WHY SOME CHILDREN OUTPACE OTHERS ACADEMICALLY- SECRET TO TOP SCHOOLS/IVY LEAGUES- PART 1

Happy Monday! How was your weekend or should I say your week? Mine was good. Spring break is over for my children and we are getting ready for another semester.

 This month, I want to look into various tips on raising intellectually and academically gifted children. As you know, my children are still very young so I am in the business of seeking wisdom and knowledge when it comes to raising children but nevertheless here is what I have gathered so far from my observations, research, speaking to parents that have children in top schools in the United States and other resources……..

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A week ago, I took my oldest daughter for the Garden State Debating tournament. During the debate parents are normally allowed to watch the children. So I entered one of the classrooms to observe and as I sat there with other parents listening to these children, I looked around, I was the only black person amongst the parents which were mostly Caucasians and Asians. I wasn’t too surprised but a question popped up in my mind  (and this has been on my mind for years now)….. “How do Asians (Indians, Koreans, Chinese etc.) get their children to be academically so smart”, or should I say, a candidate for the top schools in town. It’s almost like they were born to be smart…” But then I know better. Nobody was born that way. A child may have inclination towards science subjects or flair for literature but to actually succeed in chosen field requires a lot of consistent hard work.

Watching and interacting with parents of intellectually smart children, I have been able to deduce that a lot of thoughts, planning, structuring, micromanaging etc. go into the lives of these children. Almost everything that the parents do for them is calculated and geared towards their end goal once they find the child’s passion. 

Caucasian and Asian Parents are just like any other race, setting out in life not knowing what to expect, with a lot of hopes and dreams. But the difference between the ones that the children excel academically and the ones that don’t are the resources (planning, quality time, care, nurturing, values, tutoring etc.) parents are willing to invest in these children.

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Parental resource investment, guidance, expectations and nurturing play a huge role in the path a child takes towards achieving his/her destiny. There are so many tips out there on this topic. I will share over the next few weeks what I have been able to gather from experts, teachers, educators conferences and friends.

#1. Structured home environment- This is factor that I learned very early in marriage. I remember asking an older friend whose 3 children went to Ivy Leagues on how she did it. Her response was that “it lies in your hands”. You have to create a lifestyle and structure and you have to enforce it. A child must be able to know when he/she is supposed to play or study. Personally, having three children with two of them close in age and the last in a different age group, I sometimes find it challenging because I sometimes want to indulge the youngest one while the 2 older ones are studying. Children work best in a structured environment.

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#2. Plan ahead- Watching parents that their children excel in academics, what I also noticed is that they don’t wait for a particular season in the child’s life to begin planning. Planning is done way ahead. For instance, if it is your desire (or should I say you see the potential for your child to be good in liberal art), you don’t wait for him/her to reach senior high before you begin planning for the type of college that suits him/her career goal. It might be too late then because the requirement requested for might be a skill that takes 3-5 years to acquire and if you wait till the child is 15-16yrs, before you begin preparation, this will be too late.

A good example is a Chinese friend, of mine whose son got admission into Princeton for computer engineering last September. To set him for admission, one of the things she did was to enroll him in different engineering competitions over the years. Starting from school level, then he rose to state level and within 3-4 years, he rose to national level where he came third in a cyber security competition. My point, she was pro-active and very intentional about her son’s academic maneuver. She wasn’t enrolling him in just any club that will not have a positive influence on career goal. Now the boy is in his first year Princeton and she already got him an internship in Silicon Valley for the summer. Be intentional, research the requirements for the future and plan ahead.

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#3. Take time to research the school your child will attend. Study the neighborhood very carefully to ensure they offer honor programs and advanced-placement courses. You want to put your child in an environment that will challenge her intellect. An environment that will provide maximum exposure to academic resources. For folks that are in the United States, you can use webpages like www.schooldigger.com; www.greatschools.org to assist in narrowing down the neighborhoods that have the best schools. In addition, if you can afford supplementary tutoring or extra classes ,please do.

#4. Have a high expectation and high standard for your children so they know what is expected of them. I have noticed that children with consistent poor school performance tend to have parents that are nonchalant about school and life decisions in general. Let your child know (in a loving way) what is expected of them. This has to be done with care, love and balance. In observing my children (and from research), I have noticed that children internalize academic expectations sometimes in a negative way and it can lead to undue pressure on them and eventually depression if not managed on time.

#5. Spend quality time with your children. Washington Post has a good writeup on this. Spending quality time with your children cannot be overemphasized. You will get to know them and vice versa. Children make mistakes all the time and these mistakes need to be corrected as soon as possible so they do not become habitual. Spending time with them will help in identifying habits that can hinder their growth and development. Personality is another factor that hinders children’s academic performance. You want to identify their type of personality early so it can be appropriately managed (topic for another day).

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#6. Reduce screen time tremendously. By screen time I mean TV, computer (unless for homework and school research), games, phone etc. Here is a joke…few days ago my almost 5year old daughter came back from school and asked me “mommy can I turn on the TV”? I looked at myself and thought wow! This is how much TV watching is controlled in my house. Even my baby thinks she needs permission to watch it. But then what can I do 🙂 ? May God help us all.

I’ll stop here for today 🙂

I have some resources and tips that I will share with you throughout April (I don’t want to inundate you today). There are quite a number of mothers like me looking for resources and tips on child raising. Feel free to send me an email (tolusworld@gmail.com) or leave a reply below. If you are a veteran in this then please share in the comment section below what has helped you in your journey.

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8 thoughts on “WHY SOME CHILDREN OUTPACE OTHERS ACADEMICALLY- SECRET TO TOP SCHOOLS/IVY LEAGUES- PART 1

  1. Tolu you rock! You hitting me right where it’s needed please keep the information coming, my 11 years old feels reading is a chore and I have tried everything I can to make her love it. To be sincere am pretty much stuck and short of ideas. Thanks

    • My dear Yeside…..My daughter is 11years old so I know what you are going through and where you are coming from. What kind of books does your daughter like? She is 11, she must like some books at that age….like the girlie books? 🙂 maybe you want to start from there. What I do for my girls also is to make going to the library a mother daughter time. It’s such a big deal for us. Library time. I choose a book for myself and they choose more. I’m always reading. So they think reading is the only way of life. 🙂