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Multiple Intelligences Homeschool Method

What is Multiple Intelligence and How Can You Use the Multiple Intelligences Method at Home?

Multiple Intelligences
By Mindy Scirri, Ph.D.

Looking for a way to increase engagement in your homeschool while also boosting your child’s self-confidence? A homeschool based on Multiple Intelligences may be just what you need. Find out about this unique method of homeschooling, so you can determine whether a Multiple Intelligences approach is a good fit for your homeschool:

What is Multiple Intelligence?

Types of Intelligence Pros and Cons of a Multiple Intelligences Homeschool
Tips for Providing an Education Using the Multiple Intelligences Support for Families Using the Multiple Intelligences Method at Home

Resources for Your Multiple Intelligences Homeschool

*This post contains affiliate links. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission. Although many of the resources listed here are free, those marked with a $ have a cost or require a fee/subscription in order to access the full range of materials.


What is Multiple Intelligence?

Before the publication of his famous work in 1983, a man named Howard Gardner determined that intelligence may not be a unitary construct. Based on his research, he created what is called Multiple Intelligence Theory—the notion that we are not just “smart” or “not smart” but that we are smart in a variety of ways. Those ways are known as the Multiple Intelligences, and they allow children who have strengths in areas outside of typical school subjects to also feel smart. Unlike “learning styles,” which may put children in boxes as a type of learner, Multiple Intelligence Theory offers each child a profile of strengths (with some strengths stronger than others). Just knowing their Multiple Intelligence profiles can sometimes lead to enhanced self-concept.

Using the Multiple Intelligences method in your homeschool simply means that you understand your child’s Multiple Intelligences (and your own as the teacher), and you look at instruction through the lens of these intelligences. This does not mean that you must address all the Multiple Intelligences in every lesson or activity, but it does mean that you will offer instruction that varies the way information is presented, processed, and demonstrated. If you are an eclectic homeschooler, you will find that the Multiple Intelligences method can be used in combination with other approaches, too. Here are a few resources for you to discover more about Howard Gardner and his Multiple Intelligence Theory:

Thomas Armstrong, an understudy of Howard Gardner, wrote the following to make the research more user-friendly for educators….

7 Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Multiple Intelligences $
By Thomas Armstrong (Author)
“Based on psychologist Howard Gardner‘s pioneering theory of “multiple intelligences,” the original edition of 7 Kinds of Smart identified seven distinct ways of being smart, including “word smart,” “music smart,” “logic smart,” and “people smart.” Now, with the addition of two new kinds of smart–“naturalist” and “existential”–7 Kinds of Smart offers even more interesting information about how the human psyche functions. Complete with checklists for determining one’s strongest and weakest intelligences, exercises, practical tips for developing each type of smart, a revised bibliography for further reading, and a guide to related Internet sites, this book continues to be an essential resource, offering cutting-edge research for general consumption.”

If you want to read about the research and theory from the originator of Multiple Intelligence Theory, you will want to explore one of these….

Frames of Mind $
By Howard E. Gardner (Author)
“The book that revolutionized our understanding of human intelligence. Howard Gardner‘s theory of multiple intelligences has been hailed by educators for decades and applied in hundreds of schools worldwide. In Frames of Mind, Gardner challenges the widely held notion that intelligence is a single general capacity possessed by every individual to a greater or lesser extent. Amassing a wealth of evidence, Gardner posits the existence of eight different intelligences, each as important as the next, that comprise a unique cognitive profile for each person. In this updated edition, the author reflects on thirty years of work on Multiple Intelligences theory and practice.”

MI Theory | Website of Howard Gardner
“Here you will find information about Howard, his latest research and publications, his collection of blogs, and contact information.”

Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice $
By Howard E. Gardner (Author) $
“The most complete account of the theory and application of Multiple Intelligences available anywhere. Howard Gardner‘s brilliant conception of individual competence, known as Multiple Intelligences theory, has changed the face of education. Tens of thousands of educators, parents, and researchers have explored the practical implications and applications of this powerful notion, that there is not one type of intelligence but several, ranging from musical intelligence to the intelligence involved in self-understanding.”


Types of Intelligence

If you want to incorporate Multiple Intelligences in your homeschool, you will first need to understand the various intelligences that are part of the theory. Incorporating both Thomas Armstrong’s simplified terms for kids and Howard Gardner’s original terms (in parentheses), as well as Howard Gardner’s own descriptions of the components of MI, below is a summary of the eight main intelligences:

  • Word Smart (Verbal-linguistic Intelligence): “Sensitivity to the meaning of words, the order among words, and the sound, rhythms, inflections, and meter of words (e.g., poet). (Sometimes called language intelligence.)”
  • Number Smart (Logical-mathematical Intelligence): “The capacity to conceptualize the logical relations among actions or symbols (e.g., mathematicians, scientists).”
  • Picture Smart (Visual-spatial Intelligence): “The ability to conceptualize and manipulate large-scale spatial arrays (e.g., airplane pilot, sailor), or more local forms of space (e.g., architect, chess player).”
  • Body Smart (Bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence): “The ability to use one’s whole body, or parts of the body (like the hands or the mouth), to solve problems or create products (e.g., dancer).”
  • Music Smart (Musical-rhythmic Intelligence): “Sensitivity to rhythm, pitch, meter, tone, melody, and timbre. May entail the ability to sing, play musical instruments, and/or compose music (e.g., musical conductor).”
  • People Smart (Interpersonal Intelligence): “The ability to interact effectively with others. Sensitivity to others’ moods, feelings, temperaments, and motivations (e.g., negotiator). (Sometimes called social intelligence.)”
  • Self Smart (Intrapersonal Intelligence): “Sensitivity to one’s own feelings, goals, and anxieties, and the capacity to plan and act in light of one’s own traits. Intrapersonal intelligence is not particular to specific careers; rather, it is a goal for every individual in a complex modern society, where one has to make consequential decisions for oneself.”
  • Nature Smart (Naturalist Intelligence): “The ability to make consequential distinctions in the world of nature as, for example, between one plant and another, or one cloud formation and another (e.g., taxonomist).”

Howard Gardner also worked on other types of intelligence, such as the Existentialist Intelligence (sometimes called “Life Smart”), which is the capacity to ask big questions about existence, the universe, and spirituality; however, these may not always be listed in discussions about the different types of intelligence that can be used for instructional purposes. You decide!


Pros and Cons of a Multiple Intelligences Homeschool

In your Multiple Intelligences homeschool, you will see a number of benefits. You and your child will learn how your child learns and will have a language for talking about it. By understanding the full extent of your child’s strengths, you will be better able to individualize instruction, and your child will develop greater confidence. As you incorporate more of the Multiple Intelligences in your teaching, you will naturally be increasing both engagement, as your child gets to experience a variety of approaches to learning, and memory, as your child is able to make multiple associations and connections to material. Finally, you and your child will be better equipped to make decisions about what strategies are likely to work to overcome any challenges.

There may be a few cons to the Multiple Intelligences approach to homeschooling, but the main one is the possibility of you feeling overwhelmed. You may think that you need to incorporate all eight intelligences in every lesson. You don’t! Start by adding one or two Multiple Intelligences in one lesson and build from there. Also, you may find that teaching using one or more of the Multiple Intelligences is more difficult for you because these are not your strengths. Use your homeschooling network and online resources and remember that your child is a bit of an “expert” in those Multiple Intelligences that are strengths for your child. Ask your child to share some expertise and, in addition to helping you plan, see what that does for your child’s self-confidence!


Multiple Intelligences


Tips for Providing an Education Using the Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory has been around since 1983, so that means that classroom teachers and homeschoolers have been using this approach for years. That translates to a lot of knowledge and advice that you can access. Here are just a few tips and ideas that can help to make the Multiple Intelligences method a success in your homeschool:

  • Find Out Your Child’s Profile: There are many informal assessments you can use, including your own observation, to help your child discover the best ways of learning. Use the Multiple Intelligences language so that your child can explain strengths and be sure to know your own profile so that you are aware how your teaching style interacts with your child’s learning profile. Be careful not to pigeon-hole your child into a particular “learning style” based on Multiple Intelligences. Instead, present material in a variety of ways with your child’s strengths in mind but pushing your child to develop all the intelligences.
  • Start Slowly: Choose a few activities or lessons to modify using the Multiple Intelligences. Do not put too much pressure on yourself to modify all things homeschool right away.
  • Use Your Resources: Ask people you know who have strengths in areas you don’t and rely on your child to help with ideas. Find people in your local homeschooling network who may be using the Multiple Intelligences method and do a little research.
  • Incorporate the Environment: All modifications do not have to be instructional. Sometimes just arranging the environment can add to the options. For example, having art supplies readily available (and being open to artistic demonstrations of knowledge) can add opportunities for learning and assessment using the Picture Smart, or visual-spatial, intelligence.
  • Try Stations: If you are trying to provide your child with opportunities for independent work, especially if you have more than one child you are teaching, consider designing stations based on the Multiple Intelligences. You may, for instance, have your child continue learning about local bird species through the following stations:
    • Word Smart: Write a paragraph comparing and contrasting two local bird species.
    • Number Smart: Make a chart of the population numbers of various bird species in the area.
    • Picture Smart: Draw or paint one or more birds that are local to your area.
    • Body Smart: Build a model of a local bird using Legos or pipe cleaners.
    • Music Smart: Find or write a song about a local bird and perform it for the family using a homemade shaker made of birdseed.
    • People Smart: Have a conversation about local birds.
    • Self Smart: Have your child determine a way to support conservation of the local bird population.
    • Nature Smart: All activities on this topic will support the Naturalist Intelligence, so that one’s easy!
  • Find Multi-Intelligence Activities: Rather than design instruction with one main Multiple Intelligence for each activity, try to find activities that capture more than one simultaneously. For example, taking a nature walk or going to a bird sanctuary would each incorporate several Multiple Intelligences.
  • Consider Using Multiple Intelligences along with the Unit Study Method: Because unit studies focus on a given topic for a period of time and often include a variety of lessons and activities, they are a good fit for incorporating the Multiple Intelligences. Check out our free bird unit study for ideas!
  • Have Fun: Remember that while learning doesn’t have to be fun, it doesn’t hurt if it is. Don’t feel guilty if your child is enjoying learning too much!


Support for Families Using the Multiple Intelligences Method at Home

Because Multiple Intelligences Theory is so effective, homeschoolers have latched onto this method. As a new MI homeschooler, you can find a lot of support from other homeschoolers and homeschool organizations who appreciate the many benefits of a Multiple Intelligence homeschool. Find more information from those who are already doing it here:

The Bigger Picture of Multiple Intelligences | Home/School/Life
“Sometimes people think that when they discover their child is strongest in one area, it’s best to focus only on learning via that method. The thing is that all people are capable of learning using all the intelligence modalities. In fact, it’s best if we can teach using as many of those modalities as possible. When we’re using methods that appeal to many of Gardner’s intelligences, we’re taking a multi-sensory approach.”

How Multiple Intelligences Shape Learning | verywellfamily
Discover more about the Multiple Intelligences and how parents can use them at home. “While a child may absorb information better through one approach at one point in time, that same child may learn something else better through another approach. Labeling children as having just one learning style is inaccurate and limiting. A much better way to understand the individuality of how kids learn is to apply the concept of ‘multiple intelligences.’”

How to Develop a Homeschooling Curriculum Based on Multiple Intelligence? | Learning Links Academy
“Today’s homeschoolers are getting more mileage from customized learning that aims to draw out their dominant intelligences. Thanks to Howard Gardner and his Theory of Multiple Intelligences, educators are now turning away from the general or uniform curricula for students which tend to measure their intelligences according to stanines.”

How to Use the Multiple Intelligences Method to Homeschool | Homeschool.com
“The theory of Multiple Intelligence views each child as intelligent in their own way. Many homeschoolers use this theory as a foundation for learning within their homeschool. Read on for more information.”

How Understanding Multiple Intelligences Transformed My Homeschool | Homeschooling Dyslexia
“I am very left brained and linear but I’m also a mother. And it didn’t take long for me to realize that my teaching methods, my ideals and ideas of what education was – of what intelligence was – were hurting my kids and needed to be re-examined. A big part of the reason that this website exists is due to my determination to figure out why my own children who are very bright and capable struggled to learn. This is when I learned about Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences. If you are struggling to understand your child who just isn’t learning like other kids – your world may be transformed by this information as well.”

What Type of Learner? Multiple Intelligences | Home Educators Resource Directory
Find out more about Multiple Intelligences and the eight intelligences and access a free Multiple Intelligences test.


Resources for Your Multiple Intelligences Homeschool

Taking the plunge into a Multiple Intelligences homeschool doesn’t have to be scary. You just need resources. Below are some places to look for materials and ideas to provide an education using the Multiple Intelligences:

101 Learning Activities to Stretch and Strengthen Your Child’s Multiple Intelligences $
By Jen Lilienstein (Author)
“When kids are given opportunities to explore the intelligences that they are passionate about, they start to reveal ALL the ways they are smart and realize that learning in and of itself can be fun, exciting, and engaging. In line with Kidzmet’s core mission, this multiple intelligence-based book has been developed to give parents ideas of how to flex their child’s mind muscles in enjoyable ways–ways that celebrate and embrace the whole child instead of just a small piece of his or her potential.”

Homeschooling 101—Create Learning Strategies for Any Subject | American Institute for Learning and Human Development
Brainstorm strategies for using the different Multiple Intelligences in your lessons using a mapping tool and see an example of a map for learning about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MI Strategy Bank $
By Ellen Arnold (Author)
“Starting with a diagnostic interview for each child that helps teachers develop the best instructional methods for their
classrooms, this guide provides hundreds of specific teaching methods that strengthen each of the eight intelligences in any classroom situation. Case studies from actual strength-based assessments (one for each of the eight intelligences) outline examples for how these strategies can be applied at any grade level to improve such skills as reading, writing, spelling, math, note taking, and listening, as well as to minimize behavior problems. In this updated edition, 50 specific strength-based interventions that range from vocabulary retention and reading comprehension to self-discipline and task completion show how each of the eight intelligences can be utilized in the teaching of a single lesson. A selection of grade-specific content includes using MI theory to teach story writing, singing, and democracy.

Multiple Intelligences (Pinterest) | Collection by Homeschooling with Dyslexia
Explore over 60 pins related to Multiple Intelligence Theory and activities for use in your Multiple Intelligence homeschool.

You’re Smarter Than You Think: A Kid’s Guide to Multiple Intelligences $
By Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. (Author)
Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences has revolutionized the way we think about being smart. Written by an award-winning expert on the topic, this book introduces the theory, explains the different types of intelligences (like Word Smart, Self Smart, Body Smart), and helps kids identify their own learning strengths and use their special skills at school, at home, and in life. As kids read the book, they stop asking “How smart am I?” and start asking “How am I smart?” This powerful learning tool is recommended for all kids—and all adults committed to helping young people do and be their best. Resources describe related books, software, games, and organizations. This revised and updated edition includes information on a newly researched ninth intelligence, Life Smart—thinking about and asking questions about life, the universe, and spirituality.”


Do you use the Multiple Intelligences method of homeschooling? Please share your experiences and resources in the comments below….

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