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Is a Hare Better than a Tortoise,
or Just Moving at a Different Pace?


Discover your child's learning style
Take the Learning Style Survey
at SmarterKids.com

By Linda Dobson - Your Homeschool.com Advisor

All children are not created alike. One flies through math books, easily grasping mathematical concepts and applying them to a page full of problems before her. Another grasps math more slowly, but loves moving, with a ballerina's grace, on a ball field or in a gymnasium. Yet another finds math and movement difficult, preferring, instead, to surround herself with sound; music on recordings, learning and performing with an instrument, singing her questions out loud.

None of these children is necessarily "smarter" than the other. Each illustrates just one of the seven different types of intelligence Harvard University Professor Howard Gardner discusses in Frames of Mind, a book outlining his theory of multiple intelligences. While everyone has his unique blend of all seven, one or a few dominate in individuals.

The seven types of intelligence are:

Unfortunately, schools concentrate on only two areas of intelligence; the linguistic and logical-mathematical. The child mentioned above who tears through math books will likely garner high grades and teacher approval in school. The other two children, equally intelligent in their own way, however, likely find their particular talents useless and unappreciated in the classroom. They won't even bother looking for their
names on the honor roll. And in all too many cases, their particular talents wither and die from lack of use.

Home educated kids, pursuing individual interests, frequently do so while exercising their strong points, or their particular intelligences. And with freedom from a rigid curriculum, they move through their experience at their own pace. That means our example child, the math whiz, can move steadily along, taking his study to heights unknown. He won't be slowed down by a class moving at a rate suitable to tortoises when he is, in fact, a hare.

Our bodily-kinesthetic learner (the one who'd rather be running laps around the track than ciphering) won't be rushed in math class, either! The hare's pace could be too much for this type of learner. At home, he's free to be a math tortoise, taking his time and possibly applying learning alternatives which, for one reason or another, aren't allowed in the classroom. For example, sitting still and trying to memorize the times tables are sheer torture for this fellow. Instead he marches around the room counting rhythmically, clapping once on the multiples of two, then the multiples of three, and so on. It's too much noise for a classroom, but just fine in a living room.

Moving at one's own pace - following our innate tortoise or hare rhythm - greatly contributes to that sense of balance we all need. Adults don't like being told to work at a pace that either bores us or, at the other end of the spectrum, moves success beyond our grasp. Yet we ask this of our children every time we require them to perform according to an externally-dictated timetable that, for many, holds no rhyme or reason.

Doesn't it make sense to embark on the education journey from the best possible starting point, moving not too quickly nor slowly, but at a pace that gives us the best chance for a rewarding trip? Hares and tortoises exist side by side, each perfect in its own way, moving through life at the rate that best suits their survival. Your children can find the pace that best suits them, too, if you but free them to discover it.

How do your children learn best? The answer is as unique as each young mind. That's why we developed a Learning Styles Survey - a short, interactive feature that tells you how your children prefer to learn.

Click to learn about the Learning Style Survey at SmarterKids.com

This article was an excerpt from Linda Dobson's book, "The Art of Education: Reclaiming Your Family, Community and Self"
Copyright 1997 Holt Associates


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