LINCOLN PARK— If you have a 3- or 4-year-old kid, chances are you haven't started thinking about prepping them for the SAT.
But the deadline to sign up pre-kindergartners for CPS Selective Enrollment testing is Friday, which means in addition to signing up for the test, many parents are thinking about how to prepare their youngster for the tests.
“It’s like taking the SATs,” said Marisa Mathews, director of Bright Kids Chicago, a tutoring company that specializes in prepping 3- and 4-year-olds for kindergarten admission tests. “You wouldn’t go into the SATs cold because if you do, you’re bound to get caught up in something.”
Although according to its website, CPS does not “recommend, sponsor or endorse any test preparation courses,” Mathews said prepping is becoming “more and more necessary.”
For one, Mathews said more parents are choosing to raise their children in the city, which means more parents are hoping to send their kids to one of 15 CPS selective enrollment elementary schools — which offer an advanced curriculum without the private school price tag.
But Mathews said the actual admissions tests — one for kids applying to the city’s 10 regional gifted centers and one for kids applying to the five classical schools — are “challenging” because most kids have never been in a testing situation before.
“We have to make sure they understand the ideas of focus and stamina, and that they can separate from their parents,” said Mathews, who added that on test day, the administrator will not give the test if the child can't separate from his or her parents.
“Also they need to understand the idea of listening to directions and following along and being able to do something on their own that is not typical of a preschool classroom or something they’ve seen before,” Mathews said.
Of course, teaching a 4-year-old how to focus is no walk in the park.
So, Mathews recommends literally taking a walk in the park — and making it educational.
“Just practice vocabulary,” Mathews said. “Every time you walk down the street, say 'What is that? What’s a tree? What does it look like? Well, it’s green on top and brown on the bottom. What does the tree have on it? Well, it has leaves and it has branches.'”
Mathews said it’s just as easy to introduce math concepts in daily life — count how many leaves on a branch or make a pattern with big leaves and little leaves.
“Having your child talk as much as possible is infinitely helpful for these exams because it’s just keeping them always thinking about these things,” she said.
To learn about the two types of selective enrollment elementary schools — regional gifted centers and classical schools — and about what to expect on each test, watch the video.