Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Secrets of Smart Kids

If you bothered to read my long winded post from last Saturday (Teaching Genius), you'll see a few lists of characteristics or skills that smart kids have.  As a parent, Job One is teaching these skills and reinforcing these characteristics.

I'm really excited about the combined list.  It's a game changer.

I've seen lists of GAT kids before, but it wasn't until recently that I broke it down into the underlying skills and considered all of these as teachable.

I am immediately changing gears on my one hour a day of summer home schooling.

The 9 year old is great at calculating.   If he see's 97 x 4, he'll just multiply.  This is a big mistake, because he's missing out on the skill of rethinking how to solve the problem - a skill that is the focus of math at higher levels.   So I'm having him skip direct calculation problems from now on, and only do the ones like 97 x 4, which can be more easily solved as 100 x 4 = 3 x 4.   I grade him on whether or not he skipped the right problems, and his creativity on the rest.

For the new guy, at age 10, I'm breaking him of the habit of gravitating toward easy work that he's already mastered, of looking for approval every time he does a problem, of not bothering to remember what I just taught him.  This is slow going and involves a lot of frustration and crying.  If he works hard and concentrates, I'm happy and he feels loved.  Other than that, I'm pretty unhappy and he feels unloved.  Per the textbook, growing up he was constantly rewarded for being "smart" and his whole world view was consequently screwed up (or so I theorize).  I remember the other 2 going through something like this, but it took a lot less time at earlier ages.  I should start a Smart Kid Boot Camp and just put the whole South Side through it.

The 5 year old just went through 2 years of test prep where I pretty much did everything right most of the time and is not lacking any skills - yet.  Plus his father is the World's Most Awesome Academic Coach.  But every 3 or 4 years the bar on skills is raised and kids have to step it up, so I have to be diligent.

Once you as a parent get over the hurdles and practice skills building, you might be able to hand your kid a book 3 or 4 years ahead of grade and leave them alone.  When you return, they worked very quickly to make some sense of it.  It's amazing.  Not that they understand any of it, but they try.

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