Allowing your child to think (& learn) outside the box

Pic for 8 Smarts
The following is a guest post written by Cara Thompson of Write Season.

My heart was torn in two when my firstborn cried out in defeat that she couldn’t do her copy work, even saying she was stupid and writing “No” all over the page.

I was stunned. I felt to blame and confused.

We had had a wonderful time learning around the table until that point so I just stayed positive and wrapped up so that she could have relief from this obvious burden.

I had boxed her in and didn’t even know it.

In this journey as a mother, I have found out a lot more about myself than I ever thought possible. And one of those things is that I’m a boxer. No, I am not any sort of athlete. I mean I like things to be nice, snug, and categorized.

Boxed in.

I had built a routine around boxing my kids into their activities before they were even able to walk. Sadly, I carried this right into teaching them, and it had broad negative effects on my firstborn.

All that was until Dr. Kathy Koch from Celebrate Kids taught me how to step out of the box I had put myself in and embrace the smarts my kids were designed with. Her research is inspiring and strikes a true cord deep down inside.

I knew I needed to learn more after hearing her say “your child may struggle with spelling because they are so logic smart, and the English language isn’t logical. Your child is smart in a different way – embrace that!”

Here is a little of what I have learned from her research: Everyone is designed with all eight Intelligences, eight “Smarts.”

We all have different natural strengths with the “smarts” but everyone has all eight and all eight can be awakened in each of us through time and activities.

Taking the time to understand the strengths and potential weaknesses of each will help you to identify them in your kids and yourself too. From there you can grow and engage with these smarts in more intentional and empowering ways.

Allowing your child to think (& learn) outside of the box

The 8 Smarts are:

  • Word Smart: thinking with words. When excited they will talk and write, and have the power to build others up, but when working for harm they criticize, tear others down, manipulate, and have the last word.
  • Logic Smart: thinking with questions. When excited and healthy they will ask more questions, stay teachable, and be a help to answer questions. When used to harm they question authority, ask so many questions that it makes others uncomfortable, and become unteachable.
  • Picture Smart: thinking with the eyes in pictures. When excited they will add to visuals either in the mind or on paper, and with permission can create more beauty in many spatial mediums. When misused they can judge a book by its cover, focus on negative details, and seek unhealthy visual images.
  • Music Smart: thinking in rhythms and melodies. When excited they will make music or sounds, and have the power to calm and bless. If over emphasized they may avoid relationships and prefer music, idolize music, and be harmfully influenced through music.
  • Body Smart: thinking with movement and touch. When excited they will move more, and have power to encourage others by the use of their bodies – chores, sports, hugs, dance, etc. Fidgets are helpful; they give the child a positive outlet for their processing. They need alternatives to physical movement or they will get into trouble by not controlling their bodies.
  • Nature Smart: thinking with patterns. When excited they will remember patterns and categories, and have the ability to naturally and easily compare and contrast, to tune into the environment, and prefer to be outside. But without an outlet for their smarts they may become discouraged and will not thrive with long stretches indoors.
  • People Smart: thinking with people. When excited they will talk more, and can work best with other people by creating, encouraging, and reading body language. When used wrongly they will manipulate others and use body language to get what they want.
  • Self Smart: thinking by reflecting. When excited they will want to spend time alone to reflect and think deeply; choices, physical space, and self-pace will be freeing, and they form strong opinions and firm beliefs. When misused they will trust their own opinions so much that they devalue others and become unteachable.

How did this information translate into seeing my firstborn in a new light?

First I realized that she is very self smart and needs more time to think. She is also extremely nature smart and needs to be affirmed when she stops to notice a pattern in anything.

ckhaisbk02In my effort to encourage her, I was rushing her and brushing off a gift (her ability to compare and contrast) because it wasn’t in the box I was working on.

Dr. Koch’s book How Am I Smart? has made a definite change on how I view my children’s behavior and strengths.

As I learn to give them outlets for what they are gifted in (nature, words, body) and learn to engage more of their smarts at the same time, I have already been blessed to see them thrive in new and creative ways.

How have you learned to embrace your kids’ unique smarts?

About Cara Thompson

Cara loves three creative kids, one man, and One King. She cloth diapers, makes yogurt, home educates, and blogs about life at The Home Learner. She is learning to live with one main goal: be present not perfect.


  1. This is really encouraging, Cara. Thank you for sharing. My firstborn is TOUGH. So tough. My second is so easy to teach I hardly have to do anything, but I’ve often struggled with knowing how to connect with my first. This gives me some great food for thought. Thank you!
    Kari Patterson’s latest post: For everyone with flabby legs…

    • Kari,
      My experience has been the same with birth order and teaching. I’ve noticed that my second born and I have similar “smarts” which make it feel to me like he’s a “natural” at learning. But that’s just because he learns like I do! My daughter (firstborn) has opened my eyes to the beauty of the world around me, and although it’s been a challenge to keep her on task in some disciplines – I believe we are all much better for seeing through her eyes! And this info has helped me understand how to affirm my daughter’s gifts. Now I give her purposeful outlets for her creativity and I choose to value what she values in order to gain trust. She gladly respects me and her academics now. And I love seeing her blossom, the way she was designed to.
      Cara Thompson’s latest post: :: and baby makes 5 ::

  2. What a nice clear way of explain Gardners theory of multiple intelligence. My biggest pet peeve is when kids get boxed in with all those ridiculous cookie cutter crafts that adults seem to think are age appropriate which just squash our kids.

  3. I would love if you would e-mail me. My daughter is 9 and also had a fit this morning over cursive handwriting. I really feel that it is more a discipline issue for me more than her being boxed in, as this is our first year homeschooling. Previously, they were in public school.

    • Allison, I know you entered your email to comment, but I don’t have access to it. If you want to continue a conversation via email send me a line to t.fl.fam {at} gmail {dot} com
      I hope you will continue to come back to often for support. We’re all on this journey of education and discipline together. You can’t have one without the other.
      Cara Thompson’s latest post: :: and baby makes 5 ::

  4. Love Multiple Intelligences theory! First, it was a huge encouragement to me (and my students) when I taught Special Education. I taught so many students who were convinced (and had sometimes been told) that they weren’t smart- but they were! Just in different ways than their classroom work often recognized. Now it is so helpful to me as a parent. Great stuff : )

    • Have you heard of Kathy Koch? I’m not sure how long she’s been around the school and kid scene. Her website and books have a lot of practical insight on how to be the theory into practice. I love the language that she uses in incorporating the smarts into conversations.
      Thanks for commenting, it’s encouraging to hear feedback. I’m new to this theory, and it’s comforting to know it’s been effective for others too.
      Cara Thompson’s latest post: :: and baby makes 5 ::

  5. Love this! I often think about teaching in different ways (as a former teacher) but haven’t been thinking about how my oldest son learns….well at least not in this way yet (he is only 4.5). I have always thought of him as movement smart (my boys are active!) but it makes perfect sense that he is logic smart and often times understands things very quickly when his daddy explains them. All his questions, and I have had people comment on just how many he asks , people with children his age who don’t ask nearly as many questions, and how he asks them, and the answers he expects make sense when I think of them in this context. He learns like his daddy and I am much more visual so it also makes sense why we don’t always connect.

    • “Logic-smart children think with questions and when they’re excited, they as more questions.” — Sounds familiar. 🙂
      One thing I found helpful from Kathy’s information was her wealth of knowledge on what teaching styles and curriculum are geared toward the different smarts. I don’t naturally connect with my oldest’s smarts either, but I’m growing and learning right along with my kids now. I feel like a smarts detective – always on the look out for how my kids are expressing and expanding their gifts.
      Cara Thompson’s latest post: :: and baby makes 5 ::

  6. I would recommend adding to this book another one on Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic learning styles, which adds another mode to how children take in information and character instruction; the book also shows how a child’s least primary learning style can be the one by which they take in negativity and criticism and have it roll around inside unchecked.

  7. Thanks for this. I had come across the 8 intelligences before, but found your ‘positives and negatives’ for each really helpful. I can see myself able to use these to have conversations with family members about how we each learn.
    Alison’s latest post: I am not safe in second-hand bookshops

  8. THANK YOU for this post! This is JUST what I needed to hear today, thank you so much!

  9. hmmm, i think i need to read this book, first to understand myself, and as a resource for as my daughter (who’s only 8 weeks lol) gets older

    • Beth, now is the best time to dig deep into understanding your make up – I know the series on “introverts” really helped me! It’s amazing how complex we all are and yet how we boil down to the same thing too. I wish you the best of love and laughter as you learn your baby girl! What a gift!
      Cara Thompson’s latest post: :: and baby makes 5 ::

  10. Thank you so much for this! I am reposting immediately. We have only been homeschooling for 10 weeks and it is both easier and more difficult than I expected

  11. Hi there -thanks for pointing this out. The cases refer to biscuit packet designs and not biscuit designs. Have made appropriate changes in the title. My apologies for any confusion caused.

  12. HOW ARE THOSE STILL IN STORES!!! I thought theyd sell like hot cakes. kinda like the entourages/south beaches. The 3D kobes are nuts. and the chinas and rices are crazy.

  13. That’s way the bestest answer so far!

  14. I’m very curious how you resolved the copy work issue, seeing her through the lens of her individual smarts. I love the multiple intelligences theory, but I struggle to figure out how to customize school and life to individual strengths and needs.

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