What we are doing with our own children this summer, and how our strategy may help you to grow your own children’s intelligence.
My son Seth--who is 12 years old--will be starting high school in the fall. He is beginning the ninth grade in September at one of New York's finest and most prestigious independent schools. And, according to his most recent Lexile Measurement, he is now reading at the level of a first-year college student. Above and beyond all of this, he loves God, honors his parents, and respects his peers.
But none of this surprises us: we have cultivated, shared, and watched his intense dedication to reading, discipline, diligence, and extreme levels of self-sacrifice. We know that God has blessed his efforts—and ours as parents. His personal goals this summer are to draw closer to God by reading his Bible more, to improve his reading level by at least another 100 points, to get better at tennis, and to enjoy a cross-country family vacation.
Why am I telling you this? Obviously, I'm very proud of my son, but this is not the time to boast. I am sharing this with you because I love your children like you would love mine, and I have a God-given and a God-driven passion, vision, and mission to help your children become all that God has appointed and anointed them to be. I want to give them what I have given mine.
I'm also sharing this with you because I believe that his accomplishments come from extreme dedication and self-sacrificial hard work. We have never allowed him to take one single summer off from learning since he was five years old. Certainly, we have enrolled him in half-day camps, tennis camps, and swimming camps, and we have allowed him to game and run with a variety of wonderful friends. Seth also volunteers in his community and has joined his school's tennis team. Needless to say, he is extremely well rounded.
Yet despite our desire to see him engaged in extracurricular activities, his academics have always come first. Seth has never stopped learning. During the summer, he reads consistently and voraciously. He studies math for the next grade. He studies grammar and vocabulary on a daily systematic basis. And we have interwoven all of this learning into simply two or three hours of his day each summer. So Seth has fun and gets some serious learning done. This approach over several years has resulted in the excellence he's achieving, and I believe that this same approach can benefit your children also.
By next week, my wife and I are going to do what we’ve done every year since he started formal schooling: we are going to meet with the teachers that he will be having in September. And we will be asking each of them to submit a syllabus and a scope and sequence that delineates what Seth will be learning and how he will be assessed.
Though his average is almost perfect--3.99--we are not satisfied.
We want him to learn more, to become more, and to strengthen any weakness he has. But we also want him to enjoy the summer. So we're going to give him two weeks off completely. Then we will enroll him in a variety of activities and allow him to simply "hang out" with friends. But in the midst of all of that, we've set a systematic schedule for serious learning. Every day--no matter what else he does-- Seth will rise at a certain time and go to bed at a certain time. Then in the morning or afternoon, he will study grammar, vocabulary, and high school math. We know his potential, and we believe that learning does not end in June.
Summer should be a time for instructive reading, constructive learning, and reconstructing important structural foundations for excellence in reading, writing, and arithmetic.
If you are a serious parent, and you want your children to keep learning while they are enjoying time away from school, here are my recommendations:
1. Help your children to develop a reading list that will inform and sharpen their minds. They should read the great classics that help them to understand the psychology of humanity. As importantly, substantive reading helps your children to encounter complex texts and difficult sentence structure with vocabulary words that occur infrequently. You want your children to learn more words and more ways to understand and to decode difficult complex textual material. Yet, reading for fun is also important, so you should select books that your kids will enjoy just because they're humorous, adventurous, and entertaining.
2. All students should study sentence structure and word structure on a daily basis in a disciplined, systematic manner. They should spend at least 30 minutes each day studying grammar, and the roots, prefixes, and suffixes that form most of the words they will encounter in reading as they advance to different grade levels. Analytical thinking, when applied to grammar and vocabulary, makes your children smarter. It cultivates their critical thinking powers and helps them to become more intelligent sentence by sentence.
What books do I recommend? Visit our website at www.scholarskills.com to see a list of
books that I personally recommend by grade level. Don't make your summer list too long and too ambitious. Deep reading of one or two great works is far superior to having your children try to read 10 books rapidly without understanding any of them.
At the top of my list has been, is now, and will always be the Bible. Your children should learn the great stories in the Bible. Why? Is this to make them more religious? Absolutely not. The Bible, like no other book in history, undergirds nearly all of the systems of knowledge in our civilization. If you want your kids to understand the history, art, music, literature, and political structures that are part of the civilization and nation in which they live, then they need to read the Bible.
What should they read in the Bible? I believe that every child should have a daily dose of Proverbs. The Book of Proverbs written by Solomon consists of short, brilliant, wise sayings that act like vitamins in your children's hearts and mind. I like to say it this way: "A proverb a day helps keep ignorance and immorality away."
Children should also read the great stories of the Bible. And you should read the stories with them if they can't read by themselves. Every child should know about the creation account in the book of Genesis. Every child should know the story of Moses. Every child should know about Joseph. Every child should know about Abraham. Every child should know about Noah and the flood. Every child should know about David and Goliath. And every child should know but The Christmas story which begins in the Old Testament and emerges in the New Testament with the coming of Jesus the Christ. The old and new Testaments of the Bible are the basis for the greatest thoughts and minds in history. If you want your children to become wise, beautiful, brilliant, and godly then let them read the Bible.
So after a daily regimen of Bible reading (about 15 minutes or so), I would recommend that your children begin reading a book that is both at their grade level and a little bit beyond. Actually, you should try to get your children's actual reading level based on the Lexile Measurement system. There are many measurements of reading levels, but I personally prefer the Lexile system. This is a system that gives you better insight into your child's actual Reading level and can be matched to his or her grade levels. If you would like to know more about finding out your children's Lexile Reading Levels, contact us at ScholarSkills, and we will show you how to measure your child's reading level. This is important because you want them to read books that stretch their minds but don't frustrate their abilities. And you also want to set small, measurable goals for improving their reading level as time progresses.
Finally, you should make sure that your children have learned what they needed to have learned in the grade level that they're now completing, and you should look ahead to see what they need to learn in the grade level that they will be commencing August or September.
This requires time, dedication, and sacrifice on your part. But again, I'm only writing for serious parents. If you would like to learn more about what the types of reading comprehension skills your child should have learned this year, and what your child is going to be learning in the next grade level, click on the links below for a grade by grade breakdown of the learning objectives for each grade level. Now this is not a perfect system, and children will often fall into ranges, but you should have some sort of measurement to know whether your children have learned what they should have learned, and you should also know what your children will be learning when they go back to school. In this way, you can help them to get out of bed and get ahead.
Here are some of the examples of the books that my children have read, and here is the curriculum and method we have used as parents over the years. Yes, my wife and I are educators, but we have never left the education of our children up to people we did not know. We homeschooled them, built a school around them, and when we finally placed them into schools that were run by others, we constantly surveyed their work and kept teaching them at home. Remember you are the first and biggest difference in growing your children's intelligence.
This summer we are teaching grammar, vocabulary, syntactic analysis, morphological skills, and mathematical reasoning skills in a highly selective program. Parents must apply no later than June 15th. Our summer program begins on July 7th and ends on August 18th. Students will attend two to four hours each week on Tuesday, Thursday, and/or Saturday. We will be open from 2-7 during the week, and from 10-2 on Saturdays.
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Rev. Vieira is a former high school master teacher, and the founder and president of ScholarSkills Learning Center.