skills that are most important.
- Identification and application of best strategies: You know what your students need in order to succeed and you have a toolkit full of teaching strategies. Now, it is time to put it together and match teaching strategies with your students’ needs.
- Varied learning activities: Here is the part where many homeschoolers slip up. People often think varied or differentiated instruction means you always have your learners either working independently or doing group work with other peers. Sometimes, direct instruction is appropriate. The point of varied and differentiated instruction is balancing different types of instruction throughout the educational cycle. When appropriate, use direct-instruction, and when appropriate, use cooperative learning. The point is to use all types of instruction to appeal to every different kind of learner, and to make the most impact you can.
- Assess and adjust: As we discussed earlier, you need to assess your learners, reflect on your level of instruction and selected approach, then adjust your strategy to better serve your learners.
Homeschool instruction is a growing experience, and you need to constantly question your approach and adjust your strategies (as needed) to become the most effective homeschooling parent you can be!
Jonathan Meola, co-founder and instructor at Open Tent Academy, attended the University of Miami, where he earned his B.A., and returned several years later to earn a graduate certification in Applied Quality Management, while helping to manage executive graduate degree programs for their business and engineering schools. Professionally, Jonathan has worked as a technical consultant, managing enterprise software implementation projects for companies such as AT&T, Boeing, Discovery, Honda, Nestle, and several Federal agencies across the United States, and also worked on projects in Canada, Israel, and Mexico. He also has developed curricula for corporate training, and led sessions as an instructor on many occasions. Today, he resides with Eva in a small town outside of Jerusalem. Jonathan has three children, all of whom were homeschooled at one time or another. In his spare time, he loves traveling, reading, photography, analyzing politics, NCAA college football (Go Canes!), and cinema.