Sunday, July 12, 2015

Summer Update

I've been reading academic papers and building test questions.  Thanks for asking.   I saw a quote in one of the two papers I read tonight.   I'll have to paraphrase because I didn't write down the page number. Vocabulary and Math Problem Solving Ability are the best predictors of success on these tests!

So for anyone following my advice, you're on track.

Also, I've been mentioning reading as the #1 thing to focus on.   The psychology researchers who motivated these tests state that learning vocabulary words and reading teach a person how to think.  I'm paraphrasing, but talking and reading can basically put your kid 2 years ahead before preschool.

Also, there's this great paper by Lohman describing how researchers and practitioners start with this idea that intelligence is fixed and well defined, and little by little in their papers over their lifetime they change their opinions.

Anyway, my steady diet of math and vocabulary workbooks has been derailed by Big Activities.  Big Activities exercise grit (perseverance and resilience), which trumps Cognitive Skills as the biggest predictor of life success.  So if any child comes up with a project they want to do, I put my own agenda on hold.

One of my children likes all things people.  Older kids, younger kids, any kids.  Any class that involves teamwork and brainstorming will be a hit.  We signed him up for theater classes, which he liked because it involves working together, but not because he is committed to acting.  5 years ago, I created a summer math camp on Saturdays for 5 year olds.  It was a huge hit, and I assumed he would be great at math.  It was a huge hit because other kids were involved.  It is safe to say that this one is safe from me ruining his interests because as an introvert, I don't really understand him.

The other one is the opposite.  He doesn't hate people; he just doesn't really need them right now.   At the end of the school year, he wrote, directed, and acted in a play with his buddies in class.   It wasn't better than the plays his friends wrote, but they worked as a team and politics destroyed the effort.   The last week of school he showed up with a complete play and it won by default.

We saw Jurassic World and everyone liked it except for me (worst movie I have ever).  I explained to the kids the role of all the different players involved, from early production, script writing (worst script ever), copyrights and trademarks, marketing ("painting the pig"), and keeping actors from saying nasty things about each other on Twitter between sequels.  I'm trying to make up for all of the talking I was supposed to do but did not when he was 2 years old.

So he said that he would write a book called Dinosaur World.   In between sentence #1 and sentence #5, which is where he is now, he spent a week asking about how to get trademarks since this will be a 10 volume series with movie rights.  He spent hours trying to get past sentence #5 with little luck, since he can't type and at age 6, doesn't have much to say.

Last night his older brother had a friend over.   The little one created a sign called "Book Helpers Registration - Ages 6 to 10" and taped it to a little table we built.  He sat down with pencil and paper behind the table.   I was desperate to find out what would happen.  This was like a sitcom unfolding before my eyes. I yelled for the older boys to come up from the basement.  "What is it?" they asked.  I have no idea but please register so I can find out.  So they registered.

"Book Helpers will help me with ideas about what to put in my book Dinosaur World."  Oh my gosh.   "Really?  Are you kidding?" the older boys protested.   The friend had a better idea.  "I think what we need first is to give you ideas about your book titles.   Maybe it can be Book Title Helpers."

How I envy stereotypical Asian mom's who simply demand that their kids study for medical school.  I don't have a clue what to do with my situation.  Who are these people?  What are they evolving into?

Here are the 10 titles they came up with.

1.  Attack of the Volcano of Frogs
2.  Pink Fluffy Pickles Dancing on your Nose
3.  Attack of the Pink yellow Glasses
4.  The Zombie Nostrils That Came from Above
5.  Monkey-Colored Tissue That Lives in a Pitcher
6.  The Evil Tacos
7.  Attack of the Elephants from Outer Space
8.  The Swirly Toothpaste from Under the Couch
9.  The Bunny from Mordor
10. The Maltesian Birdy


  1. Love the titles they came up with - they're so creative! My daughter's theater camp starts soon and I can't wait to see her performance on Friday. Trying to come up with some other activities for the rest of the summer. Thinking about swimming or dance, and wondering if your boys take swim lessons or you take them to pool regularly or something.

    1. We joined a pool in a extremely wealthy suburb. We show up like the bad news bears and proceed to liven up the place. Then it's off to overnight camp - for 2 straight weeks for the older one. My wife is somewhat desperate about what to do with the younger kid because he's like me - he talks non-stop and just wants to follow her around. Not sure what to do.

  2. Ah..same boat...I have one of those at home and don't know what to do with her...I think you said in your previous post and I agree...summer in the U.S. is way too long, many countries have one month and that's it. haha

  3. struggling with summer math. My little one is not getting this "more than" and "fewer than" question, A has 7 coins, B has 4 fewer than A, how many coins A and B had altogether? Concluded today's homework by screaming for an hour. Any advice?

    1. If this is a boy, feed him a snack immediately. If that doesn't work, then have the kid rewrite the problem in terms he or she is more comfortable with, something that is high stakes, preferably with a bowl full of skittles. As a math coach, I've learned to spend a whole week on single question if that's what it takes. Once you succeed, you've both learned something valuable.

      My little one was crying that he wants to take the whole summer off from math. He is editing the math workbook I'm writing, called Convoluted Math From Hell.