I am realizing that I have a specific goal for my kids. I want them to understand what it is like to work hard at something and be good at it. I want them to know how to find what they like and then figure out how to accommodate that passion in their life. This might sound simplistic to you, or too narrow, but I do a lot of life coaching for adults. And invariably, what adults who are not happy are missing in their lives is either passion, or the ability to respond adequately to that passion.
In an effort to help my kids feel good about their adult life, I have three things I’m focusing on:
1. Early adopter mindset.
People who find new things first are people who have passion. Pew Research points out that early-adopters are nearly always well-educated, and I think what they mean by that is that each early adopter had someone helping them to learn how to live at the intersection of curious and passionate. You can be an early adopter in tech (vscreens) or travel (airbnb) or music (Akiho). You can be an early-adopter in anything, really. And that’s what I’d be happy with from my kids — anything they had passion for and they took action to be part of.
2. Expertise in something.
I’m an unschooler, I think. I think that because we have no curricula (though if video games count, we’re golden) and we do not divide the world into subjects. But I sign the kids up for tons of lessons. This is not actually out of the ordinary. Annette Lareau, sociologist at University of Pennsylvania, reports that people with college degrees have their kids in an average of five hours of activities per week (as opposed to people who dropped out of high school who have their kids in two hours per week.) I have my kids in about ten hours per week, which maybe is a result of going to graduate school, but probably is a result of me having read Flow, a celebration of expertise.
Flow, by the impossible-to-pronounce psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, explains how we are most happy when we are in a state of flow. That is, a state where we are focused and engaged and sort of forget about time and energy because it feels so good to be where we are. He says you can only get to this state by becoming an expert in something. It makes sense to me. Flow comes from mastery.
In an effort to help my kids attain mastery, I don’t just put them in one swim lesson a week. I do two. Private, in case this is what they want to be great at. And I don’t just buy a skateboard to quell a sudden, six-year-old hankering. I get skateboarding lessons at an indoor park. And I practice music with the kids for an hour a day. Because even if they don’t love music, practicing something as hard as a string instrument each day teaches the process of mastery for when they are ready. I think mastery is like learning a language. Do it once and you have the skill to do it again.
3. Finding good mentors.
I’m obsessed with coaching. The difference between being average and great is not only how many hours you work at it (to be sure, you have to work long hours) but it’s the way you work at it — the practicing has to be very effective when you do it.
The more I read about coaching the more I realize that it’s the high achievers who find the best coaches. It’s not luck that they have the best coaching. They seek it out. I want to teach my kids how to do that.
In life, each person ends up spending long hours doing something. For some of us, it’s our job. Eight hours a day. For some of us it’s something outside our job. Or taking care of kids. My point is that everyone who is content with their life has an answer to the question, “What do you do?” Whatever that answer is, you want to be the best you can at that. It is, after all, what you are doing with your day. And we know, from Flow, that being very good at something is very pleasurable.
The way to get good at anything is to have someone good helping you.
Sometimes, when people say to me that I’m nuts for starting a homeschool blog when I have so much on my plate already, I think to myself that a blog is a way to crowdsource mentoring when you are not sure which way to turn.