September 23, 2011

She’s so not babysitting her sister

We are eating dinner and our usual “What did you do at school today” conversation is taking place. We have come a long way since the days when this question would be answered with an “I don’t know” or an “I forget.” Today, for example, set an all-time high on the interesting factor.

Swee’pea explains that her writing assignment was to write about a time when she was scared. Now most kids in her class probably wrote about being afraid of the dark or the time when their brother scared them or even the way their dad looks first thing in the morning. All of these would have been fine topics for Swee’Pea to choose. However, Swee’Pea chose to go a different route…

“Today, I wrote a story about a King who wanted a son but his wives only gave him daughters so he chopped off the heads of all the girl babies until he finally got a son.”

Um, yeah. I expect we’ll be getting a call from her teacher in the very near future.

September 22, 2011

Conquering the Industrial Complex

This week we had our parent-teacher conference with both teachers for Swee’Pea and TheMonk. It was one big love-fest with lots of compliments and gushing and anecdotal stories mixed with concrete evidence at how incredibly smart and gifted our children are when it comes to reading, writing and arithmetic.

I must admit that my wife and I walked out of school a little taller that afternoon. After all, it’s nice to hear from someone who isn’t related to you, just how wonderful your kids are. It was validation of all the time we have spent reading and coaching and encouraging the kidlets in all things school.

But I must admit, I’m a bit conflicted. On one hand, I’m happy that my children are learning and doing well in school. On the other hand, I’m bothered by the fact that we spent so much time discussing punctuation, ways to count to 100 and the finer points of Junie B. Jones that we never talked about how we are going to encourage Swee’Pea and TheMonk to be artists.

And I’m not talking about the arts, although Swee’Pea’s drawing ability and TheMonk’s musical abilities are certainly noteworthy, but I’m talking about how to excel in life. How are we teaching them to be confident enough to follow through on dreams when everyone else is telling them they cannot do it? How are we teaching them to question authority? How are we teaching them to blaze new paths rather than follow tired, worn out paths that lead to mediocrity and subservience?

How is coloring inside the lines, raising your hand when you have something to share, and fearing the thought of failure going to prepare my children to be the super stars that our next generation is going to need? While my kids have wonderful teachers that are doing a great job challenging my kids in the areas of standardized testing, when will they be taught the skills to succeed and even excel, in a world that now rewards those who stand up and challenge the status quo rather than those who blindly accept it as the best we can do?

It’s not the school’s or teacher’s fault, of course. They’re only doing what is mandated to them in trying to uphold a century-old institution that was created to provide an endless supply of subservient workers for factories during the industrial revolution that made our country great. But now… our country doesn’t need subservient workers, it needs leaders and artists and people who aren’t afraid to take chances in order to be great.

Right now, my children are artists. We all were at that age. We painted masterpieces because no one told us we couldn’t. But somewhere along the way, people told us only other people are artists. Only the truly gifted can be artists. And the worst part of it is that we believed it.

The more I think about this parenting gig, the more I realize how challenging it is – especially when you want your children to succeed in a world that wants them to be average, at best. My only hope is to help my children realize, as they grow, that they CAN do anything they want. That what other people think should not be the deciding factor that guides who you are and where you want to go. Follow your heart. Have the courage to stand up to mundane expectations and be the artist you want to be.

Being good at school is one thing. Being good at life is quite another.


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