Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Worst Parent Forum In the World

Occasionally I attempt to survey the web in the hopes of finding something intelligent about test prep that isn't a thinly veiled advertisement.  I've had no luck.

I have, however, repeatedly encountered what I consider the worst of the worst of parent forums.  It's called

Here is their take on test prep. Most of the posters seem to feel like cognitive ability is determined at birth and fixed forever, despite no scientific evidence to the support this data view, and a growing body of evidence to the contrary.    The majority feels that test prep is unethical because it would unfairly allow a genetically inferior lower intelligence person into an accelerated program, thereby depriving a genetically superior child of their right to a spot.

Along come those ignorant of this position prepping away like Tiger mom's, disrupting the order of things.

In fairness, I don't see the rancor or pettiness and lack of intelligence on the rest of the blog that I see on the test prep threads.  It seems to be a sound forum for the most part.

They should kick out the test prep posters.  They're giving intelligence a bad name.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Second Child Strikes Back

As you may be aware, I'm hoping to have 2 kids in the same program on the first try (for each), an (almost) unprecedented achievement.

I know a few families with super smart children of parents with multiple advanced degrees who do nothing with their kids but let them get smarter and eventually succeed getting siblings into the same GAT program in later grades.

This year, 2 of my son's classmates now have a sibling starting in the same program on the first try.

I'm going to take full credit for going down to these people's houses and basically chewing them out for not doing enough for child #2, who is obviously smarter than the older brother and has gotten the short end of the stick since they were born.  And by the way, here's some super hard material you can use to catch up so get to work.

Now the pressure is on.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Suzuki Method

I noticed a little book from 1969 called Nurtured By Love by Shinichi Suzuki.   I have heard good and bad things about the Suzuki method, generally bad, and never thought to evaluate this teaching method until I saw it cited in a paper appearing in one of the GAT journals.  (I'm busy catching up on my reading.  I'm through about 1989).

I conclude that the Suzuki method is simple, effective, and applies to any topic of learning.  Here it is in short:
1.  There is no such thing as inborn or inherited talent or ability.  It is all learned.  (This officially makes 2 of us who think this way.)  A skill requires many hours of practice to develop.
2.  The parents play the role as teacher, coach, and practice partner and do most of the work early on.
3.  The curriculum has to be designed properly.

I am surprised to see a writer and teacher in 1969 who debunks the notion that cognitive skill is inherited, and how places the parents in such a prominent role in a child's life.  I blame western psychology for the unfounded and misguided belief that intelligence is inherited.

I think both Suzuki and Kumon have the same general philosophy.   Proper execution requires a patient, loving and wise teacher, and a totally committed parent.  Without these elements, the Suzuki method and Kumon are just torture methods.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Kumon Versus AntiKumon

As I mentioned a year or more ago, I have a carefully crafted approach to math that is dramatically different than Kumon.   A few friends at work a few years ago described Kumon to me, and my general reaction was shock and horror.   As my my children reached the age of math, they were enrolled in AntiKumon.

What Is Kumon?
Kumon is a successful, proven method to improve your child's math grades.   From what I can tell, it also gives them confidence not only in math, but other subjects as well.    This is a Japanese program and it is obsessed with perfection and mastery.  The kid does a lot of worksheets, starting about 2 years behind grade level, and must meet time and accuracy requirements to pass to the next level.  [Note - the school math program in Japan is better than the U.S. and from what I'm told doesn't look at all like Kumon.]  The main benefit of Kumon is that once the child has thoroughly memorized math facts, they make less mistakes, and it's easier to get through more complicated math problems.  Recently, programs like Eye Level and Mathasium extend the Kumon approach a bit into the realm of algorithmic problem solving, but AntiKumon is anti managed math programs of any kind until the US stops training math robots and starts creating thinkers.

What is AnitKumon?
AntiKumon, is a successful but relatively unknown way to improve your child's math grades to the point where you need to start thinking seriously about Cal Tech or MIT.  The child does about 1 to 6 problems a day, starting about 2 years ahead of grade level, has no clue what they are doing, takes 20 to 30 minutes to get it right, after about 4 or 5 tries.  The end result is a child who is accustomed to thinking their way through really challenging material, having patience until they get it, and checking whether they got the right answer because they're never sure the first time.  The main benefit of AntiKumon is that the child becomes a solid thinker with the grit to overcome obstacles in any advanced subject. The side benefit is that they have a tendency to not make mistakes on key tests.

After a year or more of either approach (managed math program or AntiKumon), you're going to end up with success. The question is success in what.

Choosing A Starting Point
If a learning center can take a struggling child who is 1 or 2 years behind, and get them up to grade level in a reasonable amount of time, then I can take a child who is at grade level or above, who is not struggling, and give them math that they will see in 2 years, and there you go.  I don't know why no one thought of this before. Probably because they have a classroom full of kids of varying skill sets and 7 other subjects to teach.

In AntiKumon, the starting point where ever the kid is now plus 2 years.  This means backtracking as needed to a workbook for grade level + 1 when the child comes across a math concept that they skipped and just can't do.

The problem with the starting point is that a child who is past first grade but not yet in 5th grade is going to see some pretty boring, useless math.   What 6 year old needs to do long division?  None.  A bright child will conclude that math is useless, because it is.  So instead we focus on the part of math that is not useless, the part that includes logic, seeing, thinking, making mistakes and trying again.  The part that is going to pay off in a big way in all subjects.

Work Differently
The goal of a drop off math program is to get the school doing a lot of really hard problems at grade level or above quickly and with 100% accuracy.  I've seen the results of this.  The websites for these programs state different goals, but the end result is a little worksheet machine, and not just on routine problems.  I can extend the problem with reasonable twists and complexity, and the little math machines still plow through them.

I don't want a child plowing through anything.  I want the child to accumulate, problem solving skills, grit, logic, and analysis skills, usually in that order.  Take something simple, like 9 + 6.   No part of AntiKumon is going to help the child memorize this math fact.  When the child is in 7th grade, they are going to look at it for a moment, and think '10 + 5' or '6 + 3 + 3'.   I'm not exaggerating.  This is literally what happens.

This is the crux of AntiKumon.  When a child spends 3 years analyzing regrouping and reformulating problems because they've memorized nothing, they will walk into Algebra II and discover a long lost friend.  A child who has done zero thinking for 3 or 4 years because they have been applying memorized math facts and mastered solution algorithms is going to walk into PreAlgebra having spent the last 3 or 4 years not having to use their brains.

This is not to say that an AntiKumon student ever misses anything ever.  They don't.  They just get 100% for completely different reasons.  They are really slow, they usually have to do problems a few times to make sure they got it right.  In other words, they have to think through everything.  They don't get answers incorrect because they are convinced of their own ineptitude and check every time because AntiKumon prefers the student work at a curriculum level where a 50% error rate is common.  Once the child is getting 75% correct on the first try, it's time to move on to something else.

There are three important reasons why I can get away with this.  First of all, the MAP and the COGAT aren't timed usually, especially the MAP.   Secondly, the COGAT isn't measuring whether or not a kid knows their math facts, or even knows math.  They are measuring whether or not the child has the learning skills  necessary to thrive in an accelerated DIY project based learning environment.  Finally, accelerated and gifted programs and standardized tests rarely go beyond grade level +1, and the advanced material on the MAP test isn't that hard.  When you present a child with grade level material and they've been struggling all along with grade level plus 2, it's a nice easy break.

Daily Work
Managed after school math programs provide worksheets to do every night, with comprehensive coverage and repetition on each topic.  The child goes to the center weekly for evaluation and pointers, tips, and direction.  The quality of instruction varies, but it certainly doesn't hurt.

I've tried this approach once.  It works for a while than inevitably produces a child who can't think through progressively more challenging math on his own. The down side is that it makes math seem boring and irrelevant, which it is.  Name a math topic that a grade school child needs.  The really smart ones figure this out.  It's not just that calculators make math facts irrelevant, it's that the switch from an industrial society to the information age make the entirety of math curriculum irrelevant and the smart kids know this.  Problem solving and learning on the spot, however, are critical and pervasive, even in school work, especially in science and literature.

Daily work with AntiKumon is a page in a math book that might have 6 problems or a single challenging word problem.  I am looking for 10 to 15 minutes of figuring out what the question or problem is asking for, or 10 to 15 minutes figuring out a solution strategy.   I expect 3 or 5 tries on either of these learning subsets or maybe 2 to 4 wrong answers on the way to the solution.  The student learns dozens of skills in this type of environment.  AntiKumon has a very specific definition of 'age appropriate'.  It's the exact work that results in a child who is mentally exhausted after about 20 or 25 minutes.   This could be 2 or 3 problems (for younger children) or 1 more complicated topic for an older child.

When the problem is not exactly matched to the skill set, the child hits the wall before the problem is answered.  This is hard to watch with a parent present, because I'm seeing a bunch of sub-skills blooming and the parent is seeing the child falling short of the answer.  For example, the first subskill that emerges is the realization on the part of the child that he has to actually think through the problem and figure it out on his own.  Reaching this point is a major victory with some kids and it's a prerequisite to the next stage of developing solution strategies, instead of just giving up.

Word Problems
The odd thing about Kumon is that their word problem workbooks for grades 4 and above are pretty good.   By 5th grade, Kumon Pre-Algebra books almost qualify as AntiKumon  if you rip out the section in the beginning of the book that provides a step-by-step method of solving every class of problems and thus removes the thinking from the workload.

AnitKumon targets word problems by 1st grade.  Word problems are the opposite of memorizing math facts and tie math to the rest of academic subjects. The word problems have math, but not advanced math, and are buried under a mound of logic and thinking.  The premise is that if the child thinks at the level of a great but tiny mathematician, the math will take care of itself.

Math Concepts
AnitKumon works on fundamentals and leave math concepts for later, whereas managed after school programs focus on math concepts.  I don't ever want anyone to teach my child a math concept.  There is an enormous amount of valuable learning in between that child and the concept, and to take it way is short changing the child.  In order to get there, you may have to back track and use problem solving strategies just to get to a basic understanding.  Of course, you can't do this in a classroom setting.  It only works one-on-one.

Parent Training
I probably need 5 or 6 articles on how to create the proper learning environment to get your child beyond 99.2%.  To summarize - expect nothing, welcome mistakes and do-overs, take a super long time on just a few problems, don't let a problem go by without asking if there's a better way to solve it, and forget checking solutions and keeping score.  In short, be the opposite parent than you would normally be.  It is counter intuitive and not at all average behavior for a parent.  It's not average, it's not above average, and it's not well above average.  It's above that. 

Recommended AntiKumon Curriculum
The only thing that varies with this curriculum is the supplemental material and the amount of backtracking we need to do.  Backtracking happens when your child comes across double digit addition and is barely able to do single digit addition, so you find last last year's book and take time off to catch up.  Because you skipped last year's book.

Just jump in at your child's current age.  There's no better time than that age to catch up.

  • Age 3 is a great time to read to your child.  100% of all of the cognitive skills that your child needs will be present and active between now and the end of phonics during reading.  This will never happen again, not even in math.  By the end of 3, make sure your child can count to 20.  Try some addition but don't over do it.  You don't want to train - ever - or practice so much that your child doesn't have to think.   
  • Age 4 and 0 months the perfect time to try Shape Size Color Count.  I've been told both that this is 3 months too early by some and 3 months too late by others.  My experience is that 4 years 1 month worked for us.  It's an expensive color book, but I've watched 5 year olds who did SSCC shout out answers to questions that their older siblings are doing in the other room.  It's creepy.  Plus, it gets to about the level of the nonverbal side of BTS 2nd and 3rd grade, so you are saving on a stack of books.
  • The second half of Pre K is a good time to do Sylvan's Kindergarten book.  I love this book.  It's the last time math is relevant and fun until about 8th grade.  It's good direction reading and pencil holding practice but more importantly, it's good practice for your child sitting alone doing work without me having constantly badger him.  There's no hurry so take some time to enjoy being young.
  • We usually take half the year off from math at this age to work on cognitive skills, crafts, oragami, puzzles, or anything else that has more math in it that school curriculum will for a long time.  Everyone else who got off to a late start can catch up at this time.  I broke down and bought a first grade math book from Spectrum just to have something to do.
  • Then during Christmas break of K, we start Every Day Math Grade 2.  I've had numerous crisis calls with parents over this one and anyone can email me at for help.  The first page might take 3 weeks.  A few months later, maybe 4 months, the child is actually doing an adequate job of getting 50% on each page, and by 8 or 9 months, we stop because it's not challenging anymore.  The crisis calls with parents generally go like this:  "Help, my child spent 3 weeks on the first page!"  Then I respond, "Of course she did, she's only in K and this is a second grade math book."  "Then why am I doing it?"  And the answer is quite long but I'll summarize.  First of all, because 9 months later your child will be doing a fair job of 2nd grade math and things will never be the same. Second, because at some point the first journal will be complete, every page, every problem, and this lesson is a game changer when your child is holding the finished book.  On the way there, your child is going to pick up rare problem solving skills and grit that kids who are taught math one spoon at a time will never have.  The pace will magically accelerate on it's own.  Be patient.
  • I'm currently trying to close a huge gap in AntiKumon called first grade.  Doing a 3rd grade math book doesn't work and I suspect it might actually hurt.  I've been working on this for about 2 years and I'm almost finished.  Up to now, we've been doing some cognitive skills training or just taking the year off or dabbling in multiplication, factorization and negative numbers.  To be clear, the solution I'm working on does not include multiplication, factorization, and negative numbers because AntiKumon does not teach math, just learning skills.  The child is responsible for learning math on their own.  I don't ever want to see a homework assignment or math test again for the rest of my life.  (I secretly peek in the book bag but I don't want to see a low score.)
  • Ages 8 to 10 is a magic time of brain development and Test Prep Math Level 2 and 3 take advantage of this.  It all started with this math problem from a text book "Johny has 3 apples and Sue has 4.  How many do they have altogether?"  Are you kidding me?  Who's idea was it to design lame boring math that actually makes our children dumber?  The first edition of TPM included 100 word problems and the target was to blow away the COGAT and the MAP test.  The next edition included a quantitative section simply to extra-blow away quantitative sections on tests.  Why not?  Then I started getting a steady stream of requests for help from shape impaired refugees in homes that don't have 100,000 Legos scattered all over their basement and the 3rd edition addresses this with a visual spatial section but this section presents visual spatial problems with a vengence.
Forth grade is a battle between AntiKumon and math facts.  I hate 4th grade.  I told one child that 4th grade is a write off year.  He took me up on it and brought home a D.  His teacher was really mad because his test scores were always very high.  I no longer recommend this.  Anyway, Test Prep Level 4 is an SAT practice book.  AntiKumon is currently accumulating exercises to get from TPM Level 3 to the 7th grade MAP.  The 7th grade MAP test is the big test in our school district, the one that counts for high school enrollment.  It's one thing to get to 99% with a first grader.  It's an entirely different challenge to get there with a teenager.  Or is it?  We'll see.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Well Trained Mind

On one of my twice weekly trips to the library, I thought I would check out a bunch of books for myself.   I stumbled across "The Well Trained Mind", apparently the bible for Home Schooling.   I honestly thought that there would be nothing of interest in it for me, since I'm only spending 10 to 20 minutes a day doing "schooling", and all but 30 pages are lists of topics, books, and curriculum guides.

Nonetheless, I'll take even a small chance on getting a competitive advantage, so I read it. Surprisingly, this is the most important book I've ever read, and the most inspiring.  If I read this 2 years ago, and the authors bothered to put in a chapter about reverse engineering cognitive ability tests, I wouldn't have bothered creating my blog.

Drop what you are doing right now, check this book out of a library, and read the first 30 pages.  If you have any aspirations of being a Gifted Parent, this is the book for you.   Stop reading my lame blog right now and logon to your library web site to put it on hold.

Since I started working with my child, 10 minutes a day, I've come to realize that the true nature of "giftedness" is those 10 minutes a day at an early age, with a parent.  Of course, there's more to it than that (and way more time), but 95% of the kids in this country watch TV or play video games for 2 hours a day, so 10 minutes a day is huge.   The authors of "The Well Trained Mind" make this very clear.  I've never really bought into "giftedness", except for very unusual cases (like 1 in 10,000,000, and certainly not 5% of the students in a school district).   I think of it more like accelerated learning.  After reading this book, I'm now thinking that "giftedness" is really "the education that all kids should receive but 95% of them don't".

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Vocab Wall

This replaces the word wall from a year ago.  10 minutes a day of reading (starting with 3 letter word cards) really adds up.

On the right is the list of 10 words from Vocabulary Workshop, First Grade, Unit 1.   While my younger son many not pick up all of the words, my older son is learning the nuances of definition in this list.  In the bottom right is a picture that distinguishes run, run away, and flee.

I subsequently added a knight to distinguish brave (knight fighting dragon) from bold (Spiderman just swinging at nothing).  We've been adding synonyms as they come up.

The list on the bottom left contains some other lame website's top 150 words used in 4th grade (common core).  This is a reference to motivate us.  I asked older son to randomly check off things he knows, but this is a painful, ineffective process that I tried again.  I'm going to order the rest of the series and start my older son on 3rd grade Vocab Workshop.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Executive Function Overload

Last night we attended the Chicago Children's Theater.  They put on the Whale and the Elephant in collaboration with Redmoon Theater.  Redmoon Theater is known for it's puppets, although most of its performances are for adults.  I once saw Redmoon's Tempest at the Shakespeare theater.  It was eerie, complicated, and many other adjectives.

It's hard to find good children's theater, where the age of the audience is respected.  Chicago Children's Theater is good children's theater.   Combine this with Redmoon and it's over the top.

Theater is in the top 5 of cultivating EF skills.  A certain gifted program in Chicago takes the class to the theater many times in the first year.  For this reason, my 8 year old whispered to me that he was bored until the story picked up.  He came around.

My 4 year old sat silently for 80 straight minutes of intense amazement during this performance.  In addition to a great story and great singing, there were mechanical puppetry things coming out of suitcases, a bicycle contraption turning a big roll of paper with a story on it, and puppet silhouettes on screen.  Afterward, the staff provided a silhouette screen and craft paper.

We woke up this morning and hung a white sheet in front of a bright light.  Then made some silhouette marionettes.  Then acted out various stories with singing and dancing.   This delayed our Saturday morning math and vocab, but it's well worth it.

I forgot about the EF impact of theater.  It might be on the top of the EF list for 4, 5, and 6 year olds.  Tacking on a follow up activity (puppetry, stage building, making costumes or props) doubles the impact.

And, since my blog is devoted to passing a certain exam in a few months, I feel obligated to point out EF Skills = High scores on cognitive ability tests.

Here is our homemade version of the Elephant and the Whale.  Materials include a white sheet, a table lamp with no lampshade, hangers, string, some cardboard or craft paper, and lots of imagination.  I made a little flap so that if you pull the string, the little man's mouth opens.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Vocabulary Workshop

I've found the most awesome workbook for gifted kids.   It's called vocabulary workshop.   Last month I warned you that I was going to try it as a supplement to our off season curriculum.   I struck gold.

As you know from reading Chapter 2 of my partially published free online book, vocabulary is the single biggest factor to academic success, not to mention certain tests.  That is why the SAT has so much vocabulary.   This test is used to predict success in college.

I got the red (first grade) and purple (2nd grade) books.  My son is slightly younger than that, so I don't expect him to pick up and retain everything.  But I expect him to be engaged and have some fun.

The first grade book introduces 10 words per section.  Each section starts with 3 pictures and an online narrator (of voice-over quality) reading a story that uses the 10 words.  The words can be discerned from the picture usually.  Then there are 6 pages of picture based exercises that follow.  We listened to the online narrative, and my son completed the 1st two pages of exercises with less help than usual.  So far so good.  Then I printed the 10 words and posted them on the fridge for my wife.  Lesson 1 was a big hit.  We now know coward, bold, sneaky, stare, grin, and 5 other new words.

The second grade book has less pictures and more exercises.   The text from the online story is printed in the beginning of the chapter.   Plus, for both grades, there are online games.  I hate to go online, but it makes a course so much more appealing to my son when he can do something on the computer.  I don't blame him.

To introduce this course, I bought Lucky Charms and Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries.  I don't think my son ever remembers having sugar cereal in the house.   I did this once for his older brother during hard core test prep.  So this is indeed a big day.

I tested my older son on the second grade version (last unit), and even though he knew most of the words, it was a big help in teaching him to articulate the definitions, and definition subtleties.   Outside of the vocab words, for kids in first onward, most of the content is at the appropriate level, and the kids can complete the work themselves.

These books are the difference between the 90th percentile and the 99.9th percentile on the 2 tests at the end of grade school that really count, not to mention the SAT.   I expect my child to crush the question type that gives us the most trouble (classification) because of this.

For those of you not worried about tests, you should be, but this is still the difference between success in school and success in reading, and the alternative, which is underutilized potential.

Here is my chart for which book to start with.   I think each book can take 12 weeks, but I'm thinking of just one or two books per year.   This year I'm going to do 2, but the next book will be 3 years advanced, so we're going to go slowly.

I bought these on the site.  I am breaking my policy of not promoting a particular publisher, but there is nothing like this on the market.  [I will do a thorough search in the next few weeks and give you alternatives if I find any.]

GradeReading SkillsColor 
PreKFirst Grade LevelRed
KindergartenFirst Grade LevelRed
1st GradeFirst Grade LevelRed
1st Grade2nd Grade LevelRed
1st Grade3rd Grade LevelPurple
2nd GradeGrade LevelPurple
2nd Grade3rd Grade LevelPurple
2ndt Grade4th Grade LevelGreen
3nd GradeGrade Level, 4th grade levelGreen
3rd Grade5th grade levelOrange
4th GradeGrade Level, 5th grade levelOrange
5th GradeGrade Level, 6th grade levelBlue
5th Grade7th Grade levelNext Series

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My PreSchool Test Saga

Back in October, I think we peaked with test prep.   So I rolled the dice and signed up.  Little did I know that 10 days later I would find out the test date was November 8.

Normally, I counsel friends to wait until the end.  I think most people could do a lot more, and the increase in ability during the test prep period offsets the age advantage.  The age advantage is that a 4.25 year old can get fewer questions correct than a 5 year old and end up with a higher score.  But in our case, I think we had done enough.

To be on the safe side, I asked a friend to give Jr. a practice test.  I chose suitably hard material and we went to a large imposing school for practice test day.   We tried to make it a close match to the real thing:  professional, dry, and "grim" in the words of the practice test person.

The outcome was a real shock.  Some questions were answered correctly before the question was read (due to extensive test prep) but he just randomly guessed, without thinking, on many questions.   Oh no, a whole year of test prep down the drain, for want of maturity.

My wife and I tried to determine what went wrong, but in the end decided that a shy, slightly introverted 4 year old who won't talk to strangers just wasn't ready for this type of pressure.

What I didn't mention to his mother is that we spent a week right before this time on how to guess and I think that back fired. So we had a long talk about guessing under the heading "Stop Guessing".  Then I gave him 2nd and 3rd grade practice questions - which I'm sorry to say are way too easy - which he got mostly right by concentrating.

So off we went to the test.

Test day was a Thursday evening.  This was good, because Saturday's are like a zoo.   We spent the last few days not guessing at test questions.

I had to sit there and endure poised, mature, outgoing and very talkative little 4 year old girls.   That's why my older son's class is 65% female.  When the time came for the test, a "test person" showed up looking like a 12 year old baby sitter, who was super friendly.  My son looked white with fear, but braced his tiny jaw and marched off with her.

On their return, I tried to read the facial expressions and body language of the "test person" but couldn't.  By the way, you're not supposed to use the term "the test", but we use it a lot in the house, like other people use the term "the big game".

When he came back, we had the usual conversation.

What was on the test?   "I don't remember."  How can you not remember?  It was only 2 minutes ago.  "I don't remember."

"There was this question that I got wrong.  My brain told me to stop thinking.  I just guessed."   That's not what I wanted to hear.  "There were other hard questions, and I got those wrong too."

Normally, the child should say that he got them all right.  What do they know.

"There were lots of easy questions."

Well, on that day back in November,  I joined a large group of parents who will worry until March.  In the mean time, we can take it easy and just enjoy reading, phonics, language terms like homonyms and onimonipias, and lots of normal math.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Why Are All The GAT Kids The Oldest Child

Many parents have noted that the preponderance of children in the GAT programs are the oldest child, or an only child.  I think that the 2nd child should have a decided advantage.  Why is this not happening?

First, let's look at the advantages that a 2nd child should have.They are exposed to the older siblings vocabulary, reading activites, and play.   Each of these should have a profound affect on development.  Advanced vocab, the earlier the better, will boost IQ and test scores.   The second child sees the first child reading, hears the conversation, picks up words, but most especially, thinks "I can read too" and holds higher internal expectations.   And the more sophisticated play is associated with stronger development and stronger EF skills.

The parent teaches much better.   With the first child, many of us remember sitting down for long periods of time trying to get child number one to tell time.   This was repeated on a variety of topics.  With child #2, parents either don't have the time, don't want to go through the pain again, or just figure the kid will pick it up despite our efforts.  And in many cases, it effortlessly happens.  I think parents become much better teachers by child #2.   Counting up, shapes, reading.  There's far less pressure.

The parent has less time to spend with child #2 doing workbooks.  Less time avaiable for all of those organized activities that involve getting in the car.  Instead of workbooks and driving to T-ball, the kid is left with - hold your breath - unstructured play.   Now exhale.  It's the best teacher of all, especially for GAT.

Next, let's speculate why child #2 is cheated out of a chance.When the 2nd child is in the critical learning zone, let's say in the 2 years leading up to the selective enrollment test, the parents are busy with child #1, who may now be in a GAT program.   Now the parents are faced with 2 hours of project work, science fairs, the 100 day project, the autobiography project.  Where does this leave child #2?

Even worse, child #2 may end up during this time sitting in the back seat while the parent drives child #1 to his daily activity.

Did the parent read as much to child #2 as he did to child #1?   Ideally, child #2 should be exposed to even more stories at a higher level as the parent reads to both children, but in many cases, child #2 doesn't get the repetition (reading the same story over and over until the child has memorized it and the poor parent repeats it in his sleep) because this would really bore child #1.  There are probably numerous differences.

As a completely unqualified GAT consultant with 0 years of experience, I feel an obligation to share a solution to this problem.   Plus, the reason I created this blog to begin with was to chart a course for child #2 so I wouldn't have to drive to 2 different schools, so this is a big concern of mine.

Once child #1 is in the GAT program, your single focus should be child #2.  Make child #2 the "only child".  It's Ok for the older brother to get B's and C's for a few years; after all, it's a GAT program full of braniacs, and he can catch up with assistance later.  Turn in projects that are messy, misspelled, and are obviously done with no parental involvement.   The teacher will appreciate it.

During reading time, read with the second child.  Relegate the first child to the living room couch for his 15 minutes of outloud reading, and situate him near the cat so he'll have an audience.

Drop the activities for child #1.  He has enough to worry about in this program, what with all of the homework that he'll have to do on his own because the parents are doting over his little brother academically.  Besides, he likely has already gone to way more organized actities than his siblings will ever get.  When he's bored, ask him to play with his little brother, but "please engage in some role playing and directed play because that will give your little brother an edge on the test." 

Give the older brother extra worksheets in math to buy some more time to teach counting to his little brother.  Oddly enough, child #1 will probably excel because he'll be the only kid in school who has to start thinking on his own.  By the end of the year, other parents will be asking what your secret is.  "Why does he like school so much and do so well?"

Kidding aside, around Christmas of my older son's first year, I sat him down and told him that my primary objective from this point on is to get 2 kids into the same school.  I asked for help, and made this the family objective.   Any time child #1 helped out, I heaped praise.  "Remember when I promised you a toy after you took that aweful test at IIT?  Well, I'm giving you another toy for helping me prepare your brother."  My son asked, "Is that fair?  Can't you get him a toy too, since he has to take the test?"

Every single parent I know is going to sit child number 2 for that test, repeatedly in many cases.  And the results are in almost every case not the desired outcome.   I thought the second child (or 5th) was supposed to be smarter than the first.   If I had a nickle every time a parent told me that they didn't think a GAT program was right for their 2nd child, I'd have no nickles, because not one of thinks that.

It's time to take action.  Take this parenting quiz:

  1. Do I spend as much one-on-one time with my second child as I did with my first?
  2. Do I read as much to my 2nd child as I did with the first?  Do I reread the stories as much?
  3. If I add up all of the hours of activities I've taken my oldest child to, is this greater than the amount of activities I will be able to drive my other kids to for the rest of their lives?
  4. Does my second child spend more time in the back seat of a car than the first?
  5. Will my first child suffer if he doesn't get straight A's until 4th grade?  Will he cry if he doesn't win the science fair every year?
  6. If I stop helping my 1st child, and he does well anyway, will I feel I failed as a parent?
  7. If my oldest child has the best teacher in the city, do I really need to hover over his academic career?
  8. Is this fair to my second child?