Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Secret Formula for GAT

When this blog began, I had 2 normal kids.   At this point, they generally qualify for the term "Gifted" under standard measure, depending on the season and how they are feeling.

The younger child is slightly more "gifted" because he's benefited from much better training thanks to lessons learned.   I wouldn't consider either child actually "gifted".   This term is reserved for children whose parents applied training from a very early age (such as age zero) and didn't realize that they were doing anything special, and the parent thinks that super high test scores and advanced reading just magically happened.

My father-in-law was a high school English teacher his whole career, with some college teaching thrown in.  My wife comes from a slightly gifted background, and considers our children's ability level to result from her just doing what is normal, which is reading all of the time.  She might have a point, but having a child who can teach himself math that he won't see for 4 more years in school probably doesn't magically happen from reading.   Reading all of the time won't guarantee admission into a GAT program by 1st grade except under unusual circumstances.

At this point, I have a great recipe for GAT.  I didn't follow it perfectly the first 2 times because I was learning and made a lot of mistakes, but here's a brief version of the secret formula:

  1. Pretend like you're a gifted parent that is going to raise gifted children.  Ask yourself what daily life is in these households and behave accordingly.
  2. Since you're probably not a gifted parent, you have a bit more work todo to fake it.   What I did was make curriculum lists, progress charts, and a vocab Word Board.  I hid the curriculum list and progress charts behind a door so as not to freak out the rest of the family, but the refrigerator became the Word Board.
  3. I postponed all sports until the 4th grade.  I've noticed that there is no relationship between giftedness and sports, but for me, I needed the time to do the first 2 items on this list so we cut sports.
  4. Next, I built a daily routine, especially on Saturdays, to accommodate a little At Home Schooling on a daily basis.
  5. Finally, and this is the real secret, I removed all sense of time pressure, caring about correct answers, caring about incorrect answers, caring about our abysmal pace, or caring about anything as we went about our At Home Schooling routine.  The kids created their own pressure because they wanted to finish their work accurately and properly so they could get through the review discussion and move on to whatever it is that they wanted to do which I wouldn't let them do until their finished their workbook work.  The pace took care of itself magically, because, not magically, whatever you work on a little a day you get better at.
The ultimate goal is a child capable of doing great things, like solving the many, many challenging problems that the prior 2 generations have caused or neglected to solve.  At a young age, GAT test prep is perfectly compatible with this goal.  On a continual basis, however, test scores become the enemy of learning.  Perfect grades don't solve problems.   I've got some thinking to do.

When my child asks why I'm taking away the iPad after only 15 minutes of evolving cows or battling some Vainglory team, my response is that, as a parent, I have officially been charged with producing a child who can solve ridiculously hard problems to help the world, and Vainglory is not going to get the job done.

That's the ultimate parent problem.   

In the mean time, haven't I been doing test prep vicariously for 5 years.  Why don't I solve some problem, you ask.  Thanks for asking.  Here's what I have in mind.

As you know, Chicago is full of gang violence, and it is primarily (like 90%) in the African American community.  This community is also characterized by a statistical lack of reading (among other problems like a break down in the family structure, drugs, etc.)  Of course, not the whole African American community in Chicago, just a whopping section on the South Side, and a little pocket about a mile north of me.   My thinking is, what if a few African American mothers, say of 3 year olds, are told about the Secret Formula and sign up for it?  It's got to be highly preferable to business as usual, which for some, is desperation.

Here's the plan:
Step 1:  I set up a crowd funding request for the books I need for 6 kids.   As you know, books are expensive.  I would have paid for this myself 10 years ago, but now college tuition is looming.
Step 2:  I stand on a particular street corner north of me for about 4 hours and sign up 6 parents.  I've researched the selection process a lot, and have come to the conclusion that this is the best way.  I'll explain why later.  In the mean time, you can amuse yourself by picturing me doing this.
Step 3:  I get these kids into a GAT program, primarily by getting the parents to do the work and stay focused.  This is the key to the whole thing.  I don't see any studies that focus on the parents.  Education research in this country stinks in general, but this is the biggest gap.
Step 4:  I figure out how to do this properly and apply for a $100 million MacAthur foundation grant. By "this", I mean getting the parents to sign up and see it through.   Turning children into GAT children is a foregone conclusion.
Step 5:  I get one of our local legislators to pass an ordinance in Chicago that all African American children have to learn to read by 4th grade.  This local legislator lives about 10 houses down from me and doesn't know he's sponsoring a highly controversial ordinance and will be accused of being a racist, but little easy solutions are not going to fix a big messy problem.

After that, I'll rewrite high school math curriculum because Trigonometry and Calculus have been the least relevant math subjects since about 1972.   Of course, this has nothing to do with the other problem, but this will be the last thing I do before I retire my blog.  

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