The crush toward the middle

Published by Lori Pickert on November 23, 2011 at 04:56 AM

Kids, when we grow up, have dreams, and we have passions, and we have visions, and somehow we get those things crushed. We get told that we need to study harder or be more focused or get a tutor. My parents got me a tutor in French, and I still suck in French. Two years ago, I was the highest-rated lecturer at MIT’s entrepreneurial master’s program. And it was a speaking event in front of groups of entrepreneurs from around the world. When I was in grade two, I won a city-wide speaking competition, but nobody had ever said, “Hey, this kid’s a good speaker. He can’t focus, but he loves walking around and getting people energized.” No one said, “Get him a coach in speaking.” They said, get me a tutor in what I suck at. — Cameron Herold

How much of your child’s education is focused on his perceived deficits, and how much is focused on his individual talents?



Comment by Amy on November 23, 2011 at 04:51 PM

As I read this I realized that finally I understood what my core resistance to having Benen enrolled in our district's Deaf/Hard of Hearing program has been...the entire focus is language enrichment, which I absolutely appreciate, and which served us well when, at age 3.5, he did not have more than three expressive words. But he is so much more than the program and I felt like the next level (kindergarten) wasn't able to see him holistically.
So he's at home all the time, just shows up 30 minutes twice a week for some speech and auditory training. And even then, I had to advocate strongly (nice for insist) that he receive these services outside the classroom for a variety of reasons (we tried the classroom, he hated it after a few weeks).
And now that he is home he has all the time in the world to focus on his passions and strengths. Of course it is a challenge to me to support him in this, not fight him on who he needs to be. But as I watch him evolve I'm so grateful for the opportunity we are able to give him to just be deeply immersed in his own creativity. So maybe there's more breadth than depth right now but I assume that will sort itself out in time as long as he doesn't feel pressured...right???? (;-)) (in case you didn't catch that, that's the rookie homeschooler in me asking the choir for an amen based on their experience with their own kids...)

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 23, 2011 at 05:50 PM

i think you can help him sort it out by encouraging him to stay with one thing a little longer and work a little deeper .. (cough) project-based homeschooling (cough) ;^)

it's a long process and you're at the beginning, and there's no hurry :^) but if you already see him immersed in his own creativity, it sounds like you're on the right track. broad explorations are what should help him find the things he cares about particularly. as he goes along you can nudge him to stay with ideas longer and dig a little deeper at what he cares about.

Comment by Dawn Suzette on November 24, 2011 at 01:08 AM

Ha... We are all about individual talents around here. That is a big reason why we homeschool. We want them to pursue their passions. We both (my husband and I) feel like we did not have enough time in our younger years to deeply explore our interests because we were too busy doing busy work assigned by someone else. By the time we reached adulthood we were not sure what we really liked... and could make a living doing. We both went to college without direction and got degrees we are not using right now... other than to get in the door for a job.

Love this quote. Get me a tutor in what I suck at... that was me with math. Now I have these kids who love to do math and see it as a way to solve real life problems and have fun. Such a different perspective than I had as a kid afraid of math!

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 24, 2011 at 01:45 AM

it's funny because i know parents sign their kids up for a lot of activities (usually working toward "well rounded" maybe), but i think it's true that we don't always invest money in the things our kids are good at — i think there's a general sense of hey, they're already good at THAT.

can you even imagine where you might be if you had had the time to invest in yourself as a child? :)

Comment by Dawn Suzette on November 24, 2011 at 02:05 AM

Yes. I signed the kids up for two classes this term (sports and drama). They totally rebelled and said they did not have enough time for two classes. They were too busy already with all their own projects and playtime with friends. They were right in the end... it was just one more thing we did not need to add to our week. They picked Drama and that was it.

Dylan told me recently that he wants a violin but he does not want to take lessons... he said he will learn from YouTube until he is ready for lessons! If only I was that sure of myself at five. Maybe it was?

You are right. I think back on all the things I was interested in as a kid but did not have a chance to dive into or was not encouraged to explore. Frustrating. That is another reason why I homeschool. I don't want my kids to feel that way.

Comment by Kari on November 26, 2011 at 08:44 AM

I wonder, though, if he had been tutored in public speaking - would he still love it? I think sometimes parents do push hard after a child's talent (for example, some kids who show a talent in a sport are pushed incredibly hard by parents/coaches). And some kids get burned out that way.

So I guess the key would be to encourage without too much pressure? Or maybe find a tutor/coach/teacher who is enthusiastic and positive (which can be really hard to find!). Hmm... Gotta give this some more thought. :)

Comment by Cristina on November 27, 2011 at 11:11 PM

My kids enjoyed this quote. I saved it to read to them. It does seem odd that school always focuses on what you aren't good at. Especially since using strengths is a good way to bring kids around to things they are weak at. My oldest insisted she sucked at math. I felt I sucked at math, so how could I even help her? And yet we both did math all the time! I did it through my artwork and playing Sudoku, and she did it through her knitting and other crafty endeavours. When I was in school, even if I recognized my gifts for the artistic side of math, I downplayed it because I couldn't set up a theorem or figure out how to find x. I tried to do things differently and use my daughter's strengths, but I think she downplayed them as well since the college desperately wanted her to solve algebraic equations to be placed in a college level course. It seems so skewed to look at it this way, since so many people practically brag about their inability to remember some of their "important" high school courses.

Peace and Laughter!

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 29, 2011 at 01:38 AM

dawn, i love that dylan is so confident. i think part of that path that leads kids toward being able to make their own jobs is this comfort level with tweaking situations - not just accepting the normal path that everyone takes. my son has been taking piano lessons for years and he only practices for 5 or 10 minutes a day, yet he has, at his comfortable pace, become very adept at playing - and he writes his own music! i think the normal path would have turned him off and he would have quit. allowing him to do it his own way, he kept his enthusiasm and was able to do what he wanted to with it.

just remember, it’s not too late for us. we still have to make time to explore, too! :)

kari, what a great point. i think (as i have written before) that adults do have a tendency to take what kids love and ruin it by taking over or heaping on expectations. what i’m imagining instead is taking the money and effort we put into trying to bring kids up in the areas where they *don’t* shine and investing that instead in something they love and are already good at. what a crazy idea, to - say - skip the math tutor and offer an art class instead. (or even a private drawing tutor!) i think the key is the expectations. if a parent is exerting pressure that they want their kids to win contests or competitions, then it’s become about them, not the kids.

i do think the right tutor/coach/teacher is absolutely key. we had to work at finding the laid-back music teacher for my son who would let him go at his own pace and retain his love of music. teachers/coaches can exert their own pressure on kids!

cristina, you said:

“using strengths is a good way to bring kids around to things they are weak at.”

YES! this is so true! and i think it gives the kids a completely different, *winning* mindset. i’ve seen this happen with kids involved in group projects. a kid who is normally labeled as, e.g., a struggling reader instead gets labeled as a natural leader. and so on. the kids shine when they’re allowed to use their strengths — and they turn around and attack their weaknesses with vigor because *they* want to improve. such a simple thing, but when kids want it for themselves (and see a clear reason to work for it), their motivation kicks in and they make a hundred times the progress they do when they’re just being nagged by adults (and they don’t see any clear benefit for themselves).

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