A perfect-SAT-scorer lives in my house.
In fact, this student has scored in the 99th percentile on every college board and ACT exam he has ever taken from 9th through 12th grades. If you asked him about it, he would look pretty sheepish and shoot me a dirty look for revealing this piece of information about him.
However, if we had not had excellent results in our homeschool, would you be interested in what I have to say? Probably not. So please forgive my outburst in the above paragraph. Hopefully I will make it up to you by sharing some info that is helpful. 🙂
There really are simple things you and your young child can do to prepare for his or her stellar performance on the SAT, ACT, and PSAT starting today! I don’t see these as strictly things that should be incorporated so that your student will eventually score well on tests. However, it does help to have the end in sight when your children are young, to have a plan, to have a strategy upon which you are building day after day!
High test scores are not our goal here in the Calderwood family; they are a result of self-teaching coupled with mastery learning.
If you look at the SAT closely, you will see that this test is not testing general knowledge. It is testing the taker’s ability to think and to reason within a given time frame. The ACT is more knowledge-based, and according to many students who have taken both of these exams, is the harder of the two.
So keep in mind that the information I am about to share with you is valuable information that I have gleaned from personal experience over the years. This is what I have been doing in my household to prepare my students for an exciting lifetime of learning. It is not what we have been doing in order to achieve test results. The test results are merely confirmation of the fact that these strategies work!
Let’s discuss test results for a minute.
I think competition is a good thing, and while my kids all know each other’s rankings, they also understand that they are ultimately competing against themselves when they are sitting in the classroom on test day. They are trying to beat the test, and they look forward to seeing how well they did at it. Do they feel anxious? Of course! That is part of the nature of the experience.
Think Olympic athletes get stressed and anxious? You bet! Anxiety and competition need not be seen as bad things at all. It is all in our attitude as parents ~ helping our children see that they are competing for a prize, not just taking a test. In our family, earning a ticket to the university of your choice is seen as a major reward.
I should probably mention that Subject #2, my oldest daughter, was in the 98th percentile across the board where testing is concerned. If I had only two children, you might even be slightly impressed. Since I have six more to graduate, I know you want to withhold judgment and just see how the experiment works itself out over the next 12 years with the others, right?! 🙂
Will all of my children score so well? All I can say is that they will be prepared. That is all that we can do…see that our kids have the tools they need to succeed. These tools will vary depending on our individual definitions of success. For my oldest two, the ability to work hard on their own is its own reward. (Their rooms, however, are messy at this very moment. Perhaps I should include a pic here? LOL)
I am not an athlete. I don’t even like Ultimate Frisbee. You should see me do a “drop” on the trampoline; no, you really shouldn’t. You know what is interesting? I wasn’t raised by athletic parents. I never saw them deliberately get exercise in twenty some years. Is it their fault that I am not athletic? Should I be bitter? Yes and no.
They are musicians, and they were interested in seeing that I developed musically. I paid my way through college via piano as a result. So yes, I was not raised to play sports, to be competitive on the field or on the court, but am I bitter? Of course not. My husband, however, is very athletic, and his influence in athletics has been so good for our kids.
My education was forged in a public school. My parents would occasionally ask if my homework was done, but my A’s were not really rewarded. I worked hard for myself with little input from parents although the expectation that I would do so was was always present. Looking back I am a little surprised that there was so little encouragement given along the way, yet I was still motivated. Hmmm…a topic for later delving.
Think about your own upbringing for just a moment. How were you influenced by the interests and values held by your parents? What was your attitude towards school and how was that attitude framed by your parents either directly or indirectly? I wish you could talk to me right now, because I would be fascinated to hear your story if you cared to share it.
Do you see where I am going with this? Just as you and I are a direct result of our up-bringing, so our children will be the direct result of how we live our lives with them today. Our preferences and choices will naturally become theirs. Our lifestyle, our parenting style influences how they will live their lives as adults. No pressure here, right?
I firmly believe that all children are gifted. It is our responsibility and our joy as parents to give our children the resources they need to fly, to excel in their areas of expertise. Your attitudes, your expectations, and your input will directly and indirectly affect how successful your child is in the realm of education or in any realm actually.
I don’t mean to scare you here. I mean to encourage you! A good attitude, a yes-you-can attitude, an I’m-in-this-with-you attitude will make all of the difference in the world to your child. If we don’t care enough to set standards and expectations for our children and enforce them, our children will lack focus.
It doesn’t matter if you are wealthy or live paycheck to paycheck. You may have excelled in academics or not. You may have done terribly in school because you lacked encouragement or support. No matter how unprepared you feel to educate your children at home, they can soar in the educational realm. I assure you that if you support them in education, if you are watchful, they will succeed.
All children are gifted; how those gifts are developed, how determined the child is to “win,” and how supportive and watchful the parents are will influence the outcome of the race.
Anyone can learn to learn with excellence, but it takes coaching. It may take some children more time to get to the pinnacle than others. Sure, some may have obstacles to overcome. Obstacles are an Olympic hurdler’s life! One can get really, really good at going over them smoothly with – ahem – practice. With practice comes mastery.
Back to testing: testing validates students, especially homeschoolers who may feel the need to test to make sure they are “doing it right.” I hold that mastery learning will bring out the best in your kids on test day. If they can read and comprehend well, if they have strong logic skills, if they have strong mental muscle that has been exercised well regularly, then they will perform with excellence.
What I am going to do over the course of the next couple days is break down the 12 Strategies into three groups: 1) Strategies for littles, 2) Strategies for middles, and 3) Strategies for young adults.
Here are the first four of my 12 Strategies which should be implemented as early as possible; however, if they have not been implemented and your child is ten or older, have no fear! Just plan today to get moving.
1. Promote a lifelong enjoyment of learning by having books available. Read to your youngers. Take them to the library to select their own books. The enjoyment of reading, the experience of reading needs to be a positive one! This can not be over-emphasized. Every parent can take some time to read to their children, and it is so very important to establish reading as a positive experience from a young age.
2. Foster reading for pleasure. In other words, turn off the TV. Mind candy is always going to be more attractive to children than reading books if they have a choice just as candy will always be chosen over broccoli if young children are given the choice.
If children are left alone with books, they will become interested in books.
3. Let your children see you reading. If all your children see you do is work around the house, Mom, or come home from work and turn on the TV, Dad, then they are going to pick up on the signals you are sending that reading is not important. It is not fun. It must not be worthwhile.
Have cozy evenings where you all just sit around the family room reading or reading to each other.
4. Develop independent thinking in your littles by having games and puzzles on hand for daily use. Also provide art supplies and play doh for creative play. You don’t have to have structured “reading time,” “game time,” “art time,” etc. Just allow children to spontaneously go from one thing to another in the early years. The more hands-on an activity is, the higher its value on the scale of educational relevance.
So you can see that three out of the first four strategies involves reading or attitudes about reading. By the time your young child is school-aged (5 to 6) he or she already has established feelings about reading which will affect learning in the elementary years and beyond.
If you have created an environment where electronic media is more accessilbe and prevalent than reading, you will be fighting an uphill battle from the start. You may want to think about that the next time your children ask to watch a movie or play Wii.
I am speaking to myself here as well. I need to remember that while it is easier to let my 6-year-old entertain herself by playing a computer game, she would benefit much more by me sitting down with her and reading to her for 15 minutes, or suggesting that one of her siblings read to her if I absolutely can not.
Having art supplies on hand is always a great way to provide instant fun. Playing a game with my littler ones is always a hit. Of course that means I have to stop what I am doing to do this. What kind of message does that send to my kids? It tells them that I value my time with them, and that mom isn’t too busy to play. Sometimes I have to make appointments with them and say, “When I get these packages ready to ship, I’ll be ready to play.” Kids know if you really want to make time for them or not.
Make reading and learning a pleasure emotionally for your littles.
What can you do if you student is 15 and hates to read? I have been asked that question more than any other question, I think. To be honest with you, it is going to be a tough road but there is hope.
Guess what needs to be done to change the course your student is on? You have to make reading a pleasure emotionally for your teens just as you do for your littles! As adults, don’t we do those things that we *like* to do when we have free time? Of course!
I am not a huge proponent of telling kids what they have to read. I am all for letting them loose in the library to choose their own books beginning when they are young. I would recommend allowing teens to do this as well if they haven’t developed a love of reading.
Don’t give them a reading list at this point. Your student needs time to develop an interest, to develop a relationship with the process of reading, and this doesn’t happen in a month’s time. How interested would you be if someone told you that you “had” to read a book? Not very. I feel that too many parents dictate what must be read to teenagers without allowing them balance in this realm.
If your teen “doesn’t like reading,” here is what I suggest. Call a moratorium on reading for schooling purposes. However, make a deal with him/her that you will not require reading for school if you see him/her reading a book from the library (or from wherever) that he wants to read. If he picks a Star Wars paperback at the library, great! That’s a start. Book candy is not a bad thing at this point! Forget Shakespeare and go for reading of any variety that captures interest. (Within reason, of course.)
You may need to go an entire semester this way or even longer! Keep the goal in sight: the student needs time alone with books of his choosing in order to devlopa relationship with reading. It also helps to limit entertainment choices as well so that books become more attractive.
There you have Strategies 1 through 4. Next time we will build upon these strategies in the middle school years examining what can be done at these ages to prepare a student for outstanding test scores on the college board exams. I dislike putting it that way because again, our goal in educating our children is NOT just doing well on a test or two. However, by employing great learning habits at a young age, children will be on the road to educational mastery, of which excellent test scores are a direct result.
Have fun with your kids today! As always, I thank you for stopping by. Have a great today!