Abilities Your Child
Needs to Succeed
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How do you set your child up for
This is a question that all parents grapple with. And it's one that we at
hear from parents of all stripes.
is a web site co-founded by Karen Quinn (aka The Testing Mom) who is a NY Times
best-selling author, testing authority and mother of two. The Testing Mom
website provides homeschool parents and their children access to curriculum
based materials for all 50 states and online school enrichment activities for
pre-K to 6th grade.
At TestingMom.com, we understand that setting up your child up for educational
success is an especially urgent topic for homeschooling
parents, given that we are solely responsible for our children's education.
There are no teachers or school administrators we can turn to when we run into
problems or find ourselves unsure of the material we're using to educate our
children. This is true even for
homeschooled children who are gifted.
But sometimes, as parents and homeschoolers, we tend to overthink things and to
miss the forest for the trees. It's inevitable that you'll doubt the curriculum
you're using for your child at least once – and probably much more than that!
The good news is that there are seven core skills that are central to school
success for any child, whether home-schooled or otherwise. By building these
skills in your child, you'll ensure that she has a solid foundation for school
and for life. Today we want to share these skills and how you can use them to
help your child break away from the pack!
Also, Testing Mom holds periodic webinars covering this very topic – The Seven
Abilities Your Child Needs for Testing and School Success! For parents of
younger children, we also offer a webinar on How to Get Your Child
Kindergarten-Ready. You can register for the Seven Abilities webinar
here or for the kindergarten webinar
Without further delay, let's get down to the seven abilities!
Language builds the foundation for so
much of your child's education, from reading and writing to math and science –
after all, your child can't master complex mathematical or scientific material
if they can't understand the words that are used to explain those concepts to
There are two types of language that are crucial to your child's educational
Receptive language: This describes your child's ability to understand the
language that she reads or hears. For younger children, having them point to an
object -- "point to the elephant" -- can be an effective way to test this skill.
Expressive language: This describes your child's ability to use words either
verbally or in writing. Importantly, this skill deals with using language in an
organized, easy-to-understand way; it does not deal with pronouncing
The easiest and most basic way to build language skills in your child is to talk
to them constantly. Children who are surrounded by language from birth have a
much easier time learning to read and write.
Here, we're talking about your child's ability to understand information,
commonly-understood codes of behavior, and common sense shared by other children
in his age group. This might be tested by asking your child, "What should you do
if you bump into someone?" or "Why would you take your car to a mechanic?"
Although this skill seems like it would develop on its own, in reality you need
to actively foster and promote this skill in your child. The easiest way to do
this is to demonstrate the behavior you want to instill, and then explain it to
your child. So the next time you and your child see someone drop their wallet,
return it to them and then tell your child why you did it. Your child is
constantly observing your actions and emulating them – so be on your best
I don't have to tell you how important memory is. Nearly every second of the day
requires us to use memory in one way or another. But believe it or not, memory
is more important for school than for almost every other career. So it's crucial
that you foster this skill in your child at every opportunity.
Memory may refer to verbal memory or visual memory. Verbal memory stores
information that your child processes by reading or listening; visual memory
deals with information your child processes by seeing.
Memory is built through practice. Ask your child questions about the world
around him – most of the time, these questions will require him to draw on his
memory. The more your child is required to dig into his knowledge bank to answer
a question, the stronger his memory will be.
Math is an important school subject, and countless careers require sharp
mathematical skills. Beyond that, math builds the foundation for a number of
seemingly unrelated skills, including problem-solving and critical thinking.
Don't limit math practice to the classroom. You can make math practice fun by
incorporating it into your everyday life. The next time you go to the grocery
store, ask your child, "We're going to buy 3 apples and 2 oranges. How many
pieces of fruit is that?" Cooking, cleaning, and doing yard work all present
opportunities to pose fun, real-world math questions to your child.
5. Visual-spatial reasoning
This describes your child's ability to solve problems using images, shapes,
tables, and diagrams. Visual-spatial reasoning requires your child to understand
visual-spatial information that he sees, and eventually to create output, like a
drawing or puzzle.
If you think about it, this skill is a prerequisite for writing, reading, and
math, among other things. After all, letters and numbers are essentially a
variety of shapes and lines. Before your child can write or recognize the letter
O, he'll need to know how to draw and recognize a circle. The same goes for the
letter A, which is essentially a triangle with two elongated sides.
For young children, simple puzzles and manipulatives provide the foundation for
visual-spatial reasoning skills. As your child gets older, having him learn to
write and do complex puzzles will go a long way toward improving this skill.
This involves brain functions that allow your child to "know" something.
Thinking, analyzing, and reasoning all require cognitive skills (so they're
For young children, focus on building their memory. This will help them develop
a basis for their cognitive skills when they're older. For older children, ask
them questions that require them to use their cognitive skills. The next time
you're at the beach, have them sort shells by color – or have them separate
fruits and vegetables when you're unpacking your groceries.
7. Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills refer to your child being able to control his hands and
digits. These skills are critical for a variety of actions, from tying your
shoes to playing a musical instrument.
Giving your child plenty of manipulatives to play with will help her develop her
fine motor skills. As she gets older, have her practice holding a pencil,
putting on her shoes, and opening and closing doors.
Just keeping these seven skills in mind as you educate and interact with your
child will have a huge impact on their educational progress. And keep in mind
has over 25,000 practice questions to help you build your curriculum, along with
online games and school enrichment materials that will help your child continue
to progress whether they have a test coming up or not. And as a
member, you'll be able to reach out to our team of testing experts anytime
you're feeling unsure of yourself or your instructional method. Good luck, and