I went to a good public high school, but my senior year a nearby school in the district closed, and my school absorbed its students.
Their advanced students joined our honors classes, and two things were clear: 1. The kids were just as smart as us. 2. Their education — at a public school just a few miles away — had not been as rigorous.
One girl joined our English class, and in the first two weeks it was obvious she was crazy bright and crazy frustrated. One day, our teacher used the word symbolism, and this girl kind of lost it.
“We don’t know what that means!” she said. “You guys know a lot about things we’ve never learned.” I leaned over, and said, “We barely know this. They just started talking about it at the end of last year.”
But she shook her head and pressed her lips together. “I don’t think I belong in this class,” she said. “You do!,” I said. “You’re smart! You’re really smart.” And she was.
But the next day she dropped the class.
IT’S NOT ABOUT IQ
I’ve been thinking about this because I recently learned that lots of American kids start kindergarten with a huge disadvantage that has nothing to do with their intellect, and everything to do with a shared vocabulary.
By age four, American kids from high-income families have heard about 30 million more words than kids on welfare, and 15 million more than kids in working class families.
Kids on the lucky end of the word gap obviously have an easier time understanding teachers and making themselves understood, an easier time learning to read, and other benefits that give them a leg up — the perception of a higher IQ than their low-income counterparts. The advantages persist into high school and beyond.
I’ve seen how much vocabulary disparities affect high school students, seen adults who feel stupid when they don’t know what a word means in a business meeting. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for a four year old.
Closing the Word Gap means a cultural shift toward investment in kids – and who’s against this, really? We need more early nutritional programs, support of family stability, and widespread access to early learning in preschools or at home.
China has made such a substantial investment in early childhood education that they should have more college graduates in 2030 than the total size of our workforce in the States.
Fortunately, the biggest impact we can have individually is completely free. We need to treat babies more like little people.
When we see babies or toddlers, we should be talking to them, making eye contact, and reading whenever we get a chance. It lights up their little brains, and makes everyone’s future a little shinier too.
In anticipation of the coming New Year, I made some parenting resolutions for myself. I’ve been exposed to a great deal of parenting research lately, and it turns out I’m finding new and creative ways to arrest my child’s potential. More eye contact! Less Mario!
Anyway, have a look:
If you’ve been doing anything to be a better parent, godparent, aunt or uncle, let us know in comments.
I sometimes make paper charts for my goals, so I can check things off as I go. This year, I’m using calendars to help implement some new habits.
I tend to like plain ones, so I can add my own imagery and color around a goal.
But I also love this celestial one because you can whisper reach for the stars!, and then look around to make sure no one heard you while you check off your goals with little gold stars.
On this one you can mark each day with a colorful icon, and at the end the tattooed lady is a bright tapestry of accomplishment. You go getter.
I did a Plain and Simple, 2014 Calendar Roundup on Pinterest with all my favorites, so go have a look if you also like to mark your progress with gold old pen and ink. Or if you just need a calendar.
And while you’re here, how do you track progress with new habits?
I just got back from Australia, so last night Hank and I were reading about how Koalas don’t drink much water.
Hank: “That’s because the leaves they eat have water. Most animals in dry places get their water from their food.”
Me: “… I did not know that.”
Hank: “Do you know that the human head weighs eight pounds?”
Ah, I kid about that last bit. Speaking of which, the Jerry Maguire little boy went all Anthony Michael Hall, amirite? Also, if you know what I’m talking about, that link will make you feel decrepit. I’ll just go find my movie glasses while you see if Viva Las Vegas is playing on AMC.
Anyway, Hank has been poring over science books and begging to film an experiment “show” since he was about four. Two years later, I finally figured teaching other kids about science would be a good way to remember vocabulary and concepts himself, durr, so we filmed a couple. We read about how everything works beforehand, and I had him explain it back to me, so he could narrate the video.
I know so much about convection now. Gentlemen.
I posted a couple videos on Go Mighty:
Holy crap. Did you have any idea Ivory soap and tea bags did this stuff? GAH! Particularly the tea bags. If you let me enter your home, I will now demand that you let me light a teabag on fire. I need you to see.
We’re doing three more experiment videos, so if you have any cool ones to recommend using household items, let me know.
And if you already knew about the soap? Why didn’t any of you tell me? I can hardly look at you.
This post is part of the Too Small to Fail initiative sponsored by Next Generation and the Clinton Foundation, whom I like very much. They’re trying to close the Word Gap by encouraging all of us to take small steps to improve kids’ chances in school — like talking to and making lots of eye contact with pre-verbal babies, and increasing one on one time with kiddos. More info here.
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Apologies for going radio dark the last few days, the week before Camp Mighty is always the land of a thousand checklists.
But yesterday a girlfriend and I drove into the parking lot at The Ace Palm Springs with the windows down and the kiddo in the backseat. The air here is exactly the same temperature as my skin, and Tom Waits is playing low by the pool.
I am so happy I could burst into blossom.
Damn it feels good to check that little box.
You guys have been making intimidating stuff. Like violins? And chairs? Meanwhile, I’m unwilling to work with any tool that plugs in unless it comes with glue sticks. Or hot rollers. This is probably because I can’t drink wine while I’m using a table saw.
Anyway, we’re in our final round of the I Made This Project on Go Mighty. If you’ve been making stuff, just add the tag #imadethis to a story. We’ll enter you for a chance to win a $400 package of good things. (And I’ll announce the winner August 30.)
If you know how to use a table saw or a sewing machine, now’s the time to make me feel inferior. Like so:
I’ve mentioned Caitlin before. She’s learning how to make a violin and sharing the process on Go Mighty. Most recently, she whittled the scroll and put in the Filletatura. Every time she posts, I’m like, “Still? I would so be the girl with the half finished violin in my closet until I die.”
Lorien is sewing and gifting a new stuffed animal every month for a year. Most recently she made dragons as a wedding gift.
Liz crocheted these washable, reusable face scrubbies from yarn. Good for your skin and the environment. She also used the word “cunning” to describe an object. One of uuuuuus.
This ramen from the Momofuku cookbook took 9 hours to make. Which, in cooking years, is almost as long as it takes to gestate a child.
More things. More things!:
• About half of us have pinned this, Kellee actually did it. The rest of us are just killing ourselves slowly.
• Tara rescued a chair from an alley and tried her hand at reupholstering for the first time. Success.
• Karisa has been sewing since she was 10, but this shirt is the first piece of clothing she’s ever made for herself.
• Robyn is making and giving away 1,000 hats. I wear mine constantly.
• Amy is finishing all of her unfinished sewing projects, and she made something I want.
If you haven’t posted your project yet, do! It can be something, you cooked, wrote, drew, whatever. Making stuff automatically makes you a more interesting person. And better looking too.
Go Mighty is our Life List community for people who get it done. If you’re not a member yet, let’s fix that. Sign up, and we’ll send an invite your way within 24 hours.
This is Kelly Knight’s first dahlia.
One of the best things about poking around on Go Mighty is seeing the patterns emerge. Right now, the site feels like a big “Why don’t we?”
And a whole lot of us would like to conquer a fear. Over the years, I’ve learned that using my list to conquer fears has one of the biggest impacts on my life. It’s surprising how much brain space fear reserves, maybe because of the energy we spend in avoiding thinking about the things that scare us.
In considering what I’m still afraid of, I realized I have a ludicrous, palm-sweaty fear of the group sports I played in Jr. High. I’ve joked about this before, but damn, you guys. Volleyball, dodgeball, kickball? How do I still get cold sweats thinking about doing these things as a grownup?
I think I always just thought I’d get over these things, but they seem to linger until I take active steps to shake them. Which frankly, sounds like the worst.
How about you? What scares you as a grown up? Any fears you expected to have “gotten over” by now?
Go Mighty is a Life List community for doers. Join in, why don’t you?