Podcast Interview with Sheila Halasz

Sheila Halasz  has college degrees in Elementary Education and Early Childhood/Special Needs sheilaPreschool, She has master’s classes in curriculum development and a Ministry and Theology Certificate from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, NJ.  She has coauthored 15 books through Group Publishing involving children’s activities as well as four curriculum lines. She has a current column in Children’s Ministry Magazine called Discipline Q and A.  She founded and is currently Director of St. Paul’s Christian Preschool in Crystal Lake, IL.  Sheila has founded a Christian Preschool in Illinois that uses a multiple intelligence curriculum that helps evaluate how smart children are in different areas, and I thought we could learn a little from what she has experienced and how we can use that with all the children we encounter.

Sheila, How do you assess if a child is smart in your school?

Sheila:  My biggest belief is that God has created all children to be loved and valued, and he gives everyone gifts so that we are not like anyone else. These gifts he gives us, is what makes us smart so you we start from day one in knowing all the children are smart. We just have to figure out what areas they are smartest in and what are their weaknesses to work on.

All parents want they children to be smart, and I love that through multiple intelligences we can help parents fall more in love with their children and see the true value in how smart they are.  When we assess our children, we are able to use a multiple intelligence overlay to all their learning areas so that the parents can see where they fall and what they may want to work on.

Mark:  When you say all children are smart, what do you mean? Aren’t some children smarter than others?

Sheila: You have fallen into the common parent trap. We all want our children to be “the smartest”. When we think of smart, we think of it from our 20th century brain.

In the twentieth century we have grown accustomed to associating intelligence with reading, writing and mathematical concepts in school. This is certainly no surprise since our intelligence tests are all fill in the dots dealing with these concepts. However, the real definition of intelligence is the ability to respond successfully to new situations and the capacity to learn from our past experiences— the ability to respond successfully to new situations and the capacity to learn from our past experience.

Let’s all imagine you were driving here today and your car broke down. Who would be the smartest person you could call? Would it be someone with a Ph.D. from a university or a mechanic with a junior high school education? Intelligence depends on the context and the demands that life presents us. It has nothing to do with tests in school. In fact, one study of highly successful professional people indicated that fully a third of them had low IQ scores.

When we look at intelligence at my preschool, we look at children being smart in 8 different ways instead of just the typical two that most public schools value. We look at all the children being smart so there is never one that is smarter than the other just as there is not one that God loves more than the another. There are certainly children gifted in areas more than others, but everyone has some degree of smart in all the areas.

Mark: When you talk about these 8 areas, what areas you are looking at?

Sheila: The first area we look at is the linguistic intelligence. A person who is high in Linguistic intelligence loves words. Memorizing scripture is easy for them. They enjoy tongue twisters, trivia and plays on words. They also like to argue, persuade and entertain through the spoken word. They want to raise their hand and tell you everything that happened to them from the past week. Most teachers are very high in the linguistic area and tend to use this in their teaching.

Then there is our logical/mathmatical people. These are the problem solving types who like to figure out how things work. They are the children that asked why when they were two years old and never stopped asking. They need to question, to inquire, and to apply logic in order to understand. They need to have open-ended thought provoking questions. They also like to have the classroom neat and orderly. They like the predictability of a classroom schedule. They need to see a time line in the class on when things happened in the bible so that they can see where Noah relates to Jonah and Jesus. They don’t want to believe things just because you tell them it’s true. These are the children that in regular school score high in math and problem solving questions.

Our visual people need to see things either in their mind or in their environment. They are the ones struggling right now listening to this podcast with no pictures or color to entertain their thoughts. These children need to express themselves with crayons and markers and have a rom rich with color, texture and interesting areas.

Mark:  Do some of these intelligence come out more at different ages?

Sheila: The logical mathematical people will peak their skills at age 12 as their brain develops.  The next intelligence is most interesting with age. The musical intelligence is the earliest intelligence to emerge. At two years old, you can tell a child who has a real aptitude for music. It doesn’t mean you have to play an instrument. You do hear sounds and beats in different situations though. You remember radio jingles. You remember songs and make up your own. You hum and enjoy listening to the radio as you work. You tap your foot. The next time you are with a group of people and music is played, look around, you will be able to do your own test for who is musically intelligent.

Mark: Is there any intelligence that is harder to have than the others?

Sheila: Bodily Kinesthetic is one of the hardest intelligences to deal with effectively in a twentieth century American classroom. Bodily Kinesthetic people HAVE to move. Someone who squirms in their seat and cannot pay attention to a teacher while she talks seldom gets into the gifted program, yet God sees kinesthetic gifts as very important. Imagine you were in the African jungle and you were about to be attacked by a lion. Would you want a strong young man who was good with a bow and arrow, or would you want your ophthalmologist? It is mainly here in America that we do not see the full value of the bodily kinesthetic intelligence.

Mark: Are any of the intelligences easier to deal with than others?

Sheila: One of the easiest people in the classroom is the Introspective or Intrapersonal child. These people really grow and learn best from time alone, from looking inward. They are very uncomfortable when they have to sit next to a bodily kinesthetic person as he or she makes movements all the time. These children need time for quiet thinking and processing material. They would love it if everyone was sick and they could be the only one in the classroom.

The Interpersonal type is the social butterfly of the room. They love to be around people. They come to school because their friends come to school. They like to interact and get others involved.  Any resource that has partners or small groups doing activities is great for the interpersonal type.

The last recognized intelligence is the Naturalistic intelligence. This person benefits from having a class plant or pet or from having class outside. He or she likes to collect things and classify them. They love finding meaning in natural things.  A fun activity may be to think of two or three qualities of a good friend like being strong and brave.  Mark, what animal would you think of that would be strong and brave?

Mark: When I think of strong and brave, a horse came to my mind.

Sheila: That is just the kind of activity a naturalistic learner would enjoy. when they can tie in their love of nature with the lesson they will always perform better.

Mark:  What is the best type of intelligence to have?

Sheila:  That is one of the most common questions, yet is really a trick question. There is no best intelligence. Almost everyone has bits of all of them. In America we often think of the verbal and logical skills as being the most important, but that is because most of the highest paying jobs here need those skills. God sees all the intelligences as important and gives us all different gifts that he wants us to use for His glory. He also gives us tools to increase our knowledge in different areas if we so chose. God sees everyone as gifted. Moses probably had a stutter yet he led nations. Picasso could never remember the alphabet yet look at how his paintings have touched lives. Beethoven was notoriously clumsy yet we chose to remember only his musical talents. As we celebrate our children’s strengths we are reminded that we too have many gifts to share. We all have different kinds of multiple intelligences just like the verse in 1 Corinthians 12:4-12 that shares we have different types of gifts but the same spirit who distributes them. God has given us intelligences, just as he determines.

There is one intelligence that Howard Gardner is considering adding to his list of intelligences, but one that I already use every day at our school as we look at 9 intelligences. The spiritual intelligence varies in all children. Some children easily accept God and his invisible power, and others can struggle. I have met adults that fall into both of those categories! One of the strongest preschoolers in this spiritual area was a 5 year old in our school who could not write her name or recognize any letters or numbers yet grew closer to God every day. You see her mother was dying of cancer. She came to our school with no knowledge of God yet she soaked every spiritual concept in like no other child in the class. when her mother died, she invited all her class to the funeral. She stood in line with other four and five year olds and shared that was only her mother’s body; her soul was already in heaven. I stood at the casket, and the girl had placed a key chain near her mother’s body. I asked her if her mother would be driving a car in heaven. Without a beat, she said, “well, you will probably see her before I will so you can ask her. “ In a time of grief, she was still able to make me laugh. Now that is Smart!

Mark: You must hear a lot of funny stories with preschoolers.

Sheila: I am privileged to hear funny yet profound things all the time, and I have created a website that is able to take something funny the preschoolers say and then take 2-3 paragraphs to talk in a deeper language ending with 3-4 introspective questions for parents or adults to wrestle with.  My tag line for the website is “Talk to a preschooler and you will find….smiles for your face and food for your mind.” It has been a fun way to show the true value in preschoolers. There is also a spot on the website if anyone has funny things their preschooler has shared, I will try and turn it into  a deeper level devotion. Children really are smart and are willing to teach us each day if we will only take the time to listen.

Sheila’s website that shares wisdom from preschoolers is www.Powerofpreschoolers.com

Contact email: shalasz@yahoo.com

Click Here for the Multiple Intelligence Inventory

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