Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Gift of Inventiveness

Inventiveness as a skill is the ability of the child to think on their own.  It is the culmination of other skills in action together.  This skill ranks pretty high as a long term goal for your child.

In short, it means give the child a problem and they figure it out on their own.  This should sound familiar.  It's more popularly called the COGAT.  My version of the skill from the official list is a subheading under #3 Try Again and a dire warning to parents not to answer questions in all.

At age 3, you can try to show kids how to do things, but they naturally figure out things on their own terms.  You just have to wait. I can't think of a good way to teach a 4 year old anything, but I have succeeded in accumulating the right problems for them to think through. Unfortunately, as the child gets older, the material lends itself to parent explanations.  Between 1st and 4th grade, the parent has a duty to tell the child as much as possible. That's an important phase in the classical education. Unfortunately, this usually denigrates to figuring things out on behalf of your child.  Next time you are tempted to answer your child's question, you should wonder if you're teaching them how to not to think.

To resolve the contradiction between the demands of the classical education and the demands of a gifted education, I have decided that it's all Parent Telling in reading until the midway point of 4th grade, but little to no telling in math until pre-algebra.  Then there is a transition period, followed by my retirement as an academic coach right before high school.

The Store of Inventiveness

I don't name names in my articles, but I have to tell this story because a certain child deserves an award. The star is a child from Iraq.  I wouldn't exactly call his family 'refugees', but his parents had to spend the first years of their time in the United States dealing with exams so they could practice medicine again.  I can't imagine what it would be like not being able to work, but that was basically the situation.   What's important for this story is that there probably wasn't a glue gun in the house, with 98.2% certainty.

In our house, on the other hand, my wife carries a glue gun in each holster and wears a bandolier of glue stick refills.  School projects are just target practice for her. In addition, we had to upgrade our craft box to a craft closet to hold all of the material.  This is worse than helping solve the problems. It's solving every conceivable future problem ahead of time.

In Science class last week, the lab involved building hovercraft with motors and propellers.  The propellers kept flying off and breaking.  The lab is equipped with glue guns, and the children made valiant but ultimately counterproductive attempts to solve the problem with something they learned from adults.  The Boy With No Glue Gun simply pushed the propeller on as hard as he could and solved the problem for the other lab teams.  Unencumbered by a pre-determined solution, he looked at the problem on it's own terms and invented the solution.

I'm watching this kid.  I expect big things from him some day.  In the meantime, I'm going back over the last 7 years wondering how many times I gave my child pre-determined solutions.  I'm pretty sure it's just the Glue Gun, but it will be a few more weeks of sleepless nights.

Inventiveness as a skill shows up higher on the skill pyramid.  The base of the pyramid which I've described before sets the stage.  On the other hand, the Gift of Seeing, which I explained a few days ago, shows up at the very bottom of the pyramid, in the middle, and at the top.  I call both of these 'Gifts' not in the sense of gifted and talented, under the normal but ludicrous premise that they just magically show up in children, but in the sense that the parent can impart these gifts eventually by each potential learning experience with the proper perspective.

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