Do you know your child’s ability gaps, and what are you doing to help?

I’ve been diving into the current and future skills gap and what I need to do as a parent outside of formal schooling to supplement my kids’ learning. There’s no way I’m counting on public education to provide the skills, learning and character traits they’ll need to thrive as the Cognitive Era advances.

What about you?  If you’re a parent of a child under 16, have you thought about this?  Even if you’re sending your children to a great private school (or great public school in a wealthy neighborhood), I wouldn’t assume school will take care of it.

Here are the three simple steps I’m taking to answer the question “what can I do to ensure my kids learn the core skills needed for the Cognitive Era?”

  1. Determine skills you think are needed (see my previous posts on this!) which for me boils down to:
    1. 3 Rs – reading, writing, arithmetic
    2. 4 Cs – critical thinking/problem solving, creativity, collaboration, communication
    3. Specific tech skills – coding, data analysis at a minimum
    4. Specific life skills – independence, honesty, emotional resilience, self confidence, leadership
  2. Do an assessment on each of my kids – strengths and areas for growth, get input from family, friends, teachers…(See below)
  3. Pinpoint the areas where growth is needed and set up opportunities for my child to learn these skills/habits/traits. (See below.)

I have to thank to Teri P. Moore – her book The Secular Homeschooler has a great section on how to do an assessment, with lots of examples and also ideas for activities/programs/practices.

secular homeschooler

Instead of filling up their day with random activities so they’re busy, first you really need to sit down and create a “Whole Child List” – consider each individual child in terms of  what will serve him/her well in life, and in terms of what would hold him/her back. THEN you can look at what learning opportunities you might want to find or create. To quote  Teri and give her credit:

whole child list.jpg

So her suggestion is to first list out your child’s positive points, aka “what will help him/her become an independent, ethical, capable and wise adult.” Look for talents, skills, personality traits, habits, academic strengths, athletics, etc.  Then list out any points about your child which worry you, which you think might hold your child back as an adult- any areas of ‘immaturity’, or areas where growth would be needed for them to thrive later on in life.

Seem so simple! But I wonder how many parents actually sit down together and do this?  I haven’t done it formally before now.

Here’s my first list:

  • Loves Minecraft, anything computers. Good at it, creative and resourceful and focused.
  • Sees himself already as a geek, wants to do computer programming – clear on his direction
  • Loves to be silly
  • Great with young children, high empathy/kindness for others
  • Fully commits when playing volleyball; doesn’t hold back when in the game
  • Loved the YMCA Pilots program (teen leadership) last year – clearly found significance from it, felt he was doing something important. Ran for President (got VP).
  • Wants to be independent
  • Proposals – able to communicate what he wants and present an argument/trade.
  • Has entrepreneurial ideas – sold candy for a profit at school, t-shirt biz idea, cafe idea, etc.
  • Pretty good at school, rarely stuck with concepts.

And my second:

  • Very picky eater
  • meanders when he  verbally tells a story/communicates to a group
  • sedentary – would be on devices all day if we let him
  • wants more friends – has a few good ones but rarely connects in person
  • gets bored when off the computer!
  • when frustrated, tends to walk off/give up/withdraw
  • disorganized – will lose points at school simply because he didn’t turn in homework assignments
  • doesn’t do his best work in school – gets As, B’s, C’s
  • tends to not finish projects/give up if doesn’t go the way he envisioned right off the bat- i.e. Youtube Channel, Minecraft server
  • Lack of persistence/determination
  • wants to blend in (i.e. he doesn’t want a spectacular, clever, creative Halloween costume (which I’m always dead keen to brainstorm/make) – he went for the grey ghoul cloak/mask – appropriate, not too juvenile.)

My initial plan:

  • PILOTS YMCA team leadership – a no-brainer to sign up for 2016.
  • Stop giving him rides to school! Time to bicycle again.
  • Learning to Code Meetup – Tuesday nights (coding not offered at his school!)  This could provide structure, be social, let him meet actual programmers, so he’ll spend some time now doing it.
  • Organize visits to high schools in January, to find out out which has best computer science track – have my son take lead, ask questions, review courses, contribute to decision.
  • Volleyball league – instead of waiting for USYVL to start in April, will take him Monday to Blenders Boy’s league Monday/Wed nights.
  • T-shirt business – I’m organizing meeting with him, his aunt who’s a graphic designer, myself, to explore what would be required to set this up. Hoping he’s interested – if so, then have him put together a basic business proposal.
  • Toastmasters? Debate Club? Some sort of public speaking opportunity where he can learn how to communicate his ideas more clearly.

Looking at these items against the Skills list at the top:  I see they touch on  communication, writing, coding, leadership, collaboration/social, independence, self confidence.

I’m also going to mull over what I could do to develop persistence/determination, in a positive way.

I sat down with my son about a week ago and talked through most of these activities. I HAVEN’T sat down and shown him the two lists though. Maybe I should, in a very carefully worded way? Perhaps I need to assess myself, and share that with him at the same time!

I’ll let you know how it all goes in a few months.

2 thoughts on “Do you know your child’s ability gaps, and what are you doing to help?

  1. Happy 2016! Here’s an update on my plan with Caleb
    a) He doesn’t want to do volleyball, and I’m not going to force him,
    b) I talked with an acquaintance who’s the CEO of a game developer company, who pointed me to Unity (Csharp programming language) as a place to start. I found a course on – my new love – that sounded perfect, and relayed all this to Caleb, leaving it his choice. He was enthusiastic
    c) For structure, I took him to a local ‘learn to code’ meetup group – run by a brilliant lovely guy, it turns out. He had a great conversation, got some good advice (‘learn to code by experimenting, doing a project you’ve thought up rather than following directions or creating what codeacademy tells you – it will be more fun and you’ll learn at a deeper level’), and got validation, interacted with adults. We’ll go every Tuesday night! (I’ll do my own udemy stuff as really not my dream to code).
    d) I have suggested a debate or public speaking club, letting this one percolate a bit more as I’m also
    e) signing him up for the YMCA PILOTS Leadership program
    f) contacted two of the local high schools to organize student shadowing so he can choose the best one for programming. He brought up my gap year idea (homeschool for a year, THEN put him into 9th grade so he’s not the youngest) but I haven’t worked out how to do this, or even IF it’s a good idea…
    g) agreed with his aunt aka my twin sister that we’ll send Caleb to stay with her in Seattle, meet her computer programmer friends at Xbox, gaming companies, and maybe have him do a coding workshop.

    I’m pretty happy with these efforts and the results! But also starting to build up a bit of guilt as I have two 10 year old daughters and haven’t spent the same amount of time on them. I figure I have another year or two for them to explore – neither has intentions as specific as my son yet. 🙂

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