Episode summary:

In this fascinating conversation, you’ll discover how to help your child use this time of distance learning as a chance to rekindle their innate passion for learning. You’ll also understand why some kids are having such a hard time with online learning, and what to do about it.

Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of the American Institute for Learning and Human Development, and an award-winning author and speaker who has been an educator for over forty years. Over 1.3 million copies of his books are in print in English on issues related to learning and human development. He is the author of sixteen books, including The Myth of the ADHD Child. He has appeared on several national and international television and radio programs, including NBC’s “The Today Show,” “CBS This Morning,” “CNN,” the “BBC” and “The Voice of America.” https://www.institute4learning.com/
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Things you’ll learn from this episode:

 

  • Why some kids struggle with online learning

  • Using Multiple Intelligences to maximize child’s learning success

  • How to use the internet as a “curiosity machine”

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Rekindle Your Child’s Passion For Learning
Susan Stiffelman and Dr. Thomas Armstrong host a special Master Class exploring multiple intelligences and how to help children keep their natural love of learning

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Transcript:

Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome to the Parenting Without Power Struggles. I’m your host, Susan Stiffelman. I’m a marriage and family therapist, a credentialed teacher and the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles and Parenting with Presence. And I’m really glad that you’re here. So today I want to talk about how to capitalize on our children’s unique learning style with Dr. Thomas Armstrong, who is a wonderful author, speaker, educator. But first I want to let you know about some of the other ways we’re providing support and training to parents. So the best thing to do is visit susanstiffelman.com so you can find out everything that’s going on. You can sign up for our free newsletter and you’ll get all the updates and news about parenting events. One of the things that we’re doing is offering a free weekly virtual support group during COVID-19 and that’s called Better Together Mondays.

Speaker 1:

It’s a great way to connect with other parents and to get some of your questions answered by wonderful co-hosts, including Dr Laura Markham, and Dr Michelle Borba. So you can find that information out at susanstiffelman.com and if you’d like more personal support, more coaching, more help for me along the parenting path that you’re taking, please check out our Parenting Without Power Struggles membership program and we offer a $1 trial if you enter Podcast19 in the coupon code field to give that a test drive all of these programs as well as lots of master classes on topics like homeschooling or helping anxious children thrive or chores or raising screen wise kids. They’re all on the homepage of susanstiffelman.com under help for parents. So let’s get started. Quite a few parents have told me that their kids have had a hard time homeschooling sometimes because they don’t want to sit in front of the computer to do online activities or worksheets.

Speaker 1:

And so I thought it would be helpful if I invited my very wise and wonderful colleague, Dr. Thomas Armstrong, to join me to talk about the different ways that kids learn and how we can reignite their love of learning while school is happening in our living room. Have a listen to our conversation and then I’ll be back to wrap up. So Dr. Thomas Armstrong, thank you so much for joining me for this episode. I’m so glad you’re here. Thanks for having me Susan. So let me share your bio. Quite an impressive one and then we’ll jump into talking about education. Dr. Thomas Armstrong is the executive director of the American Institute for learning and human development and an award winning author and speaker who has been an educator for over 45 years. Dr Armstrong’s given over a thousand keynotes workshop, presentations and lectures on six continents in 29 countries and 44 States in the past 30 years.

Speaker 1:

And over 1.3 million of his books are in print on issues related to learning and human development. And I have quite a few of them on my shelf. I love, I’m just going to mention a few, the myth of the ADHD child, 101 ways to improve your child’s behavior and attention span without drugs, labels or coercion in their own way. Discovering and encouraging your child multiple intelligences, which I talk about so much and I reference your work so often and seven kinds of smart identifying and developing your multiple intelligence. Boy am I glad you’re here because we want to talk about learning particularly in the context of what’s going on these days with kids having been pulled out of the traditional classroom and placed in front of computers. Some kids are loving that and others not so much. What do you want to say about that?

Speaker 2:

Well I think whenever you change a learning environment you get new groups of gifted and disabled kids. And I think the kids who were doing well in the school with computer learning anyway are not having much of a change. Whereas kids that don’t do well in the school environment on computers now that they’re having to do most of their learning that way are having real disadvantage. A lot of kids are people smart and they need to learn by bouncing their ideas off of other people. So they need a social context. They need peer teaching and learning. They need a group discussion. And while some of that can happen if you’re distance learning, I think the, the, the real intimacy of being with people and being able to get immediate feedback, et cetera, is really missing in distance learning. And that’s, that I think is a real disadvantage not just for the kids who are people smart but actually for all kids. Cause learning really happens in many ways in, in social contexts. And we get our ideas and share our ideas and get triggered by people’s comments and so forth that that to me is the biggest gap or the biggest ingredient that’s missing in this new learning environment.

Speaker 1:

You know, you just, the first few sentences out of your mouth, my heart just felt so, I was so touched and so grateful that we get to share some of this with parents because I’m doing a free gathering every Monday called better together Mondays and we have parents around the world joining us and many are saying, my kids don’t want to be in front of the screen. They don’t like it. You know, where you might think some children are relieved not to have to wake up in the morning, get dressed and go to school. Many children actually are missing it desperately. And as you have said, missing that social element. So what’s a parent to do?

Speaker 2:

Well, I think that the parent needs to be that social part of the child’s life as well as their siblings if possible. So that they can talk about what they’re learning. They can ask questions, they can get ideas, you know, just they can also do zoom meetings that connect them up with their peers so that they can share what’s going on and their learning environment. So there are ways of sort of artificially reconstructing the social environment and I think that depending upon the child, that can be helpful. Not necessarily do the whole job, but at least it’ll take part of the social element and put it back in the equation.

Speaker 1:

And we do understand and that’s, those are great suggestions. We understand that many parents are working and they can’t sit with their child while the child is engaged in a class experience or a learning experience online. But that doesn’t mean that later you can’t engage your child with conversation around the topic that was presented. You mentioned people smart. Could you run through briefly the multiple intelligences and familiarize our listeners with that model?

Speaker 2:

Sure. This is a model that was created by Dr. Howard Gardner about 30 years ago. He said that I Q is far too limited a way of looking at a person’s potential. So he suggested that there are at least eight intelligences, distinct intelligences. And they include word smart and number smart, which are the ones that the schools focus the most attention on. But there’s also picture smart body smart, the intelligence that the athlete, the hands on learner the people smart, which we just talked about self smart which is this kind of smart. I think that really the kids who are self smart often do really well with the computer environment. They can work independently. They don’t necessarily need that social interaction. They’ve got a good sense of interdiscipline so that they can they can pace themselves through a learning, you know, program, a personalized learning computer program. And then there’s nature smart, which of course there’s no nature smart in the computer environment. So they’re going to need to supplement that by again, getting out when it’s safe to do so. And if they’ve had, if they have a backyard doing some of their learning in their backyard basically.

Speaker 1:

And will you elaborate on picture smart and I think we might’ve skipped body smart.

Speaker 2:

Sure. Picture smart is really an important one. Cause I had lots of kids in my classroom for learning disabled kids who were picture smart but not as word, smarter numbers, smart picture, smart kids. They think in images, they have good imaginations. They like to draw doodle. They like to play with Lego’s. Now I’m not saying that all kids who are pictures smart do all those things and every child has an element of picture smart in them. But these are visual learners. And they do well by, you know, I think in terms of the computer environment, they will do better with videos, short videos that, you know, teach the topic at hand, like, you know, the sort of arrangement that the Khan Academy has, where lessons are eight minutes long and they can rewatch them as many times as possible.

Speaker 2:

And there’s often diagrams and such. So that’s a picture smart kid. And then the body smart kid is the one who’s often at risk to be identified as learning as a, excuse me, ADHD, because these are kids that need to move in order to learn. They’ve got to touch things in order to learn. They need to build things in order to learn. And if they’re having to just sit in front of a screen you know, and the only movement they’re doing is with their mouse or with their finger. That’s really not enough movement to satisfy them. So they’re, they’re likely to be really hyperactive during a computer distance learning situation. And that that is a problem for them. Or I should say, it’s not their problem. It’s the learning environments problem. Very important distinction. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Right. Because they’re learning the way they’re supposed to be, learning the way that they’re wired to learn. And one of the things I love about this model and one of the reasons I’ve long encouraged parents to take the multiple intelligence test with your family, to take some of the judgment and sting out of the comparison between a child who learns in more conventional ways in their child who learns by moving around or by drawing pictures or by singing. There’s musical intelligence. I think we may have forgotten about that one as well.

Speaker 2:

Right? The music smart child obviously enjoys music, may be a singer in the choir, maybe a player in the band or orchestra, or maybe they just enjoy being rhythmic and making music. And again, there’s very little of that in a traditional schooling and even less of it probably in distance learning. So they need to supplement what they’re getting on online by, for example, if they’re learning about the civil war, they should use some of their time to go on the internet and find songs of the war and be able to perhaps use that as a project, let’s say during distance learning. They’re expected to do a project. And I think project based learning works really well with distance learning because the teacher can give the content and then say, okay you can take this content I’ve given you and do a project on this or that or this piece of content. And then kids can, you know, the music smart kids can gather music that picture smart kids can gather video. The body smart kids can do a hands on demonstration and videotape it and send that in so that, you know, there’s lots of ways of being creative and, and the good thing is that we’ve got a real embarrassment of riches when it comes to computer programs in apps and websites and so forth. So there’s almost anything you can do that will touch upon one or the other. Of the eight intelligences.

Speaker 1:

I love that and I agree that it is in the silver lining of all of this is the possibility that children can explore and use wider ranges of input and learning. One of the things that we’re finding again and again with most of the educators I’ve been in touch with is that they’re quite flexible about not requiring every single worksheet to be completed or every single online assignment there. They’re looking for an overview of learning in a project or in a topic. And so there’s more flexibility right now that parents can avail themselves of by encouraging their children to do some of these sort of offshoot ways of ingesting and absorbing information, which for some children is going to actually turn the volume way up on their excitement about learning and their passion for learning and help them re rethink what it means to them to even study. Because for kids who aren’t conventional learners, when they have to do the same old workbook or you know, fill in the questions at the end of the chapter, they’ve associated or come to associate that with school and education learning and here’s a, an opportunity for parents to help their kids rethink what that means. If you want to add to that.

Speaker 2:

Yes. Well I think one of the silver linings of this situation, the pandemic and so forth is that it has interrupted the kind of test obsessed nature of education. We have been putting too much emphasis over the last 30 years on testing as, as the be end all and be all of whether or not you’re a good learner or not. And in fact I’m I’m understanding that the pandemic is causing educators to rely on a, you know, those kinds of so-called objective tests. And B, as you point out, a little more flexible. And it’s that flexibility that I think really is going to help all kids learn, not just ones who are picture smarter or body smart. And I D I’ve been doing some blogging for, for homeschooling parents on my website and I suggest in there that parents use the computer, use the internet as a curiosity machine because it really is, I mean, it’s amazing when you think of all the things that you can do.

Speaker 2:

You can visit museums around the world, you can visit zoos around the world or aquariums or, and you can learn about all sorts of things. You can ask any question that you have practically except maybe what is the meaning of life, the, well, I think you can get some answers on that as well. Anything, you know, just a simple activity parents can do is, you know, ask the kids what’s something that you really, really would like it to know about and then go to town together as a family searching for information about it and becoming experts at it. I mean, you can, even for the people, smart kids, you can even do email of experts in your field or in the area that you’re interested in and hopefully get some kind of interchange going on in that Avenue.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. Because that brings all of this to life. When you can have a mentor, just have a connection with someone, however brief who’s actually living your dream, who’s actually embodying this interest that you have in a creative way that you might not have considered or thought of. It brings it all to life. And I again, I love that it can rearrange a child’s idea of what it means to be successful or intelligent.

Speaker 2:

Exactly. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Sort of new standards and new criteria,

Speaker 2:

Right? Yeah. Kids who do well in school are, you know, using their school smart intelligence and there are occupations out there for those intelligences. But there are also so many occupations out there that involve, you know, all the other intelligences that, you know, being a photographer, being a forest ranger, an emergency room physician, being a philanthropic volunteer for a philanthropic organization. They’re just, just all kinds of things out there. And the hope is that by cutting the, the direct line between the learner and in school smart intelligence, we can begin to expand in these other areas, even if we don’t call it multiple intelligences. Which is, you know also actually not being used as much in the schools per se as it was say 20 years ago. But even if you’re not using that term, you can still appreciate them. That there are a variety of ways to learn. There are a variety of ways being successful in the world and that your child has one of those ways or more than one of those ways. And this is an opportunity to find out what it is.

Speaker 1:

Beautiful. Well, thank you so much. I, you know, we did a class over the summer, I think it’s called rekindling your child’s passion for learning and that is still on my website. It’s still available. We had tons of ideas that we shared there that parents can take advantage of if they want to go more. But where can they find out more in general about the work that you’re doing and your books and just the repertoire of things you offer?

Speaker 2:

Well, my website is Institute the number for learning.com. That’s www.institute, the number for learning.com Institute for learning.com. And I have a blog on that site. I also have all my books available there. I’ve got articles, a lot of articles that parents can read. And just a lot of other resources as well.

Speaker 1:

Well, thank you. I have long admired you and I remember the first time you joined me on one of my classes or summits, I, I just really felt honored because you have taken such important material and translated in it for parents in a way that makes it so usable and so practical. So thank you for your wonderful work

Speaker 2:

And thank you Susan. I’m honored to have you as a fan and a colleague.

Speaker 1:

Okay, well then it’s a mutual admiration society. I hope you enjoyed that and that you’ve gotten some ideas for how to reawaken your child’s passion for learning during these challenging times. So my tip for the week is this. Take Dr. Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence test as a family. You can find it online and then talk with your kids about what you’ve discovered. It can be a great way to infuse excitement into thinking about how each of your kids and you adults can explore interests that are in sync with your unique talents and gifts. As always, if you’re enjoying these podcast episodes, it would be great if you would leave a quick rating or review or tell a friend about it or all of the above. And if you have a certain topic that you’d like me to address, just email podcast@susanstiffelman.com and again, if you’d like more ongoing personal support, please remember to check out susanstiffelman.com/membership and use coupon code Podcast19 if you want to try our Parenting Without Power Struggles membership program for just a dollar and keep an eye also for Better Together Mondays, which are free virtual gatherings for parents around the world during this time of COVID-19.

Speaker 1:

Then remember, no matter how busy life gets, look for those moments of sweetness and joy. Stay safe, stay home and I’ll see you next time.

 

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