Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Museum Sport

This is my 400th post.   I think a few of these are unpublished, but I'm declaring 400 anyway.

Among all of the dead ends and failed experiments over the last 6 years, I've had a few successes.  Here they are.

GAT Level Kids For the Year That Counts
I think the most important thing I did was determine that IQ and cognitive skills are learned, and I put together a program to teach them leading up to the year my kids had to sit for the cognitive skills exams.  At the time I started this blog, GAT sites all said the same thing - intelligence is inherited and the best thing you can do to prepare for a test is get a good night sleep.   The test prep companies all say that the way to reach the 95% level is to take practice tests.   These tests are too easy and this approach can miss the target.

Since the GAT tests are for the very young, a big part of this program was simply to get a year or two ahead in math, reading and vocabulary.   Unfortunately, without a little effort, it wears off.

Cognitive Skills Count
In the process of trying to out-think the GAT tests, I learned that these tests measure skills that predict academic success and life success and happiness.   These skills are related to problem solving skills, and founded on a surprising list of basic skills and grit.  In the process of helping my kids survive the GAT program that we cheated our way into, I published two math books that teach these skills for the years where I don't think suitable material exists.  These are 2 very critical years.  It's so much easier to help a kid in school by giving him these skills instead of trying to help him do his homework, and much more rewarding in the long run.  So much for the only objective site on the internet that isn't trying to sell you something.   Feel free to read my posts and don't buy my books.

Reading Counts
I spent 3 frustrating years trying to get a reluctant reader to read.   I should have just read the Read-Aloud Handbook, but I didn't discover it until after I succeeded the hard way.   On the other hand, my early reading program turned out to be a big hit and continues to pay dividends.  No where can I find an early reading program spelled out how to do this for ages 3 to 5.  I know lots of kids who got into the GAT program based on the strength of their reading, but most parents just tell me that "my child taught herself to read" and that's not a step-by-step approach that I can use.

Sports Are Overrated
I made a conscious decision early on to avoid sports before age 10.   I wasn't entirely successful avoiding sports, but I don't consider 6 T-Ball games a year much in the way of exercise.   I don't think sports teach any useful skills that a child can't learn elsewhere.  There are no high paying jobs left in the US that need someone good physical condition who has coordination, can learn plays, and takes orders from the coach.  

Instead, we focused our attention on things like Art, Music, Theater, Scouts, and, of course, lots of reading, math, and academics.  As we slowly approach middle school, sports are finding their place.  Until then, I've always been worried that my chubby geeks are going to need some catch up in physical activity, especially the little one.  They're not going to need catch up in school.

And this brings me to one of the innovations that I'm most proud of.  I call it the Museum Sport, and it meets every other week or so 12 months a year at a museum downtown.  I prefer the Museum of Science and Industry and the Field Museum because they require lots of walking.  The Shedd Aquarium was great up until about age 4, and the Planetarium is much more appropriate for older kids with a serious interest in science (or a parent with a serious interest in science).

We show up 5 minutes before open and warm up by buying tickets and standing in line.  At this time, most of the museum goers are young parents with strollers trying to get out of the house.   I'm not sure what their kids will get out of the trip, but I also brought strollers to the museum with the same high hopes.

We spent the last 18 months just running from one exhibit to another.  Before my guys caught on, I'd show them a map and ask what they wanted to see.  Being kids, they would pick something on the opposite side of the museum, and we'd run there.  After a few minutes, I'd ask what they wanted to see next, and being kids, they would get excited about something else.  Repeat until exhausted.

Lately, I've realized just what we have.  When I was growing up, all I had in my small town was a big set of the Encyclopedia Britannica and 2 square miles of woods.   I think I read most of the books and learned quite a bit about nature by being there.  My kids, on the other hand, have the actual thing in front of them that were pictured in the encyclopedia (with buttons to push) and have a scientific catalog of things that I would see in the trees.  A few trips ago, I announced that our new goal is to read a few of the placards and posters in each wing of the museum until, maybe a year or two down the road, we will have read the entire museum.

Those of you in small towns face a different set of challenges and don't have 5 of the world's best museums in your neighborhood.  Instead of being inspired by my solution to my problem, please be inspired by my 5 years of problem solving.

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