Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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***Coloring Outside the Lines

Raising a Smarter Kid by Breaking All the Rules

by Roger Schank

Reviewed February 11, 2002.
HarperCollins Publishers, 2000.  244 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (649.1 SCH).

This is an interesting book, and a good reminder that some things are more important than good grades.  The author is terribly down on schools.  I was put off at first by his statement early on that anyone who remembers school as a good experience must be suffering from a memory block!  However, if you set aside a few extremes, he had some very good things to say.  And it was a very timely reminder to me that there should be things that I want more for my sons than just good grades.

He lists six qualities of what he calls a “smarter kid:”  Verbal proficiency, creativity, analytical skill, gumption, ambition, and inquisitiveness.  He points out that these aren’t necessarily things that the schools even want to teach and gives ideas of ways that parents can try to encourage their growth in their children.  He believes that your child will be have a happier, more personally successful life if these traits are encouraged.  And isn’t that what we should really want for our children?

The author is a specialist in learning theory.  He tells us that learning takes place as a result of three things:  Having a wide variety of experiences, reflecting on these experiences, and experiencing failure.  So sometimes it’s worth taking your child out of school to have a new experience.  (Thank you, DODDS schools for allowing an excuse for an “educational family trip”!  We had stopped doing those now that Josh is in Middle School, but maybe that’s a mistake.)  And kids need to have room to fail.  He gives sports as an example where kids can experience failure but find out that it’s not the end of the world.

His later chapters give specific ideas on how to develop these character traits in your children.  Many of the ideas are simple, like talking at the dinner table, taking them on trips, or playing board games with them.

I tend to be someone who likes to follow rules.  As a student, I thought that of course one should toe the line and do exactly what the teacher expects.  This book reminded me that there are good reasons not to live life that way, and so I shouldn’t try to force my sons into that mold.  I recommend this book to any parent trying to get your kids through the school system, especially if you sometimes wonder why his grades aren’t as high as you think they could be.  It would also be a great book for home schoolers, as you have the freedom to put even more of these ideas into effect.  Definitely a thought-provoking book. 

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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