My son wants to be popular and the center of everything and loves a crowd. He went to preschool and kindergarten and his only school memories are of him being the Mr. Popular center-of-everything and he misses that. I remind him that he was three grades ahead of everyone else and the school wouldn’t change his curriculum and he doesn’t care. He says he wants to help the other kids catch up to him.

This all sounds terrible to me, of course. I hate school. But I try to see it from his perspective. So here’s what I’ve done:

He is great at cello. So I have made a huge effort to get him into an elite group of kids for cello where they focus so much on music that there is not enough time to let school run your life. Then I let him add piano lessons – to help with music theory for cello. And when my son says he wants to go to school, I remind him that he wouldn’t have enough time left for practice and lessons to keep up with the other kids he plays cello with.

This strategy is behind the trend to take elite athletes out of the school system. Any kid who wants to go to school to be popular from sports achievements could see that it’s more rewarding to be outside of school competing in a group of special athletes. But it’s true of all things including ballet, learning new languages, and writing novels. (Another view of elite performance in the context of school: I was on one of the top high school debate teams in the country and we basically had a free pass to miss school whenever we wanted because of the constant interference with debate team.)

School is for kids who are not passionate. School does not allow for intensive learning because you have to cover the national curriculum. School curriculum encourages well-roundedness which is the opposite of becoming an expert. But notice how the idols of your children are invariably people who follow their passion with intense focus. That should give you enough ammunition to encourage your child to do the same.

Any kid who wants to go to school can be easily dissuaded by showing him or her the benefits of passionate learning. Each child has passions. If the child does not know their passions enough for you to talk about them, then you’ve got way bigger problems than that your kid wanting to go to school. You have a kid who has no idea who he or she is, and wants to go to school to get an identity.

The best argument to keep a kid from going to school isn’t “I won’t let you go to school” but rather, “You cannot be who you want to be if you’re in school.”