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The Secret to Helping Your Child Excel in School and in Life

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 child’s 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:

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    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 Gardner’s 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 one’s 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 areas. 

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    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 one’s 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 don’t 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 aren’t addressed by a heavily linguistic or logical-mathematical classroom.

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    So, if your child’s 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?

    Let’s first take a look at how Howard Gardner’s theory would work in a classroom.  Then, we’ll look at how you can use these techniques at home.

    Let’s 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 one’s 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 Dylan’s “Too Much of Nothing? Or John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change”).

    It isn’t 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 child’s school doesn’t 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.

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    The first step is to go to http://www.bgfl.org/bgfl/custom/resources_ftp/client_ftp/ks3/ict/multiple_int/index.htm

    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 it’s important for them to know that everyone has a little of each intelligence so they can mix and match too.

    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 it’s also becoming a world where different “traits” or intelligences are needed.  Let’s help our children understand and feel good about themselves. With these two things in place they will feel confident to use what they’ve got to help make their difference in this world.

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    Last Updated on September 10, 2019

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    Do you know that prioritization is an art? It is an art that will lead you to success in whatever area that matters to you.

    By prioritization, I’m not talking so much about assigning tasks, but deciding which will take chronological priority in your day—figuring out which tasks you’ll do first, and which you’ll leave to last.

    Effective Prioritization

    There are two approaches to “prioritizing” the tasks in your to-do list that I see fairly often:

    Approach #1 Tackling the Biggest Tasks First and Getting Them out of the Way

    The idea is that by tackling them first, you deal with the pressure and anxiety that builds up and prevents you from getting anything done—whether we’re talking about big or small tasks. Leo Babauta is a proponent of this Big Rocks method.[1]

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    Approach #2 Tackling the Tasks You Can Get Done Quickly and Easily, with Minimal Effort

    Proponents of this method believe that by tackling the small fries first, you’ll have less noise distracting you from the periphery of your consciousness.

    If you believe in getting your email read and responded to, making phone calls and getting Google Reader zeroed before you dive into the high-yield work, you’re a proponent of this method. I suppose you could say Getting Things Done (GTD) encourages this sort of method, since the methodology advises followers to tackle tasks that can be completed within two minutes, right there and then.

    Figure out Your Approach for Prioritization

    My own approach is perhaps a mixture of the two.

    I’ll write out my daily task list and draw little priority stars next to the three items I need to get done that day. They don’t need to be big tasks, but nine times out of ten, they are.

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    Smaller tasks are rarely important enough to warrant a star in the first place; I can always get away without even checking my inbox until the next day if I’m swamped, and the people who need to get in touch with me super quickly know how.

    But I’m not recommending my system of prioritization to you. I’m also not saying that mine is better than Leo’s Big Rocks method, and I’m not saying it’s better than the “if it can be done quickly, do it first” method either.

    The thing with prioritization is that knowing when to do what relies very much on you and the way you work. Some people need to get some small work done to find a sense of accomplishment and clarity that allows them to focus on and tackle bigger items. Others need to deal with the big tasks or they’ll get caught up in the busywork of the day and never move on, especially when that Google Reader count just refuses to get zeroed (personally, I recommend the Mark All As Read button—I use it most days!).

    I’m in between, because my own patterns can be all over the place. Some days I will be ready to rip into massive projects at 7AM. Other times I’ll feel the need to zero every inbox I have and clean up the papers on my desk before I can focus on anything serious. I also know that my peak, efficient working time doesn’t come at 11AM or 3PM or some specific time like it does for many people, but I have several peaks divided by a few troughs. I can feel what’s coming on when and try to keep my schedule liquid enough that I can adapt.

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    That’s why I use a starred task list system rather than a scheduled task list. It allows me to trust myself (something that I suppose takes a certain amount of discipline) and achieve peak efficiency by blowing with the winds. If I fight the peaks and troughs, I’ll get less done; but if I do certain kinds of work in each period of the day as they come, I’ll get more done than most others in a similar line of work.

    You may not be able to trust yourself to that extent without falling into the busywork trap. You may not be able to tackle big tasks first thing in the morning without feeling like you’re pushing against an invisible brick wall that won’t budge. You might not be able to deal with small tasks before the big tasks without feeling pangs of guilt and urgency.

    My point is:

    The prioritization systems themselves don’t matter. They’re all pretty good for a group of people, not least of all to the people who espouse them because they use them and find them effective.

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    What matters is that you don’t fall for one set of dogma (and I’m not saying Leo Babauta or David Allen preach these things as dogma, but sometimes their proponents do) until you’ve tried the systems extensively, and found which method of chronological prioritization works for you.

    And if the system you already use works great, then there’s no need to bother trying others—in the world of personal productivity, it’s too easy to mess with something that works and find yourself unable to get back into your former groove.

    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    In truth, this principle applies to all sorts of personal productivity issues, though it’s important to know which issues it applies to.

    If you thought multitasking worked well for you each day and I’d have to contend that you are wrong—multitasking is a universal myth in my books! But if you find yourself prioritizing tasks that never get done, you might need to reconsider which of the above approaches you’re using and change to a system that is more personally effective.

    More About Prioritization & Time Management

    Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com

    Reference

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