Teaching My Baby To Read

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Get an early start on the SATs

Help kids build vocab the sneaky way.

Help kids build vocab the sneaky way.

Two years ago I began 2012 with the goal of blogging with one new word a day, the entire year. (I gave up around April.) But my family did keep learning new words, thanks to our 365 New Words-a-Year 2014 Page-A-Day Calendar.

By 2013 we were burnt out on vocabulary, so we took a year off. Now it’s a fresh new year and we’re ready to roll. Plus, all of the 2014 calendars are on sale.

The way I use my calendar to help my kids get an early start on the SAT is by sneaking in new words into ordinary conversation.

Here’s an example using the beginning words from 2014:

“Wow! The weather is really yucky today. Is that snow or is that graupel? I hope it’s snow because grainy snow pellets aren’t much fun to play in. If I was a zillionaire, I’d take us on vacation to Hawaii. Then we could gambol about the beach, skipping and frolicking in the ocean water.

It’s just as well that we’re stuck at home. So-an-so is coming down with a cold. I hope he uses a tissue because I don’t want to find coughed up phlegm all over the place.”

Okay, that’s not the best example. It’s better to only use one word at a time. The trouble is coming up with words to use in the first place. That’s where the calendar comes in handy.

I’m still getting a handle on the Teaching My Baby To Read FB page, but maybe that’s a way where I can share words, and help moms and dads like me remember to use them.

Ab initio, from the beginning, (of January); here we go!

Lunchbox Notes Continued

One of the ways I try to sneak in extra learning for my son Bruce(7) is through lunchbox notes. Full confession—he’s not very thrilled. But I know that even if he chooses to crumple up the note each day, that he is still learning. How do I know this? because he usually tells me something sassy like “I’m not going to learn about Dwit Eisehow and you can’t make me!” With apologies to President Eisenhower, that garbled educational moment was coming from the US Presidents pack I picked up at the Target Dollar spot. I also deal from a Spanish and a musical instrument pack, pictured above.

Recently I read a great blog post written by a former SAT tutor on Explolring More that talked about the importance of building your child’s vocabulary starting from a young age. I’ve been trying to do this for both of my kids through Magic Word, our daily vocabulary calendar, and reading Building Language with Bruce. Another way to peck away at this is through lunchbox notes.

The only catch is that we have to go over the word thoroughly at breakfast, before Bruce heads off to school. That way, when he gets to lunch and takes the word out, he already knows what it means. Hopefully, the other kids at the table will learn the word too.  Either that, or they’ll find this whole idea really soporific.

Teaching My Baby To Read 2012 SAT Challenge


Calling Nerds of All Ages!

Are you ready for some fun? Starting January 1, 2012 I’ll be using one new SAT word in bold in every post I write. I will be pulling my words from Merriam-Webster’s 365 New Words a Year Page a Day Calendar.

If you have any interest in being as crazy as me, you can use this as an opportunity to start preparing your children now for the SAT. It doesn’t matter if they are toddlers or teenagers. I am constantly reminding my father-in-law that my two year old is capable of learning any word he says! So instead of learning the “saltier” words of the English language, I’m going to start expanding Jenna’s vocabulary now, with words that will someday help her crush the SAT.

All you have to do is slip the daily word into conversation with your child a few times a day. Build it into the words they are used to hearing, and you will add that word into their vocabulary.

If you really want to take this activity to the next level, you can get your own copy of the calendar, or else write the word on a slip of paper and post it somewhere in the house where your literate children are liable to see it. Slip it next to their cereal bowl, hang it on the fridge, or tuck the page into their lunch box with “Love Dad” written on the back. Make this a part of your daily habit, and brace yourself! The diction of this blog is going to become a bit grandiloquent in the new year. 🙂

SAT Prep For Kids

 This is an old newspaper clipping from high school about the National Merit Scholarship awards.  I’m including it because even now, it really bothers me that I am the only girl in the picture.  How come an affluent community such as the one in which I lived produced eight students who received National Merit Commendations or higher, but only 12.5% of those students (me!) was female?  As a parent, teacher, educator, and woman I find this fact shameful.  It is almost twenty years later and I am still seething about this.  Why were the other girls at my high school not scoring higher?

But let me step off my soapbox for a moment and tell you the other thing that bothers me about this picture, which I understand now only recently.  The National Merit Scholarship is based on the PSAT, which I took only once in the 9th grade, having not studied for it at all.  I only received a commendation.  Please somebody correct me if I’m wrong here, but I could have kept taking the PSAT all the way until 11th grade, right?  If I had taken in it 11th grade, my score would have been a lot higher and I might have actually gotten a scholarship.  Why didn’t anyone tell me this at the time?  Or for that matter, why didn’t anyone help me study for the PSAT in the first place?

When I look at this group of boys on the quad I have to tell you that each one of these kids was a great guy, and the ones that I have stayed in contact with all went on to do wonderful things.  Quite unfairly, some of us were being better prepared for academics at home than others.  One of my friends in this picture came from a blue collar family who really left him to his own devices.  He ended up scoring 1550 right off the bat.  Talk about raw, unguided talent!   My parents by contrast, were well educated and literally drove the extra mile throughout my entire school career to make sure I got the best schooling they could offer me.  But my experience was probably different from the guy whose dad was a Ph.D. and who was able to help with math and science homework past the eighth grade.  This kid went on to score a perfect 1600 on the SAT.  We both tied for Valedictorian, but I only achieved a measly 1450 SAT score by comparison.  Of course, that score doesn’t seem so shabby knowing that as a girl, I was lucky to be in a picture like this at all. 

So what are the lessons learned?  It seems pretty obvious to me now, but parents and teachers need to help their children work the system.   I’m going to be studying the rules of the PSAT and National Merit Scholarship when my kids are in high school to make sure that they take the test at the right times to give them an advantage.  The other thing that occurs to me, is that it is never too early to start filling my children’s’ minds with the knowledge they will need to do well on standardized testing.  How much do you want to bet that the son of the Ph.D. was hearing higher level vocabulary words at a young age, then the son of the security guard?  Both guys are equally brilliant as it turned out, but they weren’t really launched into college at the same level of advantage, were they?

Officially studying for the PSAT and SAT is a long way off for my children, who are only 6 and 2, but I’m laying down tracks now, for their future success.  At present, this means incorporating a rich vocabulary into our everyday life and conversation.  One way we do this is by playing a game my third grade teacher invented called Magic Word.  My six year old also has experience with logic and analogies thanks to taking the CogAT, and is getting hands-on experience in geometry through our time with Right Start Level D this summer. 

I try to sprinkle all of these activities into my kids’ lives in a fun, engaging way.  I’d never sit down my six year old and drill him on SAT words.  But I’m not above asking him to do a few geometry problems in order to earn computer time.  You can be sure I’ll be doing my utmost to give equal attention and preparation to my daughter when she is old enough.  I’m just hoping when she is in a picture for her school newspaper, that there will be some other girls sitting next to her.