Friday, November 17, 2006

What It Takes to Be Great

Tomorrow evening, Lauren will play Six Roumanian Folk Dances by Bartok at her studio's fall piano recital. This week, I was thinking back to when the girls were little. I had hoped that they would come to love reading, music and horses. I got my wishes on all accounts. The ironic part of this wish is that at the moment, reading, music and horses are what drive me to the brink.

My girls read almost to the exclusion of anything else. Thick tomes go with them everywhere, as I have reminded them often to never go anywhere without a book and you'll never be bored. Some days, however, it is exasperating to move the 800 page Harry Potter for the zillionth time off of the kitchen table or to get the girls to put down their books and do something.

Both girls are amazing horseback riders, though often my time (and my checkbook) revolve around horses. I spend a great deal of time hooking up the trailer and hauling horses. Yet, their passion for horses is a healthy outlet and we've always thought it worthwhile.

As for music, Anna is considered a leader in the Church teen band, for though she quit playing piano, the music became a part of her and she can read it. And Lauren, well, you would have to hear her play to understand. She and her teacher, however, enjoy pieces that are very emotional and furious. Listening to hours of practice a day has me drooling over Bose white noise headphones.

Occasionally I am asked how a parent can guide a child to become great at something. Certainly, homeschooling has played a large part in this for us, as having great chunks of time and flexibility are factors.

But in today's world, a more important factor is focus. We are surrounded and bombarded with choices in not only entertainment and activities to name a few. As a homeschooler, I am often overwhelmed with all the activities, field trips and possibilities there are available. Earlier in our journey, I often wondered who took the "home" out of homeschooling. It took some time, maturing and perhaps, the birth of my son Wm later in life, to realize that I did.

With the feeling of not wanting my children to "fall behind", perhaps some guilt over socialization, wanting to find the fun in homeschooling, we were driving around like crazy people. At one point, each girl was involved in five different activities. Almost cosmically, they all seemed to mesh together so that I was able to accomplish them all, yet we seemed always in a hurry, always stressed, a house turned upside down, blaming the chaos on homeschooling.

When Will was born, I began to cut back. We could not spend all day driving to all the activities, and as the girls delved deeper into their chosen passions, we began making critical choices. And with those choices, came the time and the ability to dive deep into their chosen passions. Both began riding more. Lauren has more time to play the piano. Anna spends more time writing her novel. We cut out activities like soccer and 4H, for example, which were terrific programs, but hampered our flexibility.

So I am asked sometimes by a parent how they can help their child want to play like Lauren plays. I would say it takes faith. Faith that you are not hurting your child by saying no, you can not do one more activity. It takes the lack of distraction. And not to take away from Lauren, it takes finding and following that child's interest without watering it down with other activities.

I'm sure this post isn't as coherent as I'd hoped when I first started it, as Wm is ready for his nightly bedtime reading and is distracting me. So, I sign off.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Your post on choosing activities hits home with me. Our homeschool group offers a wide variety of classes for the members. We don't do any of them. We do have a small outside Spanish class and two different small group gymnastics sessions a week. We do only a few of the field trips offered and only one of the service opportunities. The reason we don't do more is to concentrate on the things our son needs and wants to do. Yes, it does exclude a variety of things that are worthwhile to others or may be worthwhile to him at another time. I hope he will have a long life and be able to take advantage of many opportunities. He may never get to do 4H and definitely not Scouts. They work for other people, but not for us. Other interest groups will be there for him at the right time.


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