I spend a lot of time talking about the value of “thinking prep” and how to effectively prepare your children to be thoughtful, curious individuals. The Critical Thinking Child was founded on this idea, and the prep we provide does so much more than prepare your child for a test–it cultivates a lifelong love of learning.
But what does prep have to do with being gifted?
It’s a good question, and one I hear frequently. My answer?
You can’t wish, teach or prep a child to be gifted but you can improve their thinking skills
As parents, we can give the gift of education but you can’t wish, teach, or prep a child to be gifted.
A child’s gifts take on many forms, and even the term “gifted” is often nuanced. We prefer terms like high-performing, high-achieving or high-potential students.
Does this mean prep is useless? Of course not. Children acquire and build their gifts and talents through exposure to the world around them. Our program focuses on nurturing these natural gifts within your child. We stimulate and stretch their natural talents and supports their academic struggles. Our prep is an opportunity to teach your child how to think critically, regardless of labels.
Through critical thinking, children have the potential to be our greatest assets
The skills we teach at The Critical Thinking Child support talented children in reaching their full potential. Our students develop higher-level thinking skills and accelerate their academic potential. Under our care, children learn to concentrate, listen, and focus. All of our prep serves this purpose.
In addition, we want to empower you, as a parent, to foster your child’s gifts at home. Highly intelligent, unique children may require more attention, and our tips and strategies will help you promote and nurture them in their daily life. Together, we will be able to help children develop their critical thinking skills and give them a chance to explore their interests and discover their passions.
By doing so, we awaken within our children their potential to be our greatest thinkers, scientists, teachers, artists, and leaders.
Gifting education to your future generation
Something magical happens through our program. As we connect with the child, they begin to explore and ask questions. They hone in on their talents and passions and develop a deeper understanding of their world. Our parents are able to witness and experience the joy of their gift of education.
Let’s be honest, enrolling in our program will not make your child gifted.
What it will accomplish is giving you, as a parent, the chance to give the gift of education.
I stand by our motto—“Gifting Education to Your Future Generation”—and together, we will give your child the chance to reach their academic potential and prep for a lifetime love of learning, inquiry, and exploration.
Three smart ways to help your child succeed on their homework.
Few students return from school at the end of the day full of excitement and eagerness about their homework. In my experience, even the most gifted students (sometimes especially gifted students) approach their homework assignments with a certain amount of anxiety, irritation, or distaste. After all, they just spent the whole day at school, why should they need to work more?
Motivating and helping your child succeed can be a daunting task, and no small number of fights have begun at the homework table. Rather than preparing for battle, I recommend taking the stress away from homework. As a parent, you fill the role of monitor and motivator. To do this successfully means implementing a few simple practices.
Blur the lines between learning and playing
So often young learners are restricted from “play time” until they successfully complete their homework. Essentially, they are told they are not allowed to have fun until they finish learning. It’s no wonder so many students are resistant!
Instead of holding fun over your child’s head as a motivator, reinforce the idea that learning is fun. Not only that, but it’s a part of everyday experiences. While homework may be a more formal version of learning, each game they play, every curiosity they satisfy, also teaches them.
Remind your child of this by integrating fun, learning activities into their routine and allowing homework to be a part of that.
Ask open-ended questions
It can be tempting to take on your child’s homework as your own burden, but it’s important to resist the urge. Instead of hovering over them, act as a facilitator. If they begin to struggle, ask open-ended questions that prompt them to think for themselves, instead of fishing for answers.
Questions such as, “How can you think about this in a different way?” or “What part of this problem is hard for you?” will teach your child to verbalize their difficulties while also approaching them from new angles. As an added bonus, when you monitor your child in this way you become less of a disciplinarian and more of a motivator. They can look to you for advice, but ultimately they are responsible for their own learning.
Asking your child to do all of their homework at once may be hurting more than helping, especially if they’re bogged down by a huge amount. Instead, block off specific times for completing homework and encourage your child to take breaks frequently. Most young children have short attention spans, and when they become frustrated their ability to problem solve is greatly reduced.
Give your child 15 – 30 minutes to work on their homework in earnest, then break it up with an activity that requires some amount of movement or shift in thinking. Once they’ve had 10 – 20 minutes away from their assignment, encourage them to return to it. This will allow them to approach it with a fresh mind.
As your child gets older they may be able to work uninterrupted for longer periods of time. Be mindful of them as they work, and if they seem to be overly stressed or anxious, remind them to step back.
Are you creating a positive atmosphere around homework?
When you implement these tricks you allow your child to approach their homework with a more positive mindset. It becomes less of a battleground and more of a playground. While your child may never view homework as their favorite activity, they will slowly come to think of it as a part of their day-to-day routine.
When your young child is constantly distracted by, well, everything, it can be hard to make learning stick. Sometimes it can be difficult just to get their attention long enough to check in with them, let alone introduce a new concept.
While it can be frustrating to have a child who seems constantly preoccupied, it is possible to teach them how to become more adept at compartmentalizing and focusing. This revolves around two key skills: listening and attention.
Honing in on listening skills
Listening skills come into play when students have something they need to remember and focus on. For example, activities that require pattern recognition also require a good amount of focus. If students are seeking out a familiar pattern (ABAB, for instance), they will need to trust in their own ability to focus. If they begin to struggle, they will have to seek help and practice listening to the prompts given to them.
Similarly, memory games help students improve their recall and their ability to retell stories. I’m particularly fond of abstract puzzles, which provide a layer of complexity that often requires the use of listening skills. Putting children in pairs can also help develop this skill.
Finally, you can help your young learner develop listening skills by reading to them. By teaching young learners to recognize and focus on the sounds of the English language they will be more tuned to it. This includes the 44 phonic sounds, rhymes, onomatopoeia, and alliteration. Picture books and beginning chapter books are great starting points. For the particularly distracted child, don’t pressure them to finish the book in one sitting. You can always go back to it or re-read it.
Developing longer attention spans
Help your child increase their attention span by providing them with activities that grab their interest and keep it. For example, if their focus seems to wander when reading books, switch up the genre. By deviating beyond fairy tale stories and including a wider variety, you allow students to find their preferences.
In particular, including books with real-world information will give them a new perspective on reading and digesting information. If your child finds a topic they are particularly enthralled by, encourage their interest
Additionally, critical thinking games and puzzles provide ample opportunities for developing attention spans. Forcing your child to think outside of the box through new topics, classifications, and activities will help them understand and interpret their world in new ways. This often results in a spark of curiosity and interest, leading to longer attention spans.
The benefits of abstract puzzles
Abstract puzzles are a great way to help encourage students to be more focused. As you can see from the video below, when abstract puzzles are introduced into a child’s learning environment it requires both listening skills and a long attention span:
A few years ago a dad came to me seeking test prep services for his four-year-old daughter. As an educator, this isn’t unusual, but this specific instance was memorable to me for three reasons:
His guilt and regret about neglecting to test his first child (a bright and intellectually curious six-year-old) for the gifted kindergarten program. His son was an early reader and academically ahead of his preschool peers, but they didn’t seek testing.
The sacrifices his family made based on their financial priorities. They focused on three key areas: education, health, and retirement. This meant he invested big bucks in his children’s education.
His anxiety and stress around figuring out which resources to buy and how to best help his bright, shy 4-year-old daughter so she could excel academically on the day of the gifted test.
Like this parent, you invest in education because you expect the best for your child. You want them to learn and grow in the most beneficial way possible. I know, as I experienced the same with my children. I wanted them to see learning as a positive experience, one they looked forward to.
Unfortunately, many academic organizations focus too much time and energy on old-school techniques, like rote memorization, drilling, and lower-level thinking skills.
Test prep is particularly guilty of this. Young kids learn to cram and memorize skills which are often forgotten and rarely applied after the test.
In a perfect world, you want your child to learn skills that are sustainable. When tested, you want them to feel calm and ready to put their best foot forward, not anxious and overwhelmed. This is why I built The Critical Thinking Boot Camp for Kids: to be fun and engaging and, above all, useful beyond the test. It’s about think prep rather than test prep.
Here are a few ways in which The Critical Thinking Child Boot Camp for Kids stands apart.
We build confidence
With activities that take into consideration all possible learning styles, our program is geared to your child’s exact needs. This helps to break down barriers and make learning accessible to all of the students. Even better, children are able to practice learning in their dominant and their non-dominant learning styles, which helps to boost their confidence.
We also help to create an atmosphere of healthy competition. Instead of comparing students to one another, we focus on individual progress. We teach our students to identify their own academic strengths and opportunities for improvement. We also teach them to celebrate their mistakes, using positive praise to help them learn and grow. This fosters a growth mindset and helps them understand that learning is a lifelong process and it is okay to make mistakes.
Additionally, we take time to model and demonstrate all of our lessons. These examples, combined with critical thinking questions, help students become familiar with a variety of concepts, even when they are presented in new ways. We start practicing at a young age to help students develop these skills early.
We take learning beyond the classroom
When I first created The Critical Thinking Child Boot Camp for Kids I wanted to create an atmosphere where parents and children were companions in learning. We bring parents into the equation, providing the tools and resources necessary to make learning an everyday experience. This includes a Parent Mastermind Group and various online learning opportunities. We show children how to think critically about their world, and we help parents promote this way of thinking at home.
In doing this, we help ensure that young learners continue to practice their critical thinking skills no matter where they are. Easy-to-implement tools make it simple for parents to guide their child. As a result, the young learner is able to create a lifelong habit of approaching their world with curiosity and a joy of learning.
We also help students become comfortable with using technology as a learning tool. Through technology, we enhance the learning experience, rather than interrupting it. This allows students to continue learning even outside of the classroom. All of our learning tools are designed and developed by award-winning educators and local teaching artists, so you know your child is getting a great experience.
We are founded on fun
Because true critical thinking is rooted in inquiry and discovery, I aim to help young learners understand their world through play. The activities presented during test prep help students think about their world in a way that makes sense to them. We encourage children to have fun and to ask questions, stretching their creative muscles in the process.
This means incorporating a wide range of activities throughout sessions, including visual art, science, music, arithmetic, and even origami. Each of these activities is designed to help students understand abstract topics in a fun, accessible way.
We don’t teach to the test, we teach to the student
Many test prep organizations simply drill students on possible test topics. Not only is this approach ineffective and boring, it limits learning.
Instead of focusing mainly on memorization and worksheets, we focus on the thinking process itself. Our goal is to help nurture children’s natural curiosity, rather than frustrating them. With this in mind, we focus on activities that advance a child’s true and natural abilities.
As a result, students gain confidence in verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, reading, math reasoning, listening skills, and memory.They also learn which test prep strategies work best for them.
At The Critical Thinking Child, we instill a lifelong passion for learning
The Critical Thinking Child LLC has helped countless students successfully prepare for classical and gifted admissions tests. More importantly, we have shown students that learning is a process of discovery. We bring the joy back to learning and promote a lifelong love of curiosity.
We believe that by helping children think critically about the world, we are helping create adults who will be able to change it for the better. As a result, our students have greater problem-solving skills, verbal and non-verbal skills, and transferable skills across multiple subjects. Our parents feel confident in their child’s academic path, and our students are excited to participate in a fun learning environment.
How to successfully transition from summertime to school-time.
For many of you, summer is drawing to a close. You’re bracing yourself for the end of summer, while children eek out their last few days home. Some of you may already have returned to the busy routine of sack lunches and school buses.
Regardless, this time of year can be stressful. There seems to be more to do than there is time in the day, and it can be hard to part with your child after having them home all summer. Young learners pick up on this, and they often approach the beginning of the school year with mixed emotions. If your child is back in the classroom, you may have already noticed some anxiety on their part.
Whether you’re kissing your child goodbye at the bus stop or still hunting down the perfect lunch box, I’ve been there. Every year I face the same stressors, and I implement new tactics to make it easier. Today I want to share with you my three top tips to making a successful transition from summertime to school-time (for everyone involved).
Ease back into a routine
There’s a good chance your summer routine is drastically different from your school-year routine, and the same goes for young children. Summertime tends to be less structured and the activities tend to be less academic in nature. Even if a child spends ample time engaged in critical thinking activities, there’s a good chance they were formatted differently from those during the school year.
Because of this, it’s important to slowly ease back into the school-year routine. Take time to practice waking up and going to bed earlier, and begin organizing your day around a more structured schedule. Your mind and body will both thank you.
This is also a good time to create systems of organization around the school year. Reflect on the previous year and think about how you could better arrange your day. Decide on a few small modifications that will help you stay on top of all your responsibilities.
Create an atmosphere of excitement
So often the idea of returning to school is met with groans of unhappiness instead of anticipation. To help young learners reclaim their excitement, emphasize the amount of fun they will have. As a parent, take time to integrate learning games into the day, so students are already accustomed to the practice.
If you’re a teacher, integrating ample play time that allows for critical thinking practice will help students look forward to their time in your classroom. Not only that, but students who play more are given a chance to discover more. They internalize concepts through the act of playing, and are able to naturally investigate a wide variety of concepts.
Give students a say
It can be easy for children to feel as if they have no control over their life, especially in the beginning of the school year. They’re being told where to go, what to learn, and how to spend their time. Often they are limited in the amount of discovery time they have, and as a result, it becomes difficult for them to take ownership of their learning.
To resolve this, make a habit of asking young learners open-ended questions. Give them opportunities to make small decisions, such as which backpack to buy or what game to play, in a structured environment. Parents and teachers both can practice this, and will find that engaging students in conversation rather than simply issuing demands actually makes them more efficient learners.
Don’t forget to have fun! Your attitude is contagious.
If you’re miserable, odds are your students or children will pick up on it. So as you settle into a new school year, keep your own mood in mind. By settling slowly into a routine, making school something to anticipate excitedly, and giving students a say in what happens you’re setting the stage for an exciting school year.
You strive to guide your child and give them all the tools they need to be successful in life. You work hard to keep lines of communication open between teachers and caregivers and to be your child’s biggest cheerleader. You’re a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, and a push out the door when needed.
You probably remember your child’s first words, and the excitement around them. You likely recall how thrilled you were to witness the transition from baby-babble to full-fledged words and sentences.
It’s an exciting time in a child’s development, and one of the most important. According to The Urban Child Institute the child’s brain grows to 80% of its adult size between the ages of zero and three. Not only that, but their brain is twice as active as an adult’s brain. During these years, your child is absorbing new knowledge at an incredible rate, and that includes language. Continue reading “Why is building vocabulary important?”
Fall 2015 Preschool Academic Boot Camp results are in!
Student success largely attributed to parent involvement The results of The Critical Thinking Child’s Fall 2015 Academic Boot Camp are in, and the participating students saw significant improvement.
In comparing baseline data collected at the onset of the boot camp with post-program testing, all of the participating children increased their critical thinking scores, some by as much as 150%. The vast majority of the children saw an increase of 30% – 50%. This success is being largely attributed to parent engagement and involvement in the program. Continue reading “Academic Boot Camp Shows Amazing Results!”
Summer Learning Through The Critical Thinking Child’s Academic Boot Camp
Summer vacation is often perceived as a “break” from education. In reality, this “break” is an important opportunity for your child. It is the perfect time to enroll your child in a summer learning program that will help them master critical thinking skills.
During the summer months, many traditional preschools and grade schools are out of session. Unfortunately, this often turns summer into a missed opportunity. In the fall, when students return to school, teachers spend weeks re-teaching old information. Continue reading “Why is summer learning important?”