How Parents Can Create Academic Monsters
A young junior in college discovered during a lucrative internship in her major of environmental engineering that medicine was what she really wanted to study. She wanted to see the results of her labor directly. And she explained, she wanted a job where she could always be learning. Ahhh! An academic monster! Here is how to create your very own:
BEFORE YOUR FIRST CHILD IS BORN, CHOOSE TO LIVE IN A ZONE WITH GOOD SCHOOLS. Most good schools are not in impoverished areas. Survival, nourishment and safety are serious issues students in impoverished neighborhoods have to contend with. These overshadow any academic concerns. Parents in more affluent neighborhoods are more economically equipped to insure their children’s survival, nourishment and safety. Learning is more eagerly tackled by students in better neighborhoods because these distractors do not exist. Rent if you have to. The rewards to your children are profound.
READ TO YOUR CHILDREN FROM BIRTH ONWARD. As they learn to read, let them read to you. Create a deliberate reading routine that works for you. Make it cozy to make it enticing. Supply your children with lots of books, either through purchase or through your school or local library.
PLAY WITH WORDS ON THE COMPUTER. Kids love to feel like they are doing what adults do. Give your children some supervised computer time making word families (words that have the same endings like bat, cat, pat, rat and sat). Teach children how to sound them out and then say the word quickly. Have your children learn the spellings of the names of those close to them. This gives them the confidence to sound out new words once in school.
PUZZLES, PUZZLES AND MORE PUZZLES. Puzzles give practice in spatial recognition when children have to decide where a feature of a puzzle piece is to be placed in relation to the rest of the puzzle. Skill in space orientation is built as well when a child has to decide whether a puzzle piece is to be rotated. Math vocabulary is enhanced when children talk about a color filling most of or a little of a piece. Children can count and sort the pieces in their puzzle.
EMBELLISH YOUR CHILDREN’S CURIOSITIES. If a child is interested in zoo animals, take him or her to the zoo or get a book on zoo animals. If he or she wants to know how a cake is formed by that liquefied mixture you have in your mixing bowl, bake together. If your children love dance or tae kwan do, enroll them in a class. If they love a particular Disney story, shower them with that story’s books, coloring books, toys, lunch boxes and clothes. If they are interested in trying a craft, try it together.
CHECK HOMEWORK FOR ACCURACY AND COMPLETION. This is a subtle way to let your children know that school is important. You can compliment them on any evidence of a skill mastered. This makes your children feel appreciated in your eyes. You can also see concepts your children may need help in. Take advantage of working them out with your children. This also lets your children know their success is important to you.
SIGN ALL PERMISSION SLIPS AND SCHOOL NOTICES IMMEDIATELY. This is another subtle way of letting your children know they matter and that their participation in school activities is a priority.
ATTEND SCHOOL FUNCTIONS, EXHIBITS, RECITALS, MEETS AND PRACTICES. Depending on your line of work, it may not be possible to go to everything. Just be there every time you can. Make sure someone else goes in your place when you cannot. This also instills a sense of importance in your children.
PLACE GIFTED STUDENTS IN PULL-OUT PROGRAMS JUST FOR THEM. “Differentiation” is the buzzword teachers are expected to follow today. It is my experience and opinion that a teacher has only so much time to think of ways to differentiate for each subset of students. Gifted education is not just giving students cool enrichment science activities to do a few times a year, going on more field trips, moving at a much faster pace or doing a heavier load of work. Gifted education gives gifted students opportunities to apply their knowledge to changing situations. For instance, a gifted teacher I knew had her students study all they could on an animal of their choice and report their findings on habitat, food, geographic region, etc. particular to their animal. This could be accomplished in any regular classroom. But her students were also paired up and thrown a random environment their animals were to find themselves into. They had to create and perform a skit based on their encounter in an unlikely environment and the prior knowledge they had built on their animals. Regular teachers do not have the time to allow this application of knowledge, nor is it fair to the non-gifted students not to be able to try these cool applications. Including gifted students with non-gifted students in such attempts to apply only dilutes the experience for the gifted student. It is not fair for either party.
ENCOURAGE ENROLLMENT IN ADVANCED PLACEMENT (AP) CLASSES IN MIDDLE SCHOOL AND HIGH SCHOOL. If your child is recommended for AP classes, encourage that with all your might. College admissions officials consider students with AP classes under their belt more highly than those without. AP classes are also more challenging and continue to foster active application. The brain keeps churning!
My research study during the pursuit of my Master’s Degree in Elementary Education was in the make-up of a gifted student. These ten factors were common to all my subjects who are now graduating from high school and college or going on for further education.