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The Secret To Raising Smart Kids


There’s plenty of advice out there for parents on how to raise smart kids. What works, though, is still a question researchers are trying to answer.

Today on Think, as a part of KERA’s American Graduate initiative, Lauren Silverman talked with journalist Tom Clynes about ways parents can foster learning in kids. His article “How to Raise a Genius” appears in the journal Nature.    

The KERA Interview

Tom Clynes on …

… how to support learning outside the classroom:

“When a child develops a strong interest in something, move fast to support those interests and provide opportunities. Take vacations to places that interest them. Don’t be afraid to pull your kids out of school. Go on a trip. Learning is really more important than strong grades and perfect attendance. Actual learning, especially in the child’s early years, is the thing that really makes a difference.”  

… testing for spatial ability:

“Spatial ability is the capacity to understand and to remember spatial relationships between objects … Some recent studies suggest that spatial abilities play a major role in creativity and technical innovation. And some people suggest that it might be the largest known untapped source of human potential because students who are only marginally impressive in mathematics or verbal ability - but high in spatial ability - often make really good engineers, architects, master carpenters and plumbers, surgeons - things that our society really needs and yet very few admissions directors are looking at.”

… the trouble with labeling kids:  

“It hurts on both ends sometimes to label a kid. If they’re gifted then OK that can put extra pressure on them and maybe they will want to keep up that identification as a gifted child. So maybe they won’t take risks and do things that they might fail at, that won’t put them at the top of the charts. And of course labeling a kid as ungifted, that’s very obviously something that is not a good idea. And gifts emerge at lots of different time for lots of different kids. Kids are gifted in all kinds of different ways. It’s not just cognitively … Parents and teachers shouldn’t throw in the towel too early on a kid whose gifts aren’t emerging at any particular time.”