1. Will your child be six years, six months or older when he begins first grade and starts receiving reading instruction?
2. Does your child have two to five permanent or second teeth?
3. Can you child tell, in such a way that his speech is understood by a school crossing guard or policeman, where he lives?
4. Can he draw and color and stay within the lines of the design being colored?
5. Can he stand on one foot with eyes closed for five to ten seconds?
6. Can he ride a small two-wheeled bicycle without helper wheels?
7. Can he tell left hand from right?
8. Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend's home?
9. Can he be away from you all day without being upset?
10. Can he repeat an eight- to ten-word sentence, if you say it once, as "The boy ran all the way home from the store"?
11. Can he count eight to ten pennies correctly?
12. Does your child try to write or copy letters or numbers?
Yet, if you've seen a kindergarten curriculum in the last few years, you probably know that the kids of yesteryear were intellectually far behind their modern-day peers.
Or were they?
Yes, kids today can generally count eight- to ten pennies -- they can probably also multiply, add and subtract fractions, and divide. I spent six months doing research at the Bing Nursery School. There, I met parents who bragged about how many words their preschooler could read and how quickly their child could do flashcards.
But. The best way to give your child a creative, entrepreneurial mind has nothing to do with flashcards. After all, it's the digital age. Knowledge is worth less than ever, because however fast you can do flashcards... a computer can do them faster. However much you can memorize, a computer can memorize more.
However well you can answer questions with one correct answer... a computer can do it more, better, and faster.
So. In order to set your child up for success in the modern world, you only have to teach them one word:
What do you think? What is your hypothesis?
1) How to think creatively about a problem.
2) That, often, there is more than one way to figure out the answer to a question.
3) Coping and resilience skills. In the real world, you're not always going to get the right answer. Will that frustrate your child and motivate them to quit? Or will it challenge them to try again to find a solution?
Child: How do I draw a dog?
Adult: That's a really great question! What's YOUR hypothesis? Where do YOU think we should start? What's the first part of the dog we should draw? Then what? Want to try it? We can always try again if we mess up.
Adult: Uh oh! It looks like we did something wrong. Does any part of the dog look weird? What part doesn't look right to you? How can we fix it? What should we do differently next time?
A few weeks ago, I flew to the East Coast. As I was flipping through the in-flight magazine, I noticed a page with pictures of the airline's different planes. The four-year-old in the seat next to me asked, "What's that?"
"Those are all the airplanes you can fly on," I told her.
"Which one is the one we're on?"
"Well, which one do you think we're on?" She didn't answer -- it was a tricky question for a preschooler. So I asked another question to help her out. "Do you think we're on... this one?"
She pointed and started counting, "One, two, three, four....seven, eight. It only has eight windows."
"And how many does our airplane have?"
"Right! So it's probably not this one, either, huh? Okay... What other clues can we use to figure out what airplane we're on?"
Her eyes twinkled as they darted from the pictures in the magazine to real-life clues on the airplane. Her lips scrunched and unscrunched. Her eyebrows furrowed. She muttered to herself, while looking at the image of the 747, "I don't think there's an upstairs... I don't see a staircase..." Read more >
(Like, seriously, just because a three-year-old can say that 2+2=4, you don't necessarily know if their brain is developed enough to even understand that concept, or if you've simply trained them repeat a certain phrase. Comprehension is not the same as memorization. Problem solving is not the same as stimulus-response. And your kid's never going to be better at addition than a calculator, anyway.)
To really get the full effect of learning the word "hypothesis," make sure you explicitly explain to your child that their brain is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford, has spent the last few decades researching implicit theories of intelligence. She's found that some people assume that intelligence is fixed, and there's not a lot they can do to change it. Other people have an incremental theory of intelligence. These are the people who do best in the face of risk, challenge and hardship. After all, if you think intelligence is fixed, and you do badly on a math test, that means you're bad at math, right? And there's no point in trying harder next time. But if you think intelligence can grow, you'll ask the teacher to walk you through the problems you missed so you learn, grow and do better next time.
Oh, and one last thing: please, please, please, PLEASE don't hire your child a tutor.