Saturday, March 31, 2018

Step One

I see a strong correlation between what we're doing now at the end of grade school to make gains on the TTWBN and what we did years before simply to gain entry into a special program.

In the this series of articles I'm going to rehash the groundwork and put a bookend on it.  I think reading is the foundation, so I'm starting with reading.

In the last article, I stated that success in education is highly correlated to the level of discussion that takes place in the home.  There are only 3 areas of research that have identified a cause of intelligence (roughly defined as permanent academic skills that manifest themselves in a strong, accelerated academic performance).

The first is summarized in Welcome to Your Child's Brain and concludes that if you maintain an ongoing one way discussion with your infant, your infant will reach age 4 reading at a 6th grade level.  I've see parents do this and it's breathtaking. 

The second area of research is more important because most of us are too busy being a parent to talk.  This line of research concludes the level of vocabulary used in the house will determine you're child'd education potential.  I like this line of research better because it allows for a late start.

The third area of research is presented in The Read Aloud Handbook and states that reading to your child will put them permanently ahead of the crowd.   I like this approach even better because I was never good at having an ongoing discussion with my child because he was always knocking something over, and 'Please refrain from disassembling you're brother's block tower until he has indicates disinterest' didn't seem as appropriate as shouting 'Stop it right NOW!'.  During nightly reading, however, we could have some fairly productive Q & A.  Nightly Read To is good parent training.

What I like best about reading, however, and the reason I put it number one is that many kids get into special programs simply because they do nothing but read.  They struggle mightily with figure matrices, and it takes them extra years to finally get past the test.   But once they do, they generally end up permanently at the top of the academic heap.   Whereas my approach is simply to cheat with lots of logic and problem solving.   Why spend 6 years reading when you can just spend 3 months in thinking and working memory boot camp?  Being the underdog and trouncing readers is quite satisfying.  Then I stepped back and wondered 'What if a child did both?'  Light bulb.

In the introduction to Pre-K Phonics and Conceptual Vocabulary I lay out a reading program that goes way beyond over the top.  It was the most fund* I had with my kids.   I probably only need a few changes to my advice:

  • 'Pre-K' is somewhat misleading because it goes straight through 2nd grade material.
  • No child will ever grasp the difference between 'dew' and 'due', but presenting a fairly advanced and confusing concept at such a young age pays dividends for test prep.  (I should write a whole article on this bullet, but in short a child who knows there is a concept lurking out there that is extraordinarily complicated and thought consuming is on the verge of some serious thinking when faced with cognitive skills workbooks.)
  • You will definitely want science and nonfiction represented in your reading list, but do not show any enthusiasm or push this in any way.  As soon as you hand your child the Magic School Bus and indicated that it is really important to know science, science will become uncool automatically and you may discourage a future scientist.  Same with history.  Try to look at science books nonchalantly.  
*Fund is a typo.  It was supposed to be 'fun'.  But I'm going to leave it as is because I think fund is just as appropriate.  However, reading was a lot of fun.

When we read, I'm more than happy to short circuit the learning process and define words, share background and history, point out logic.   The child will get enough time testing their skills in silent reading and picture books.  As a bonus, eventually you will lack all credibility and merely stating the obvious becomes an exercise in your child pointing out why you are wrong.  But that comes later.  In the meantime, this is the best of all times to make up for the fact that you didn't carry on a lively discussion at ages 2 and 3.

The classical approach to education reserves this time in your child's life, maybe up to 4th grade, for packing their brain with as much information as possible.  Pack it in.  Then jam some more in there.  Reading together will help you do it.  This is a low pressure exercise.  Throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks.  You can do this a little at a time or use a spaghetti cannon like I did.  It's not really about gaining anything but just having fun.


  1. What's your thoughts about how to build a grit? I have a 8 year old and we've been following your curriculum since she was 4. We will most likely start GT this fall thanks to your amazing resources (still one more hurdle to pass with teacher recommendation but test scores are 99%) but I still get whining and complaining from my child and also curling up like a worm every time that we sit down to some work. Lol I think what's lacking is her grit and wondering what's the best way to build the grit at this age, what you need to the successful path in life?

    1. Ha. You didn't say yelling and crying so you're ahead of the game. I spent a lot of time on grit because of this problem. First, the time of day is important and you have to shift to the time that works for the child when they do academic work. This changes each year. Then we took an entire year off (when we could, post GAT entry of course). The entire year off turned out to be 5 months, but whatever. I introduced chores starting with 'hand me that empty garbage bag while I do all of the work' and slowly working my way up to 'vacuum the entire house and clean the kitchen'. Chores are preferred to the math alternative I have waiting. And we also spent a lot of time just doing fun projects. Project and chores are the whole key to grit. I don't think grit comes from academic work until later in life. Grit in academic work shows up soon after chores reach the 10 minute level, and I found chores before math works better than math before chores. 'Vacuum' the whole house took 2 years to get up to, starting in 5th grade, by the way, and the little vacuumer does in in 1/5th the time it takes me. I only say 'do that part over' occasionally without complaining but what I'm thinking is him vacuuming in a lowsy shoddy half way is better than me having to do it, and I'm building grit.