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Get the Biggest Advantage for Your Child June 4, 2007

Posted by edukfun in add, add parents, adhd, alternative treatment, aspergers, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, attention training, challenged, children, concentration, discipline, distractibility, education, homework, ld, learning disability, medication, parenting, parents, school, social skills, Sparks of Genius, standardized testing, teacher.
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Our nation has shifted its educational focus to standardized testing performance, for good or bad. One result is that parents, schools and districts are all looking for ways to play the system. If a school can massage the numbers just right, they get more funding. If parents can have their child diagnosed ADHD or with a Learning Disability, then the child can get extra time on the FCAT and SAT, which leads to a higher score and better college prospects. Plus, a little Ritalin or Adderall goes a long way. For anyone. Are your children getting lost in the shuffle? We hope to show you a trick or two to make sure that your kid has the best advantages, no matter what gimmicks are used by other parents and schools.

Are the children getting lost in the shuffle?
We hope to show you a trick or two to make sure that your kid has the best advantages, no matter what gimmicks are used by other parents and schools.

The NY Times ran an interesting feature highlighting the advantages in redshirting: keeping a child out of kindergarten until he or she is a little older, as much as a year.

Click here for the full article.

Tool #1: Train your child to think that he or she is the boss.

This may seem counterintuitive. After all, we often fight our kids to get them to do their homework. You want to transition your child’s current thinking from the perspective of “Educational Victim” to “Educational Entrepreneur”.

Victim Entrepreneur
Homework is an imposition Homework is a challenge/tool
Teachers are authority figures Teachers are like employees
I’m never going to use this in real life How can I use this in real life?
No dreams beyond play Big, earth-shaking dreams
High level of concern with appearing smart or cool High level of concern with overcoming challenges
Parents complain about school system Parents participate in school system

The institution of education, whether by accident or design, tends to create Educational Victims. In order to transition your child to thinking like an Educational Entrepreneur, requires adult-to-adult conversation. Your child doesn’t have the tools to change their own attitudes, so you must show them the way. Here’s how you do it.First, fix the “Stinking Thinking.” When you hear your child say things like, “I’m never going to use this in real life”, or “Miss Stinkyfoot is a rotten teacher” or “I hate homework”, take ten minutes and walk through this process. First, ask them exactly what is bothering them. Make them get specific. “He’s a jerk” doesn’t cut it. Once the complaint is out in the open, you must reframe it from the perspective of an Educational Entrepreneur. Here are some common translations.

Translate Stinking Thinking
Stinkin’ Thinkin’ iThoughts
Homework is boring Let’s turn it into a challenge: how much can you finish in 15 minutes (then take a fun break).
Mr. Soandso is mean to me Let’s find a way to make him a friend…just like we would as an adult with a mean employee
I’m never going to use this in real life Sometimes the content isn’t what is important, but mastering the PROCESS is. The best businesses have the best processes, not necessarily the best products.
The subject is boring. Tie the subject in to real life and show how it is important.
I’m bored/hate school. This student is stuck in victim mode. Reframe the school experience so that the child is the boss. Consider that the child may be overwhelmed and need some one-on-one help.

To be continued tomorrow.

-Allen Dobkin


Boredom + Laptop = Academic Improvement? May 7, 2007

Posted by edukfun in children, education, school, standardized testing, underachieve, video games.
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According to the NY Times, schools are figuring out that if you give laptops to kids in schools, then….and you might want to be sure you’re sitting down for this….then the kids will FOOL AROUND WITH THEIR LAPTOPS INSTEAD OF LEARNING!

I know, I know. Who could have seen that coming?

Here are the problems with the laptops:

  1. Cost a lot of money and time to keep them working.
  2. Teachers aren’t up to snuff and don’t know how to use them effectively.
  3. Kids are always able to get around firewalls and internet blockers. They turn them into game-playing porn machines.
  4. They don’t magically make school interesting.
  5. They don’t improve academic performance!

Let’s be honest. The kids who are struggling are usually the ones who are not interested in school. If you hate Shakespeare (and who doesn’t?), then you aren’t going to magically like reading The Taming of the Shrew on your laptop instead of on a book in your lap.

If a kid is bored by school, for whatever reason, and you give him A HUGE TOY, he is going to PLAY WITH THE TOY!

Honor agreements and computer-use contracts are stupid, and the people who think that they work might be too. If the kids had enough self-control and impulse control to follow the agreement, then they would be paying attention, asking questions and doing their homework and wouldn’t be struggling in the first place!

What kills me about this is that the School District of Broward County, FL was going to spend $275 million–that’s $275,000,000–on laptops. They didn’t, but they would have. There are about 17,000 teachers in Broward. That amounts to over $16,000 per teacher. They could used that money to pay bonuses, give raises, higher more teachers or teaching assistants, but for some reason I doubt that they will!

Honor agreements and computer-use contracts are stupid, and the people who think that they work might be too.

For struggling kids to be successful, they need a few things.

  1. They need to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If they don’t see how success is possible, they won’t try. That’s why we build on small successes at Sparks of Genius. Show the kid that he can do something right, and go from there.
  2. They need a structured work environment catered to their strengths and weaknesses. Usually that means a quiet, distraction-free room to work in. Often, it includes an adult to check in with them and redirect as needed.
  3. They need effective communication from a teacher or mentor who cares. Effective communication is a biggie, and I think is the reason why teachers at schools with high immigrant populations can get so frustrated. Literally, they don’t speak the same language or have the same background as these kids, and so they do not communicate effectively. One-on-one attention can help this problem.
  4. They need to be motivated. If the child does not see how this is helpful, then they are unlikely to put much effort into it. When I was in public school, a common complaint was that we’re never going to use this in real life, so why do we have to learn it? THAT IS A VALID QUESTION AND IT IS THE TEACHERS’ RESPONSIBILITY TO ANSWER IT ADEQUATELY.

Of course nothing is as simple as I make it out to be here. There are always exceptions and special cases. But without these four things, struggling kids won’t make progress.

Good luck!

Allen Dobkin

Big Brains Don’t Equal Big Bucks (and some kitties) April 25, 2007

Posted by edukfun in 9-5-4, challenged, children, education, ld, learning disability, school, science, Sparks of Genius, standardized testing.
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Good news for anyone worried about the financial future of a child with a Learning Disability (LD). Research shows that intelligence, as measured by IQ, is not a strong indicator of wealth. In fact, “smart” people often have financial troubles that include not paying bills on time and failure to save money. It appears that diligence and consistency are more important for building wealth, as opposed to just a big paycheck.

Link: http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/070424_rich_smart.html

Here at Sparks Of Genius, we’ve always stressed that traditional IQ is not an adequate measure of human ability. Our 9-5-4 Program is all about training 9 Intelligences, 5 Cognitive Skills and 4 Executive Functions are 9 Intelligences: Verbal, Mathematical, Spatial, Musical, Kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Spiritual and Naturalist. Schools only care about one or two; Sparks of Genius taps into all 9.

Increase three or more [Cognitive Skills] and you’ve got a Total Transformation.

There are 5 Cognitive Skills: Attention, Memory, Learning, Thinking and Processing Speed. Increase one of these, and you increase cognitive ability. Increase three or more and you’ve got a Total Transformation.

Finally, there are 4 Executive Functions: Organization, Planning, Prioritizing, and Decision-Making. These are higher-order functions and essential for long-term success.

Students come to us, go through fancy, high-tech evaluations, and Dr. Kessler puts together a customized work-out regimen that plays on the student’s strengths and pumps up the areas that are weakest. 2-3 hours per week on a home computer, plus an hour in our high-tech, high-touch playground is usually all it takes. The results last, and they generalize to school, athletics, home, and the social realm.

I did promise some kitties. Here they are, courtesy of http://icanhascheezburger.com/



Cat and Mouse