Sunday, January 25, 2015

Chores and Test Scores

My latest project is investigating Chores as the super secret ingredient of academic success.  You may note that I've come up with many Break Through Success Factors like Executive Functioning, Reading (this one deserves a response of "duh"), Playing an Instrument, Sleep, Problem Solving Skills, Cheating and certain types of Test Prep.

I think if I could title my upcoming book, it would be "How To Get Into Stanford Graduate School Without Really Trying".  Unfortunately I've found that "not really trying" is an enormous amount of super hard work.

Playing an Instrument works really great for us at ages 5-7 because I make the kids figure out music notation and music theory on their own.  In later years, it becomes a part of their social well being, and since our practice time is about 2 hours and 40 minutes short of 3 hours, music is not having much of an affect on their brains.  (That sentence was a bit wordy - we only practice 20 minutes a day so a music scholarship seems unlikely.)

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.  Last night I was at dinner with a small group of 4th graders, including my son.  "How is school going?" I casually asked as I pulled out my clipboard and pencil to begin the grilling. Apparently it's going well.  "I'm getting all A's."  "Me too," said the subjects.  My eyes became fiery lazer guns and my eyebrows curved into the Parent "Oh?" look for a glance at my son.  "I'm glad your friends are getting all A's,"  I said as his face melted under my gaze.   He's not getting all A's.  His work is sloppy and illegible and sometimes he give new meaning to the term "Not Trying".

What does this group have that we don't?  They don't sleep as much, have more computer time, have more activities that interfere with studying and academic pursuits.   They do sports, which is a minus.  But I've been thinking about chores for a while.  "Do you do chores at home?" I asked.  "Yes. I clean up after dinner and anything my parents ask me to do."  "I do anything my parents ask, except clean the basement which is too hard."  My kids go downstairs and hide when I ask them to do something.

That it.  The new magic bullet.  When a teacher asks for neat, careful work, one group of kids will comply because they are trained that way at home, and one group of kids will just ignore her because they have determined that it is not a priority.  It's the fault of the parent.  In this case, the parent is me.

Now for the hard question.  Will this have a negative impact on creativity, focus, effort, ownership, and achievement? Insubordination is by definition a requirement for innovation, and creativity does not come from following the rules.  Do I crush my kids gifts in the name of grades?  Or is following the rules required to take innovation and creativity and turn it into a sellable product?

It's time to find out.  Daily chores begin today.  Also I'm upgrading vocabulary and math "home" homework because we've made a lot of progress but it's apparently not enough.

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