Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Smartest Kids in the World

Amanda Ripley was on the Diane Rheme show the other day. Here's a link to the show and here's a link to her book, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. It's an examination of the differences in the way we educate our children around the world. The United States does not do well, which means we are not doing well.

Ripley's basic premise after much research is that we don't have enough educational rigor in this country, and our children are not motivated to learn.

Let me say that again. We don't have enough educational rigor in this country or MOTIVATION to learn!

Kids in general in the United States are not motivated to learn and go to school. They don't care about doing well  because they don't see a connection between school and life. They don't see a connection between those multiple choice tests and their opportunities for the future.

That is our fault as parents. If we don't connect the dots for them at home, it's going to be tough for teachers to do that at school. This is true of reading. We have to motivate our children to read, and the best way to motivate them is to give them autonomy, give them the power to master something, and give them the power to make a difference.

Mary went to a horseback riding camp last week (along with Lucy, Calvin, and Shaemus). She loved the horses. She loved taking care of them and working with them. Horses for Hope is the name of the horseback riding place. During the school year they work with disabled children with disabilities of every kind. If you know a little about riding and horses, you can volunteer to help and work with the kids and the horses.

Mary came back from camp desperate to take horseback riding lessons throughout the year. She wanted to keep working with the horses. She wanted to get good at something, and she really wanted to  volunteer to help others. She sure was demonstrating autonomy—I wasn't pushing her to horseback ride. If anything, I was reluctant because we can't add anything else to our schedule. But Mary was motivated. She wanted to master something, and she wanted to do some good in the world.

We can't afford horseback riding lessons right now, not with seven music lessons every week. So Mary's worked out a plan for herself—she's going to earn the money for horseback riding lessons. She'll start out every other week until she can afford every week. It's going to be tough, but she's determined. She's motivated.

Too many kids don't see the purpose in school. Too many kids don't see the purpose of much in life that requires hard work and perseverance.

They don't see the purpose in reading.

I love this quote:

“Reading fiction not only develops our imagination and creativity, it gives us the skills to be alone. It gives us the ability to feel empathy for people we've never met, living lives we couldn't possibly experience for ourselves, because the book puts us inside the character's skin.” - Ann Patchett

This is just one of the many, many reasons our children (and us!) should read.

Anyway, listen to the show with Amanda Ripley or read the transcript of the show (available on the website), or read the book, as I plan on doing.

Here's what we've been reading lately:

Sam's been reading this and really enjoying it:
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I've been rereading this, because I must do this at least once a year:

Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise McGraw
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(Lucy read this too and loved it, because it is impossible not to.)

Mary's been reading this:
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It's hilarious. We're going to have to buy it, because everyone wants to sit and read this comic book and absorb history. It's learning by osmosis practically.

Mary's also been reading this and loving it:
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Lucy read this:
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The last book in the Anne of Green Gables series, and one of the best! She loves it!

Calvin has been devouring Soup books:
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And Shaemus loves Araminta Spookie:
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Flannery loves pretty much anything anyone will read to her:
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Let's get reading!!!

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