Celebrating the individual

Published by Lori Pickert on October 24, 2008 at 01:16 PM

So, if a child is allowed to play to their strengths, will they neglect their weaknesses?

School is often a relentless push toward the middle.

If you excel, you either wait for everyone to catch up or, if you’re “ lucky”, you are put in a gifted class, separated from your friends, and given extra work.

Most of your time is spent trying to improve in areas where you are weak, rather than developing your special talents and gifts.

(To the point where children who aren’t performing well across the board don’t have time for art, music, or playing.)

Children should have an opportunity to play to their individual strengths — from their particular, unique point of view.

If so much of our efforts toward educating children are directed toward having them — all of them — meet a certain standard, why not have part of our efforts go toward encouraging them to be extraordinary?


Comment by Diane on October 24, 2008 at 06:51 PM

I am cheering -- and LOUDLY!!

Comment by Lori Pickert on October 24, 2008 at 07:34 PM

let's do the wave! can you do the wave with two people?

Comment by Sarah Jackson on October 24, 2008 at 07:59 PM

I can wave too! This issue frustrates me beyond belief.

Comment by Lori Pickert on October 24, 2008 at 08:14 PM

i think with three we can definitely do the wave.

what frustrates you, sarah?

Comment by Sarah Jackson on October 24, 2008 at 08:24 PM

what frustrates me is the focus on things like math drills and other rote activities so that everyone "meets standard" rather than on giving each child the chance to explore their potential in the areas where they excel.

Comment by Lori Pickert on October 24, 2008 at 08:28 PM

isn't it everyone's dream to be .. standard?

there's just not enough time to promote children's talents when they need to be bringing up their less-than-stellar scores in the things .. they will never .. excel at. what?

i read a great quote by a school administrator: “that's what hobbies are for.”

uh, okay. but these kids don't have *time* for hobbies!!

Comment by JoVE on October 25, 2008 at 01:01 PM

A few years ago when I was contemplating a career change and beginning a management job I read some management advice books. One (The Gifted Boss) really strongly recommended that you should reorganize the division of labour to play to everyone's strengths rather than require employees to "fix" their weaknesses. Others also talked about this.

I remember at the time that the management books and the parenting books were saying more or less the same things, but this insight seems important in relation to education. If education is preparation for "life" (and we can debate that another day), then what kind of life are we preparing kids for. Developing their gifts and then helping them work out how to earn a living with those gifts seems much more sensible. Cindy at AppleStars (homeschooljournal.net) takes that approach and her kids are now starting to go out into the world. Seems to be a good one.

Comment by Lori Pickert on October 25, 2008 at 10:10 PM

JoVE, yes -- that push to the middle doesn't just fill in the valleys, it seems to smooth out the hills as well.

interestingly (and i hope i can find the link for you -- you would love this), i just read an article about how microsoft formed some sort of alliance with schools out west where they put forward a curriculum that would *create good workers* -- the type of workers that businesses need. i do remember that first-graders were supposed to create power-point presentations (!) ...

so, do we want an education that prepares our kids to work for bill gates? or to be bill gates?

Comment by Lori Pickert on October 25, 2008 at 10:14 PM

to clarify ...

do we want an education that prepares our kids to work for bill gates? or to be bill gates?

or to be a pastry chef? or a sports announcer? or a journalist? or a carpenter? or a poet?

shouldn't education be about helping our children discover what is remarkable within themselves?

Comment by mary on October 29, 2008 at 03:16 PM

I have had a bit of an internal battle with this lately watching the papers come home from school that are so focused on one aspect of learning, not her strongest area, and seeing almost nothing come on that shows critical thinking, problem solving and creativity, her strength. I worry that left to sit dormant these very important attributes will wither in this setting. I know that she will work hard to learn what it is the school deems as important but it will not be with the zeal and love that she shows when trying to understand the complexities of animal taxonomy.
So my battle continues, homeschool the girls or continue with my education so that I can become a teacher that gives those opportunities to a class full of kids and supplement my kids public schooling at home.
Lori, a visit to Camp Creek always gets me to think more on this. Thanks.

Comment by Lori Pickert on October 29, 2008 at 06:58 PM

thank _you_, mary. i've lived that same conflict, so i know what you're going through.

there are teachers working passionately to change a broken system, and there are parents who are as dull and detached as the most jaded public school teacher. i feel a connection with every person who is awake and striving for something better for children. ideas belong to everyone, after all.

i wish you the best of luck figuring out what's best for you and your family, and i'm happy if anything you find here helps you. feel free to e-mail me any time — or start a conversation in the forum! there are a lot of teetering might-start-homeschooling parents hanging around. ;^)

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