I recently wrote an article for Psychology Today, entitled “Why People Take Shortcuts.” The article was about the “university bribery scandal” that took much of our nation by surprise. There has since been a great deal of commentary about this issue. One particular opinion that I found particularly informative came from a New York Times article entitled “People Don’t Bribe College Officials to Help Their Kids. They Do It to Help Themselves.” While the article was very informative, I didn’t really have to get past the title to be in full agreement on that matter. More recently, evidence was uncovered about one family having paid over $6 million to get their daughter into Stanford University.
That’s a lot to shell out for bolstering the family’s reputation! As shocking as that may sound to most people, I was most troubled by the “reactive” approach to the college admissions process. I make the argument that college planning should start in first or second grade. You’re probably scratching your head, thinking… “What?” When your kid is barely out of diapers, college is about the last thing you want to think about, right? Quite the contrary!
One of the biggest reasons for the development of learning deficits is because of poor foundational skills. When a child has missed out on fundamental concepts early in the education process, how on earth are they expected to handle the more advanced material?
If that one family had thought about continuously nurturing their daughter’s foundational skills as a young child, they may not have needed to resort to such an extreme measure to get her into a prestigious university. Saving $6 million dollars wouldn’t be a bad incentive either. You’re probably wondering why I’m discussing all this in an article that’s supposed to be devoted to test preparation. My reasoning is simple. In many respects, the test prep courses are a lot like the bribery scandal—albeit with a more legal approach.
Very often parents will see a lower-than-expected ACT score and then scramble to figure out a solution for this. Seeking out the best “test Prep” company in the area will likely be their first step. I have nothing against test prep services, provided they are used in a proactive manner. As a matter of fact, Fit Learning has collaborated with Alex Ellison Test Prep because our missions are both aligned around the following 2 critical components:
Maintaining a Solid Foundation
I mentioned above the importance of knowing the fundamentals before moving on to more complex material, so I am going to elaborate here. Most children who come through our Naperville or Chicago learning lab arrive with significant deficiencies in their foundational skills. When such issues are present, it does more than hinder their ability to handle more advanced concepts.
When the foundational skills are lacking, a child will be more inclined to tune-out in class, because he or she doesn’t understand what is being taught. When an environment is not reinforcing (rewarding) in a way that it is supposed to be, the child may find other ways to seek out reinforcement. Parents, you’ve all heard the expression, “Negative attention is better than no attention at all.” You guessed it! The child will begin to misbehave or act like the “class clown” to illicit laughter or other forms of attention from classmates. Such a child may then get branded by the teacher as a bad kid, potentially resulting in exclusion from fun or reinforcing activities. When this goes on long enough, it can result in lower self-confidence and possibly lead to a diagnosis of learning anxiety, ADHD, or other debilitating labels.
Usually, a lot of the above issues can be avoided by simply going back and repairing those lost foundational skills. In the education system, everything is connected and generally flows from the most basic concepts to the most advanced. If anything gets lost along the way, then there is a disconnection and all the lessons will come across disjointed. In other words, things won’t make sense to the child. At Fit Learning, we go back and reteach the foundational skills, thereby repairing any learning gaps that likely hindered the academic process.
Much of the learning that kids do in school is oriented around “getting by.” How often do we hear about kids cramming for tests? When a child is cramming for anything in school, “fluency” is the farthest thing from his or her mind. Through the process of cramming, kids may do just enough to get a passing grade on the test, but what is the likelihood that the child will retain those concepts? Unlikely, right? When material is not being retained, isn’t that also creating a disconnect in the learning process? Furthermore, missed knowledge retention becomes the equivalent of a lapse in foundational skills.
The best way to avoid this is through fluency-based learning. Think about this in terms of the alphabet. Does anyone have to even think about the ABC’s? The alphabet is the best example of fluency. As a matter of fact, kids know the alphabet so well that they sing it—joyously, no less. Imagine if everything one learned was enjoyable enough to put to song. It can be! At Fit Learning, we believe that it is not enough to just learn concepts, but to know them like the ABC’s—fluently!
I began by referencing my article on why people take shortcuts and I will conclude accordingly. The process of learning is an ongoing and evolving process where everything should flow together seamlessly. There are no shortcuts to the learning process and the quicker children realize that, the quicker they will be prepared for all that life throws at them.
We have chosen to align ourselves with Alex Ellison Test Prep because they share our two-prong philosophy regarding Foundation and Fluency. They refer children to us to fill any significant foundational gaps in learning and we refer to them when children are ready to tackle the next phase of their learning cycle—standardized test preparation.