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Education Reporter

One Dad's Sneaky Feat for Educational Excellence
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by Jay Payleitner

Eventually, every kid will learn to multiply. It usually happens late in second grade. They will also learn about "opposites." That's basic kindergarten curriculum. In fourth grade, most school districts teach centrifugal force. In middle school, kids will learn how to bisect an angle with a compass and a straight edge. Your school district should be able to tell you exactly what they teach and when.

When a teacher introduces new concepts to a class full of kids, three things happen. One, it's immediately considered work. There's no choice involved and students have to put effort into learning these new ideas. A good teacher may be able to make it interesting, but it's still work that needs to be done. Second, some kids pick up on the concept faster than others. My wife often reminds me that not everything is a competition, but wouldn't you prefer your own kid to be in the winner's bracket when it comes to new topics in the classroom? Third, kids start making instant judgments concerning their classmates. "He's so smart." "He's so dumb." You can't fight it — that's just the way it is. But again, shouldn't we be setting our kids up for achievement?

Here's an idea. Not the week before. Not the semester before. But years before, go ahead and teach a few of these concepts to your kids. Make it a game!

Do you know a three year old? Ask them "What's the opposite of up?" They won't know. Tell them with great sincerity, "The opposite of up is down!" Then ask them, "What is the opposite of cold?" They won't know. Tell them the "The opposite of cold is hot!" Do the same with big/little, loud/quiet, slow/fast, closed/open, nice/mean, clean/dirty, yes/no, off/on, etc. Use your best vocal expressiveness, use your hands, look in their face, mime the answer as you say it. After four or five examples, suddenly their little face lights up and they understand! It's amazing. It's a rush for them and for you. In a couple years, when the kindergarten teacher starts teaching "opposites," your kid is going to be top of the class. Suddenly, they will be earmarked as a bright student worthy of special attention the rest of their school career. This is strategic fathering. Going into kindergarten all the moms have already made sure their kids know colors, ABCs, and two plus two. But only your kid will know "opposites." The best part is that you taught them!

Do the same with multiplication when your kid is in first grade. But don't ask, "What is five times two?" That sounds confusing. That's work. Instead, ask "What is five, two times?" Use your hands as demonstration. Then ask, "What is four, two times?" Then ask, "What is four, three times!" A sharp first grader (your kid) will get it. Be warned, you've turned learning into a game and they may never want to stop. That's when you know you have put them way ahead of the curve.

One more example. On the next nice day, invite your second grader out to your driveway to wash your car. Ask them if they think you can hold the bucket of water upside down over your head without spilling it. They will laugh and say "No way, daddy!" Then spin that bucket over your head without losing a drop. They'll be amazed, and you will have demonstrated centrifugal and centripetal force. (Look it up, if you don't remember.)

You can easily see how this concept can be applied to many life skills your kids need to know. Teach them to run hard through first base weeks before their first little league game. Take them for a drive around a big empty parking lot months before they begin driver's education. Help them commit to sexual purity years before their first date. Think about what future challenges your children will face, and prep them well ahead of time.

Are your kids smarter, more skilled or more athletic than all the others? It doesn't matter. This little bit of subterfuge is one of the great secrets of parenthood, especially for fathers. Dad, you're running a bit of a con game. Your kid may start out as average, but he or she won't be for long. Because everyone in that classroom has new heightened expectations for your child's performance.

Funny thing about expectations. They tend to come true.

Jay Payleitner is a radio producer, author and family man.This article is an excerpt from his latest book 52 Things Kids Need from a Dad. He blogs weekly at fathers52.com.

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