When she was a preschooler, my daughter Erin spent most of her day in motion. From the time her feet hit the floor until the moment her eyes closed she was dancing. Her days were spent organizing costumes, creating props and planning shows, all for the sole purpose of dance.
Our house was filled not only with the sounds of Raffi and Fred Penner, but also with the pulsing beats of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. Neighborhood children were drafted to play supporting roles, visiting cousins were quickly worked into the script, and Erin's younger sister was occasionally given the coveted role of tambourine shaker. There were many moments as I searched for essential props and helped with the casting calls that I felt like I had been transported into a Judy Garland/Andy Rooney movie. You know the kind. "Hey I've got an idea! Let's put on a show." Only this time the producer, director and star was a four-year-old girl. Movement, and everything associated with it, was what inspired Erin to learn about the world.
Most parents know that no two children develop at the same rate, each one setting his or her own pace with varied strengths and interests. When I looked at my friend's children and my second-born daughter, it became very clear that Erin's interests were different from theirs. Was she showing a unique and preferred pattern of learning at such a young age?
Research into the "hows" and "whys" of learning have expanded our understanding of individual learning styles and helped us tune into our children's unique strengths and needs. In his 1983 book, Frames of Mind, Harvard Professor Howard Gardner described his theory of Multiple Intelligences and expanded what had earlier been known about intelligence and learning. He suggested that previously-held notions of intelligence, including traditional IQ tests, were simply too limited. He proposed eight different kinds of intelligence: Linguistic Intelligence, Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Spatial Intelligence, Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence, Musical Intelligence, Interpersonal Intelligence, Intrapersonal Intelligence and, more recently, Naturalist Intelligence.
Gardner's work helped the education community, including parents, to understand that "we are not all the same, we do not all have the same kinds of minds, and education works most effectively for most individuals if . . . human differences are taken seriously."