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s/o innate abilities, growth mindset, hard work, opportunity, and achievement


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I think the question is do you want to *learn* about neurobiology or *be* a neurobiologist.  Someone needs to tell you if you have dyscalculia that it is unrealistic to want to be a neurobiologist because it is one of the most math-heavy fields. But of course it is fine to learn to your heart's content about the subject. You simply skip all the math, and focus on what you can understand. So the question is 'what is your goal?'  

 

Some jobs are just so competitive, like professional ballet, that unless you have the raw talent and the hard work, you just will never get any work.  I think that would be a horrible lifelong experience.  At some point, I'm sure you see the writing on the wall, and open a teaching studio, instead.  

 

My question would be how much guidance would you want vs figuring it out yourself?  especially as a young person.  Would you want your ballet coach to tell you that you will never be a professional so that if you want you could redirect your efforts?  or would you rather never get into a performance after years of hard work?  You are still practicing what you love, but you have continual disappointments.  I would rather be told, but I'm sure others would rather figure it out themselves. 

 

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I also think perhaps it has to do with the generalizability of the skill you are trying to learn.  I have a family friend who daughter is Downs with an original IQ of 75-80.  She has just finished her AA degree and been accepted to a large, well known state university. No matter what she studies, she will benefit from this huge effort.  I'm not sure that that would be true of the ballerina with only average level talent.  The skill she has spent a lifetime working on is not really applicable to many other fields. So perhaps, if someone had told her, she would have put forth this great effort in a field more suited to her talents.  I don't know.  Just some of my musings.

 

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Ok, another question.  Is it an overinflated opinion of yourself or is it a true understanding of the challenges and a willingness to never achieve your goals?  Perhaps only the first one is worth carefully trying to correct. If my son chooses to go into high energy particle physics even knowing the poor odds of ever finding a job, I will still support him because he went in with his eyes open.  

 

But then again, can teenagers ever truly understand the challenges they will face?  Can their eyes ever be open?

 

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So I find myself asking what the trade-offs are - where would gymnastics take her?

 

Often it is not the skill, but the personality traits that will serve a person well throughout life.  Persistence, dedication, sacrifice, body image, etc.  Who cares if you never actually use the gymnastic skills.   

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Often it is not the skill, but the personality traits that will serve a person well throughout life.  Persistence, dedication, sacrifice, body image, etc.  Who cares if you never actually use the gymnastic skills.   

Sure, but it's also a trade off.  Does she have gymnastics, or guitar lessons - I can't afford both, especially if she becomes serious about them.  Guitar will be something she is likey to enjoy most of her life, and it still involves persistence, hard work, and so on.

 

And - with guitar, chances are she isn't going to ask me to go on a world tour with drunken groupies while she is still under-age.  Body-image, not to mention actual injury, is one of the reasons I might avoid gymnastics even if she was talented.  I don't see sending my 12 year old off to pursue high level gymnastics, even if she went that far.

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So, my dd12 is passionate about Irish dance. I believe this is a true, lasting passion. She works very hard, lots of extra hours of practice.

 

Talent wise, best I can tell she is no more than average. We have some kids with outstanding talent in the studio, and she is not one of them. In terms of ability to focus, she does fairly well with high interest (to her) activities, though she does have a share of the executive function difficulties that run in the family. Anxiety has caused some problems but dance has also pushed her to face and overcome many of her anxieties.

 

Opportunity-wise, we've got some pretty good teachers--not tippy top great (we're in the wrong location for that) but good enough to get the talented dancers to the world championships.

 

Dd wants to compete at the world championship level. And she wants to eventually teach. I believe both those goals are possible as long as her commitment and passion hold out. If she was set on becoming a world champion I would have serious reservations, but if only those who had the capacity to be world champions could be encouraged to pursue Irish dance an awful lot of people would miss out on the opportunity to push themselves in a sport they love.

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But in contrast to Donna' experience, our path has been a bit more meandering. 

 

Ruth in NZ

 

Ours has been more meandering.  We actually thought our high achiever wasn't ever going to be an achiever because he didn't learn to speak properly and needed speech (and later reading) therapy.  We had him tested at age 4 while also trying to figure out (mentally) what path would work for him.  He came out of testing with results that were incredibly high (higher than any they had tested before) in everything except speech...  and once therapy assisted with the speech and reading he's never looked back.

 

But... we never aimed him.  We let him pick what he liked and introduced him to many, many things so he's had a very normal life, albeit, high achieving in pretty much anything he tries - oodles of kudos and recommendations.  I regret not having him do more chess competitions - esp after he told me he beat #16 (+/-) in the world in an online game, but when he went to college he dropped chess in favor of continuing new pursuits - dance, ASL, and as of last year, juggling. He loves variety.

 

Then too, he's been doing research in college and has been told research can be his back up (or even Plan A) if medical school doesn't work out for him.  His response?  He's going to try for MSTP - medical research.  I asked him if he wanted to put in that much work/years.  He told me it's not work if you enjoy what you're doing...

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But what else besides innate math talent and hard work  has allowed him to achieve in this way?

 

1) The love of math.  He has always loved it.  And this is not because he is good at it.  Until he was 11, he was *convinced* that he was bad at math.  Every. single. day was a struggle.  Math was hard hard hard.  And he failed all the time.  Now, this was because he was doing AoPS intro algebra at age 9, refusing any and all help, but he did not see it that way.  He loved math even though in his eyes he was bad at it, and I'm guessing that this would be surprising for many people.  I think that a lot of people think that kids do more of their passion because they find success which is motivating, but this was NOT true for my ds until he was 11. He did math for the pure joy not because of any success, because in his eyes he had none. 

 

2) Good teachers/resources.  AoPS and me.  I was never allowed to help him until about the age of 12 (this was a rule in his eyes.  Teaching was cheating.  He HAD to do it himself), but I was able to do a year of olympiad math prep with him that got him into the camp the first year.  Now, I will admit that it completely destroyed me for a full year -- I was completely burned out, but in contrast to many parents, I *could* at least get him that far.  Starting at age 13, he has been on his own.

 

3) Luck.  Hearing about AoPS through these boards when I am in NZ, learning about the IMO (international math olympiad) through Kathy in Richmond at just the right time, having the money to be able to afford these things, having the desire to homeschool which allowed him time to focus on math.  I could go on and on.  

 

4) Personality.  This boy is stubborn.  Any kid who is willing to spend 21 HOURS on a single problem and still get in wrong, has got to be bullheaded.  Willing to fail.  My son has failed more math exams than he has passed.  I will say it again, failed MORE than he has passed.  In fact, he has failed some quite spectacularly, getting a 1 out of 60 on the BMO the first time he took it.  But somehow, all this failure does not put him down.  I don't understand it.  Clearly, personality is very important.

 

 

As I was reading Ruth's post, it resonated with me more strongly than anything else I've ever read about talent and achievement.  Ruth's numbers 1-4 explain dd's achievement in music. Spot on. Our dd is passionate about classical music and, as I've recently come to actually believe, highly talented. But what, in addition to the talent, is key? 

 

#1 Love. It is definitely the love of music. She is passionate, which means she'll put in more time and focus. I believe most kids are passionate about something. Most people LOVE doing something. It is that something into which they can more easily pour the hard work, because it is fun. So love is related to that hard work (more practice and more focus while practicing).

 

#2 Good teachers/resources. To this I'll add performance opportunities and networking. Additionally, I think this is all synonymous with Ruth's #3, luck. It was pure luck that dd had access to the teachers, resources, and opportunities she did, because I was totally ignorant and did little research until *after* the fact. We "happened" into a lot of things.  The same is true for my oldest in his areas of achievement and the opportunities he's had. (I seem to do research *after* the fact.)

 

#4 Personality.  I would elevate this to number 1, actually. Ruth mentions her son being stubborn. Holy Cow! She's right. I've not thought about it much before, but for our dd this has totally been key. She is so stubborn. She'll fight for/against ANYthing.  Willingness to fail? That's a BIG one. Our dd is not fazed by failure (which is uncommon, I think). She will bounce back like nothing I've ever seen. There have been times when failure has even motivated her MORE. When things come easily to her in music, she loses interest. When they are challenging and include the hint of possible failure, she applies herself with new-found focus and drive. It's like she feeds on the pressure. These personality traits of dd's have also served her in other areas of her life because she has dyslexia. She LOVES to read and can/will read anything. She has read above her grade level for years  and chooses difficult books (albeit, still with the same cadence, slower speed, and rhythm of her dyslexia). She will often need to reread sentences and even paragraphs numerous times in order to understand them well, but she has the persistence to do that and does it over and over and over again... (She spent Christmas break reading every Star Wars book my dh and I own, beginning with the book versions of the original trilogy...15 or 16 books?) She is so lucky. Without these personality traits, her life would be very different right now.

 

I would add #5 Learning style/learning rate. Our dd has compensated for periods of less intense focus and less practice time because she learns in leaps. She will turn it "on" and learn an entire sonata or an entire concerto in a week (memorized) when the mood strikes. She can take in new skills by what seems to be osmosis, though watching others. She will experiment with her instrument and "figure out" skills meant to be learned years beyond where she is at a given point, just for fun. She can sometimes skate by with less hard work/practice for a while, leaping through and teaching herself new skills on the fly like magic.

 

For music, I'll add an above average auditory memory. That has been a great benefit to our dd. She can hear something once or twice and play it back easily -- several measures, several lines, sometimes more than that -- and I mean challenging music that she's never heard before. She doesn't need as many repetitions. She doesn't need as much score study to remember. This saves her a LOT of hard work.

 

I also want to add that I sometimes think she works less hard than others BECAUSE she can compensate with her talent, learning style, and strong auditory memory. She has developed the interest in working  harder as she has gotten older and as she has been presented with music that really challenges her (and will go through periods of drive, focus, and hard work more frequently now).  Thank goodness.

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So, my dd12 is passionate about Irish dance. I believe this is a true, lasting passion. She works very hard, lots of extra hours of practice.

 

Talent wise, best I can tell she is no more than average. We have some kids with outstanding talent in the studio, and she is not one of them. In terms of ability to focus, she does fairly well with high interest (to her) activities, though she does have a share of the executive function difficulties that run in the family. Anxiety has caused some problems but dance has also pushed her to face and overcome many of her anxieties.

 

Opportunity-wise, we've got some pretty good teachers--not tippy top great (we're in the wrong location for that) but good enough to get the talented dancers to the world championships.

 

Dd wants to compete at the world championship level. And she wants to eventually teach. I believe both those goals are possible as long as her commitment and passion hold out. If she was set on becoming a world champion I would have serious reservations, but if only those who had the capacity to be world champions could be encouraged to pursue Irish dance an awful lot of people would miss out on the opportunity to push themselves in a sport they love.

I'm wondering about following a passion to the exclusion of a 'typical' life.  My ds is a specialist in a field that will directly give him employment.  But the work he does in math is so intensive that he by necessity has to do a very minimal program of study in his other courses. He sacrifices big time to focus. I don't think I would recommend this to a kid interested in ballet with only average ability.  To sacrifice her education, knowing that the area of intense focus cannot possibly lead to a career path.  Don't know. There always seems to be a slippery slope when I write anything down. 

 

I haven't mentioned my younger in this conversation.  He is an all rounder.  No passion.  He likes everything.  Sometimes I feel like a focal area would help him find passion and drive. 

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We actually thought our high achiever wasn't ever going to be an achiever because he didn't learn to speak properly and needed speech (and later reading) therapy.  

 

Interesting, I wonder if this threw me off the scent with my ds's ability.  He was tested with an auditory processing disorder at age 6 and needed speech therapy too. In fact, because he learned to read while having some pretty serious speech issues, he mapped the wrong sounds to the letters and it took us some *serious* spelling remediation to fix it.  This delayed his writing quite severely. However, the brain is plastic, and 30 minutes of violin each and every day over the period of a decade and allowed him to develop perfect pitch.  He can sight sing to the note, tune a violin, and speak mandarin without an accent.  I've wondered for a very long time what would have happened to his auditory processing if he had not done music. 

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First, I want to say I find this thread fascinating.

 

My question is, what to do when you have a child that lacks the passion and the driven personality mentioned for success? Is it beneficial for a parent to push hard work and perseverance over time in an area of talent? Not necessarily as a means to achieve amazing success; let's say you can't be world class without those two elements. But for those children, does it help them develop a work ethic and a level of achievement in an area that they otherwise might never have had - things that might serve them well in their adult lives? Or is it not a big deal if they reach adulthood without ever having really worked hard for an extended period of time at anything? If the child never chooses an area of focus, is it wrong for the parent to choose one or a few for him? Is this controlling/manipulative or is this providing a foundation for success?

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As I said upstream, my younger is a generalist. He may not have a passion, but that does not mean he doesn't work hard. He works hard on academics, athletics, and music. 30 minutes of violin per day will make him quite proficient by the end of high school.  I'm not sure how I would feel if he wanted to quit, because I think it is very good to work on something hard for an extended period of time like you said, but more than just academics. So I'm constantly encouraging, learning with him, helping him prepare for performances (he is in a trio, string group, and plays quarterly for a retirement village).  I try to make it so he doesn't want to quit.

 

I'm also on the look out to introduce him to lots of different things so that he might find a passion.  Perhaps he won't, but I do think that it gives teens a feeling of safety and belonging to focus on something.  But this boy just likes everything about equally, and is not a generally driven kid.  But slow and steady wins the race, and I've got 6 more years to help him reach his full potential.  I'm up for the task. 

 

I will also add that my boy has some skill at writing, and I could definitely push him that way.  But honestly, I think it does a disservice to both my children to have a language arts kid and a mathy kid.  My LA kid is pretty good at math, and my mathy kid is pretty good at LA.  I really don't want to pigeon hole.  I've talked to my younger about putting in more time at writing, and he is game.  But we are talking 1.5 hours a day rather than 1 hour. So not what I would call a focus area.  (-:  I do find it hard to know how hard to push.  If I pushed writing more, he could get really good and have success and have a writing career of some sort.  But what if he ends up loving math and wants to be a scientist.  really, you can't foresee the future. 

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I have a question for parents of children with innate talent and their siblings with average ability (for lack of better words...I hate using these terms).

 

The reality has come to me that my dd7 has a natural talent, meaning, music comes very easy for her...nothing has been too difficult for her to learn.  My ds9, however, loves playing cello, but he just cannot hear himself sometimes, and it's a lot more work for him.  I'm worried that he is going to start living in his sister's shadow, and I'm not sure how to deal with this.  I know he is a different child, and I should have different expectations for him.  He wants to be good at cello, and he tries very, very hard.  His sister, however, is having a much easier time even with more difficult music.

 

I'm not sure how to deal with the comments directed at his sister, but not at him.  Comments like, "When are you (dd) going to audition for the Conservatory?"  Or, "You play so well!  Will you come perform at a benefit concert for our charity?"  My son doesn't get asked.  My son is still a beginner, so he has some time to grow as a musician.  But, how do you deal with the exceptional child and the average sibling?  I really don't foresee this changing in the future.  I know he will play the cello well one day.  I praise his hard work, but he is starting to realize that he is isn't the musician like his sister.

 

Thoughts?

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This is not a response to the pp, but to an earlier poster.

 

I enjoy many pursuits that I am never going to be the best at, or in the top quartile, or the top half. That does not mean I can't enjoy my pursuits. That doesn't mean I can't value what I do. That doesn't mean that it is "worthless" to participate or use my time in that way.

 

It means, hey, that is not where my talents lie. Or, it means, I have not devoted as much time/energy to that pursuit, compared to many other people.

 

I do not have to constantly compare myself to others and rank myself compared to others, in any area that is worthwhile for me, unless I am in fact competing for a job or an opportunity. But, for an awful lot of things in life, that is not what your job is. You don't need to "be the best." It is not required.

 

So ----- I am really on the side of "honesty" as far as acknowledging not everyone has a "spark" for every area. But, that is just not the same as saying something is not worthwhile! They are two different things!

 

But the question was asked about "can someone be among the best," the question was not asked "can something be worthwhile."

 

A lot of the things I really enjoy in life are things that I am not that good at, when compared to other people. They still give me pleasure. I am still doing them. In doing them ---- I do more than people who choose not to do it at all (b/c they are choosing something else instead).

 

It just doesn't matter very much.

 

For these things, there is a basic level of proficiency that needs to be reached, just to be able to do things at least a little bit easily, and then -- hey, I am doing it.

 

Nobody comes to my house and gives me a score.

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This discussion has been fascinating. We talk a lot about this topics in our house full of driven and competitive people. What I have learned from watching them is that talent is the starting point. But it is the marriage of talent to the ability to work hard, love the work, stay focused on goals, withstand failure, access to great teachers/coaches, and the ability to be humble enough to take instruction.

 

We have seen a number of talented athletes come and go. They have been derailed by biology (stature or injury), but most have suffered from early success teaching them that talent is all.

 

At the top levels, everyone is talented (some more than others, but everyone is above a certain level) and everyone works hard. Luck, genetics, spark of genius, things you can't control, sift out the elite.

 

You can't control your talent level. There will always be people smarter, faster, etc. You can control your work ethic. So for me, as a parent, that is what I have tried to encourage. Passion and hard work will take you far, even with average talent.

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I know I enjoy canoeing, hiking, scuba, long walks, & other similar things.  It doesn't matter that I'm not the least bit competitive in any of them.  ;)

 

To answer the question about siblings... all three of mine got along fine when they were living here.  It didn't really matter that middle son was the only one we had to encourage to stop studying/reading once in a while or console over a missed spelling word.

 

As young adults, they've taken different paths.  

 

Oldest ended up with a Business major and is now happily employed in his field managing a small distribution company.  

 

Middle is still set on the MD/PhD path if he can get accepted to it, with MD (singly) as a backup Plan B and PhD (singly) as a Plan C.  Considering it was those he worked with this past summer at Stanford who suggested Plan C, I feel fairly confident at least one of his plans will work out for him.  

 

Youngest has never been totally sure of what he's wanted.  Right now he's a theater major, but he also enjoys Arabic and World Cultures.  He's also always enjoyed anything Flora/Fauna related. He works well with kids/teens, so has already been offered a (paid, full time) job after college working with the local youth group he's been part of.  He's only a sophomore in college, so still has time to hone his path.

 

Oldest is married now and has more or less split from the family except for a few phone calls (and we hope to visit him this coming winter/spring).  

 

The other two are still fairly close best friends even though they've chosen colleges far apart from each other.  I think having their similar (youth groups, chess, soccer, travel + family time) and different (future interests) aspects of life have helped them out a bit.  In their ps years I know youngest hated following in middle's footsteps, but once middle was homeschooled, there was no longer a problem with that.  As parents, we worked hard to let them all know they were loved and we'd support whatever path they wanted as long as they weren't choosing to be pimps, illegal drug dealers, or terrorists (had to add that last one in their later years...).  ;)

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I agree that this has been a very thought provoking thread, and I've been formulating some ideas before returning. I've also been talking things over with my dh, who's father was the Olympic coach. Here's a summary:

 

- Most people either don't set high enough goals (choosing to work toward things that they are pretty confident they can achieve), or they have a vague goal that they haven't explored very closely to find out what it really entails and whether they are actually interested in working toward it. There are also a lot of people who have trouble setting any goals at all. And it's pretty difficult to achieve any high-level skill without setting and working toward a specific goal, whether one has a little or a lot of talent.

 

So to expand on the phrase of "dream big dreams" is basically to encourage people to set a specific goal that they are interested in (e.g., have researched what an astronaut actually does - how much time do they actually spend in space?), develop a step by step plan to work toward achieving the goal, and challenge yourself by making a goal higher than you think you can achieve fairly easily. Then be prepared to tweak the goal as you go as you learn more about yourself and the environment your working in. 

 

 

On another note, the word "luck" has been mentioned a lot in this thread regarding whether an individual reaches a high level in a discipline. My fil had some experience with this as well. He summarized that:

 

Luck = Preparation + Opportunity

 

Preparation includes the learning, training, improving self-discipline, etc. that the individual does while working toward their goal.

 

Opportunity includes building on one's natural talent, accessing teachers, coaches, environments, financial and equipment support possibilities.

 

So people do have quite a bit of positive control over their "luck."  There are going to be the negative aspects of luck, which people have less control over, such as one's health, injury, finances, environment, and other individuals trying to achieve the same thing you are and possibly already taking the one place. By having a really clear goal and steps needed to reach the goal, as well as a drive and passion for reaching one's goal, can help discover new opportunities if the original pathway seems blocked (e.g., figure skating couples have competed for other countries if their home country's limit is already reached).

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I have a question for parents of children with innate talent and their siblings with average ability (for lack of better words...I hate using these terms).

 

I'm not sure how to deal with the comments directed at his sister, but not at him.  Comments like, "When are you (dd) going to audition for the Conservatory?"  Or, "You play so well!  Will you come perform at a benefit concert for our charity?"  My son doesn't get asked.  My son is still a beginner, so he has some time to grow as a musician.  But, how do you deal with the exceptional child and the average sibling?  I really don't foresee this changing in the future.  I know he will play the cello well one day.  I praise his hard work, but he is starting to realize that he is isn't the musician like his sister.

 

Thoughts?

 

My DS has heard how talented his sister is his whole life. The fact of the matter is, he is very talented on his instrument of choice as his sister but not many people, except other accompanists and the occasional experienced melody musician, notice the guitar backer or know the skill it takes or the creativity he shows…the little blond melody player with the big personality on stage stands out more. DS performs with DD regularly but luckily his personality is such that he knows those things about the average listener. He dislikes competition and prefers to arrange, perform, and compose.

 

Recently DS was asked to play in a trio with a couple young adults who needed a guitarist. I am happy for him to have the chance to shine on his own without his sister and to have the opportunity to experience playing and arranging with different people. He also recently turned down the chance to tour Germany with a major dance show. There were a number of reasons for this decision such as the last minute inquiry (less than a week before he had to leave), contracts already signed with his sister and the other trio for performances the next few months, etc… 

 

DS was also one of those who took a more circuitous route. He started guitar at six then after about a year took a year off because he lost interest and his hands were too small to play the electric guitar he wanted to play. He started back up again with a better traditional guitar teacher. When his sister started fiddling he wanted to back her for a local talent show. He has learned Irish guitar (also bouzouki and banjo) mostly on his own with the occasional masterclass during summer camps and a Skype lesson or two. 

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I have been thinking some more about this. I agree that Luck = Preparation+Opportunity. But sometimes opportunity has an element of pure good fortune.

 

For example, my dd2 is a gifted natural athlete. Everything she tried, I was pulled aside by coaches to discuss how she could progress in that sport. But when she was almost 3, my dmil found a swim teacher she thought was good and offered to put dd1 and ds1 in lessons. At that young age, she found a teacher who was perfect for her and the cost of the lessons was paid for by a generous grandmother. All my kids learned to swim with the teacher and ds1 found a calling in teaching and coaching. But it was dd1 who found her mind-meld mentor.

 

When dd1 was 5, my non-athletic sister met and married a USAT performance coach. He has been invaluable for advice for us and opportunities and learning for dd1.

 

Dd1 had made the most of those opportunities in part because she is the most talented athlete in the family ( with ds3 a very close 2nd). Dd2 has a mental edge in toughness and persistence, but she is not as purely gifted. We are waiting to see what she will be able to accomplish.

 

So I see luck as sometimes just pure chance. Not everyone, no matter how talented, gets the same opportunities, no matter how prepared they are. I think it is important to acknowledge the role of chance as much as genetics in high level performance.

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A friend went to medicine school in Ireland. She said that the A list are mainly the studious folks but the top 3 of the cohort are all talented kids who did little studying outside of class time.

 

:iagree:

I believe in talent too

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I have been thinking some more about this. I agree that Luck = Preparation+Opportunity. But sometimes opportunity has an element of pure good fortune.

 

For example, my dd2 is a gifted natural athlete. Everything she tried, I was pulled aside by coaches to discuss how she could progress in that sport. But when she was almost 3, my dmil found a swim teacher she thought was good and offered to put dd1 and ds1 in lessons. At that young age, she found a teacher who was perfect for her and the cost of the lessons was paid for by a generous grandmother. All my kids learned to swim with the teacher and ds1 found a calling in teaching and coaching. But it was dd1 who found her mind-meld mentor.

 

When dd1 was 5, my non-athletic sister met and married a USAT performance coach. He has been invaluable for advice for us and opportunities and learning for dd1.

 

Dd1 had made the most of those opportunities in part because she is the most talented athlete in the family ( with ds3 a very close 2nd). Dd2 has a mental edge in toughness and persistence, but she is not as purely gifted. We are waiting to see what she will be able to accomplish.

 

So I see luck as sometimes just pure chance. Not everyone, no matter how talented, gets the same opportunities, no matter how prepared they are. I think it is important to acknowledge the role of chance as much as genetics in high level performance.

 

I also agree Luck= Preparation + Opportunity.

 

I think it's that Opportunity part that seems more like "Luck" or "Good Fortune" (whatever you might want to call it). So many times my kids have gone somewhere, someone happened to be there who heard them play, and that someone became a part of our lives by becoming a friend and/or providing an opportunity. As someone who knew (still knows) very little about the music "business," I view nearly everything that has occurred in our lives besides my kids' love and desire to work hard as luck. 

 

True, they would not have had the same people helping them if they weren't working hard but there might be people out there working hard who haven't happened upon the same opportunities as well.

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We see plenty of people working hard and not having the same opportunities. Rural communities, lack of facilities, lack of money, or frankly, lack of parental support for practice and competition all contribute to an uneven playing field, even supposing the same talent level.

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I'm wondering about following a passion to the exclusion of a 'typical' life.  My ds is a specialist in a field that will directly give him employment.  But the work he does in math is so intensive that he by necessity has to do a very minimal program of study in his other courses. He sacrifices big time to focus. I don't think I would recommend this to a kid interested in ballet with only average ability.  To sacrifice her education, knowing that the area of intense focus cannot possibly lead to a career path.  Don't know. There always seems to be a slippery slope when I write anything down. 

 

I haven't mentioned my younger in this conversation.  He is an all rounder.  No passion.  He likes everything.  Sometimes I feel like a focal area would help him find passion and drive. 

 

I think this is something to be careful of even when it is something like mathematics.  It might seem like a good idea, say, to let them do a minimal amount of school work in history or literature, or avoid physical things like sports, so they can pursue that interest.  And sure, maybe they will follow that path.  But I am not sure how much it serves someone to be so narrow in their experience and interests, even though some kids would love to be able to do that.  Is it better to be the best at something (lacrosse, or math, say) or is it better to be really good at those things but also to be a little more well rounded?  How much is about valuing certain types of achievement or speed in achieving?

 

 

First, I want to say I find this thread fascinating.

 

My question is, what to do when you have a child that lacks the passion and the driven personality mentioned for success? Is it beneficial for a parent to push hard work and perseverance over time in an area of talent? Not necessarily as a means to achieve amazing success; let's say you can't be world class without those two elements. But for those children, does it help them develop a work ethic and a level of achievement in an area that they otherwise might never have had - things that might serve them well in their adult lives? Or is it not a big deal if they reach adulthood without ever having really worked hard for an extended period of time at anything? If the child never chooses an area of focus, is it wrong for the parent to choose one or a few for him? Is this controlling/manipulative or is this providing a foundation for success?

 

I do think that this is something to be considered carefully.  My oldest is very non-competitive.  Last year she won first place in the music festival for baroque piano solo for her age group, and she was pleased, but it gives her very, very little motivation.  So if she doesn't actually enjoy something in the moment, or see clearly that it will lead to a result she wants, it is very difficult to get her to invest.  I've been careful to try and scaffold some experiences of this for her, and that is one reason we started her in piano when she was fairly young - so she could see how working diligently could bring competence, and how that is satisfying in itself.  She likes to play and her early lessons were designed to be fun, and so she is invested, but she now also realizes that on a daily basis it may not be immediately rewarding, or sometimes the reason may not be immediately apparent.  It's created a work habit, is the way I would describe it, that I hope will be a useful tool when she needs to work to accomplish something she wants.

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So I see luck as sometimes just pure chance. Not everyone, no matter how talented, gets the same opportunities, no matter how prepared they are. I think it is important to acknowledge the role of chance as much as genetics in high level performance.

 

I see luck as more important than talent genetics.  The birth lottery - something none of us have control over - means so much.  What country were you born in? (Can you learn to downhill ski in the Bahamas?)  How wealthy are your parents? (Are you needed to help earn your meals?) What color/religion/gender are you? (Are your parents against girls playing sports or getting an education?)  What diet did you have as a youngster?  (Poor nutrition leads to less development.)

 

Then there are all those situations regarding coaches and better facilities, etc.  Of course genetics are pure luck too.

 

Pure luck is truly a major foundation to success.  For every one who makes it "against all odds," oodles upon oodles with similar talent, drive, or potential do not.  It's very much like winning the lottery - hence the "birth lottery."

 

As I mentioned before, I've seen students at school who I've wished had been adopted by others at birth.  I'd love to know what they could have done in life given better chances than what they got (that druggie who abuses his/her kids, etc).  They're not headed to the top of the top regardless of talent.  Those with drive try hard just to get to basic success.  Those without drive often don't have a chance even with outside help.

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I see luck as more important than talent genetics.  The birth lottery - something none of us have control over - means so much.  What country were you born in? (Can you learn to downhill ski in the Bahamas?)  How wealthy are your parents? (Are you needed to help earn your meals?) What color/religion/gender are you? (Are your parents against girls playing sports or getting an education?)  What diet did you have as a youngster?  (Poor nutrition leads to less development.)

 

Then there are all those situations regarding coaches and better facilities, etc.  Of course genetics are pure luck too.

 

Pure luck is truly a major foundation to success.  For every one who makes it "against all odds," oodles upon oodles with similar talent, drive, or potential do not.  It's very much like winning the lottery - hence the "birth lottery."

 

As I mentioned before, I've seen students at school who I've wished had been adopted by others at birth.  I'd love to know what they could have done in life given better chances than what they got (that druggie who abuses his/her kids, etc).  They're not headed to the top of the top regardless of talent.  Those with drive try hard just to get to basic success.  Those without drive often don't have a chance even with outside help.

 

Here is something I wonder though - is there really such thing as a talent directed specifically to downhill skiing?  My inclination is to say no - it is a kind of athleticism.  Not the same as for every sport, but it could probably be directed very productively to many different athletic endevours.  Which is why you get things like people recruiting for less known sports at elite levels looking at high-performing athletes from other sports. (And why athletes so often do well on things like dancing with the starts.)  I think the same is true of music - someone with musical talent and drive could generally direct it in a variety of directions.

 

I think if this is so, luck and opportunity look a little different - more like making the most of the opportunities that are available.

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Well, I do think there is talent directly related to a specific sport or music or interest. That is passion. Which cannot be predicted or explained. Dd1 has competed on the national level in two sports. But only in one sport, swimming, did she find the love that motivated her to keep going, even when times are tough.

Ds1 has talent but no passion for sport. When training got hard and the alarm was going off at 4:40 am, he called it quits. Dd1, still, amazingly, gets out of bed and heads to practice. She wouldn't have done that for her other sport, talented as she was at it.

Recruiting good athletes into other sports does happen (it has definitely happened to us), but I personally haven't seen it work. People can be strategic about sports: small pond, scholarships, etc, but they usually go back to the one they love.

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I'm wondering about following a passion to the exclusion of a 'typical' life.   

My dd attends a pre-college Saturday music school with many, many amazing music students. Many of these kids take part in national and/or international music competitions, top summer music festivals, etc. Most of them attend school M-F.  By high school, most of them also take numerous AP courses and most of them get stellar grades.  Many of them also play sports, or more than one instrument, have their own students on the side, and/or participate in other extracurricular activities including scientific research.

 

I know these kids and their parents personally.  I know the above details for a fact. I am not exaggerating. And I am NOT kidding. (Scary, isn't it?)

 

When I ask them what the trade-off is, the high school students tell me "down time and sleep."

 

So, I think one can follow a passion strongly enough to be at the tippy top and still be well-rounded, but indeed, SOMETHING has to give.  I wouldn't allow my kids to sacrifice down time and sleep to that extent.  I am SO glad we homeschool for the extra flexibility.

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I have a question for parents of children with innate talent and their siblings with average ability (for lack of better words...I hate using these terms).

 

I have four kids with different interests, strengths, and weaknesses. All four have average (and below average) ability at SOMETHING.  (The two we have had tested have been ID'd as gifted and we are noticing similarities that convince us they all would be ID'd that way if tested, but the differences still exist.)

 

They each have something they do better than their next oldest sibling. They each have something that a next younger sibling does better than they do (except the baby of the family, of course, as she's the youngest).

 

I think the way the kids handle that has largely to do with personality. (They each seem to handle this differently.)

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Only recently? I think I believed that about your dd years ago.  ;)  

Years ago, I knew she was passionate.  I knew she learned quickly. I knew she started young.  After a while I knew she put in more time than her studio mates. I just chalked it up to that. Okay, she was talented.

 

I didn't just assume that she'd adapt so easily and so well to the bigger pond...

 

Enter the bigger pond/deeper water... More challenge...  It was like there was another bell curve there in the deep end.  I didn't even think about that then... I didn't expect what happened. This is different than before. 

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So I see luck as sometimes just pure chance. Not everyone, no matter how talented, gets the same opportunities, no matter how prepared they are. I think it is important to acknowledge the role of chance as much as genetics in high level performance.

This is the way I think of luck. It's chance, a roll of the dice.

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I have a question for parents of children with innate talent and their siblings with average ability (for lack of better words...I hate using these terms).

 

The reality has come to me that my dd7 has a natural talent, meaning, music comes very easy for her...nothing has been too difficult for her to learn.  My ds9, however, loves playing cello, but he just cannot hear himself sometimes, and it's a lot more work for him.  I'm worried that he is going to start living in his sister's shadow, and I'm not sure how to deal with this.  I know he is a different child, and I should have different expectations for him.  He wants to be good at cello, and he tries very, very hard.  His sister, however, is having a much easier time even with more difficult music.

 

I'm not sure how to deal with the comments directed at his sister, but not at him.  Comments like, "When are you (dd) going to audition for the Conservatory?"  Or, "You play so well!  Will you come perform at a benefit concert for our charity?"  My son doesn't get asked.  My son is still a beginner, so he has some time to grow as a musician.  But, how do you deal with the exceptional child and the average sibling?  I really don't foresee this changing in the future.  I know he will play the cello well one day.  I praise his hard work, but he is starting to realize that he is isn't the musician like his sister.

 

Thoughts?

 

I don't know if this is the ultimate answer, but we've tried to keep the kids on different instruments.  It is obvious that they have different innate musical abilities, but they are not directly competing when playing different things.  

 

ETA: And for the comments, I think I end up doing what I can to give more positive comments myself (at a different time) to the child that isn't included in the random stranger comments.  We also do a lot emphasizing our pride in hard work.

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My dd attends a pre-college Saturday music school with many, many amazing music students. Many of these kids take part in national and/or international music competitions, top summer music festivals, etc. Most of them attend school M-F.  By high school, most of them also take numerous AP courses and most of them get stellar grades.  Many of them also play sports, or more than one instrument, have their own students on the side, and/or participate in other extracurricular activities including scientific research.

 

I know these kids and their parents personally.  I know the above details for a fact. I am not exaggerating. And I am NOT kidding. (Scary, isn't it?)

 

When I ask them what the trade-off is, the high school students tell me "down time and sleep."

 

So, I think one can follow a passion strongly enough to be at the tippy top and still be well-rounded, but indeed, SOMETHING has to give.  I wouldn't allow my kids to sacrifice down time and sleep to that extent.  I am SO glad we homeschool for the extra flexibility.

 

Well you are right of course, you can be tippy top and well rounded. My ds is.  And at times it seems so unfair.  Besides his maths, he will graduate highschool having finished the equivalent of an AA degree in music, and the equivalent of many APs.  He plays competitive badminton and reads things like Brothers Karamazov and the Economist for fun.  Basically, he is one of those kids who finished his high school work in 9th grade, and we are keeping him out of university so he can compete. So yes, you are right, it can happen. But I will say that if he put the same amount of time into English or Science or Music that he does in maths, he could go very far in those fields. He has sacrificed excelling in those fields to excel in math.  It is a choice he could definitely change, but it is a choice he has made.    

 

But I will also say what you are focusing on does matter.  After 4-6 hours of theoretical math, he cannot do all that much more academic work.  His intellectual brain is fried, but his musical brain is not.  And neither is his physical self.  So based on my son’s experience, someone focusing in sports for example would still have plenty of intellectual stamina for a full load, whereas my son does not.

 

The other thing is that mathematics at my ds’s level is all about developing insight. A very esoteric and elusive goal, and one that cannot be developed with a frazzled mind.  It just can’t. My ds was so worried before math camp this week that he had not taken a long enough break (it had been 3 weeks), so his mind would be receptive to that elusive insight for the squad exam.  I think that many people are surprised to hear that mathematics is a very creative endeavour.  And just like an artist, inspiration must strike, and it is quite worrying when it does not, and quite difficult to determine how to get it back.  A crazy intellectual schedule or one that is short of sleep is the antithesis of a calm mind and thus a mathematical mind.  For this reason, I *require* my son have down time.  Every night at 9pm he must go be by himself with no electronics to rest and rejuvenate.  I don’t care if he reads, plays the piano, plays cards, thinks, day-dreams, does origami, juggles.  Whatever.  But he needs that 2.5 hours every day for both his mathematics and his mental health.  

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I think this is something to be careful of even when it is something like mathematics.  It might seem like a good idea, say, to let them do a minimal amount of school work in history or literature, or avoid physical things like sports, so they can pursue that interest.  And sure, maybe they will follow that path.  But I am not sure how much it serves someone to be so narrow in their experience and interests, even though some kids would love to be able to do that.  Is it better to be the best at something (lacrosse, or math, say) or is it better to be really good at those things but also to be a little more well rounded?  How much is about valuing certain types of achievement or speed in achieving?

 

 

Well, my ds is well rounded as I explained in my pp, but interestingly, when I ran a thread on the accelerated board a couple of years ago about my ds specializing young, the opinions were evenly mixed.  Half argued that he should stay well rounded and the other half voted for specialization.  So definitely no agree upon opinion.  We have chosen the middle path - specialization but not to the extent that he would desire.  But interestingly, if I graduated him now, he could specialize in math at age 15 (there is no liberal arts year in NZ universities), and people would be much less likely to complain.  But specializing while in highschool is somehow less ok.  Very interesting.

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I have a question for parents of children with innate talent and their siblings with average ability (for lack of better words...I hate using these terms).

 

The reality has come to me that my dd7 has a natural talent, meaning, music comes very easy for her...nothing has been too difficult for her to learn.  My ds9, however, loves playing cello, but he just cannot hear himself sometimes, and it's a lot more work for him.  I'm worried that he is going to start living in his sister's shadow, and I'm not sure how to deal with this.  I know he is a different child, and I should have different expectations for him.  He wants to be good at cello, and he tries very, very hard.  His sister, however, is having a much easier time even with more difficult music.

 

I'm not sure how to deal with the comments directed at his sister, but not at him.  Comments like, "When are you (dd) going to audition for the Conservatory?"  Or, "You play so well!  Will you come perform at a benefit concert for our charity?"  My son doesn't get asked.  My son is still a beginner, so he has some time to grow as a musician.  But, how do you deal with the exceptional child and the average sibling?  I really don't foresee this changing in the future.  I know he will play the cello well one day.  I praise his hard work, but he is starting to realize that he is isn't the musician like his sister.

 

Thoughts?

 

When my younger starts getting competitive with his big brother, I always ask him "do you want to be him?  Remember, that you get his worst traits in addition to his best traits.  And you lose *your* best traits. You don't get to be a hybrid person with his best and your best."  And of course knowing all his big brother's worst traits, he always says 'well, no, I don't want to be him.'

 

I do think it is harder when there are just 2 compared to my friends with bigger families.  Because when there are just 2, then for any given trait, one is better and one is worse, so the comparison is unfortunately easier to see.

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When I ask them what the trade-off is, the high school students tell me "down time and sleep."

 

With all he does (and does so well) in college, I'm convinced middle son doesn't really sleep.  He gets down time with friends though.  I think that's important.  I'm not really sure how all his activities fit in without adding hours to the day or week.  He has his classes (usually more than "normal" hours each semester - getting permission to do so - and all but two have been As - those two were A-).  He's been a TA in three classes.  He's been an RA for the past two years and a dorm activity person the year before that.  He's worked in research labs since summer of freshman year.  He's in a performing club dance troupe - president of it, vice pres last year.  This year he's also attending a Tango dance club to learn that.  Then there's his time in the ASL and Christian clubs (used to have leadership in these, but gave it up this past year).  Oh, and I forgot juggling.  He added that last year and will be in their performance this coming year, so two performances for us to attend, dance and juggling.  This year he's also added doctor shadowing and has been spending hours there.  I guess that's not totally new. It replaces his volunteering at the hospital time from other years.  Up until this year he's worked in one or two paid jobs... this year he gave that up since one of his lab research positions has started to pay him.

 

When I think about it all, I still wonder how it all fits in.  That's what makes me suspicious as to whether he sleeps or not.  I'm definitely not worried about him being well rounded while he aims for his top love.  We raised all of my guys well rounded.  The only thing I wish we'd provided more depth for in high school would have been more extensive chess competitions.  He cleaned up locally and then won state.  I wish we'd known and made efforts to let him try more.  It's one of the major things I'd change in hindsight, but OTOH, chess is one thing he dropped in college when tempted by all those other attractive options (dance, ASL, and juggling were all new to him there).  Their chess club was not pleased.  He was quite competitive with their top players...

 

My other two are far more normal with class hours, grades, & activities.  Middle son just has that extra drive and ability to do it all.

 

We love and encourage them all.  They're different, but they don't have to be tippy top - or even top - to live up to our expectations.  TBH, what middle son has been able to do (and all of it well) has put us parents to shame if we compare our college years.  ;)

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Years ago, I knew she was passionate.  I knew she learned quickly. I knew she started young.  After a while I knew she put in more time than her studio mates. I just chalked it up to that. Okay, she was talented.

 

I didn't just assume that she'd adapt so easily and so well to the bigger pond...

 

Enter the bigger pond/deeper water... More challenge...  It was like there was another bell curve there in the deep end.  I didn't even think about that then... I didn't expect what happened. This is different than before. 

 

There is always someone there at the top.

 

Why would it be so crazy to have it be your own dd with all her wonderful traits, personality, passion, drive, instructors, and opportunity? Aren't those the things that make up the best of the best?

 

Scary for it to be your own daughter, possibly, but not so crazy to believe.  

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I'm wondering about following a passion to the exclusion of a 'typical' life. 

 

This is one of the reasons I think it will be interesting to see what direction dd decides to go in her life in the next few years. She has always maintained a full course load of school work and completed most of her classes at a high school level the last two years though I still call her an 8th grader because she has no interest in graduating early at this point.

 

I always think it's important to have a back-up plan in music or sports because anything can happen. About half of the professional Irish musicians we know have a "real" job (anything from carpenter to assistant district attorney) and perform music on the side…it is their way of ensuring they can stay true to the traditional music rather than going more mainstream to increase their fan base and make enough money to live off. There are pros and cons to merging different genres and each musician makes their own choices.

 

Dd has a lot of other interests and the past few months regularly throws around which would be most beneficial to study in college…thinking any of the others she could do without college study or study as a minor. Her goal right now (as of today) is an Irish music program in Ireland (only program of its kind) and she decided to focus on learning Irish (Gaelic) and is learning flute because she knows she will need to know Irish and a second instrument once there.

 

She is interested in writing. She goes to a writing tutor, keeps a blog, has ideas for a novel, and does interviews with Irish musicians hoping to preserve their history and stories. She loves interior design, is taking online classes, and spends hours researching and creating design ideas. Every season her room looks completely different. She makes other crafts which she sells to raise money for charities. My dh has set her up with a ride-along with an interior designer he knows. She also has an interest in Irish studies and takes course online for those topics as well…though that kind of goes along with her interest in the music.

 

She doesn't sleep much but that is her own fault because she is reading when we are home and playing music late into the night when we are not. The times when sacrifices are made seem to be when she cannot be in two places at once…higher level orchestra on Sundays or Irish music gigs? Intense classical music program all day Saturday or Irish music gigs? Or when there is not enough money to go around…next level classical teacher or travel for Irish music? At those times we make lists of pros and cons of each choice (she and I both add our thoughts) then she decides for herself.

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Well, my ds is well rounded as I explained in my pp, but interestingly, when I ran a thread on the accelerated board a couple of years ago about my ds specializing young, the opinions were evenly mixed.  Half argued that he should stay well rounded and the other half voted for specialization.  So definitely no agree upon opinion.  We have chosen the middle path - specialization but not to the extent that he would desire.  But interestingly, if I graduated him now, he could specialize in math at age 15 (there is no liberal arts year in NZ universities), and people would be much less likely to complain.  But specializing while in highschool is somehow less ok.  Very interesting.

 

In the US many of the universities with the best math programs want students to continue studying liberal arts because they believe that it can serve their students well throughout life, personally and professionally. U Chicago is one of those schools. Other schools allow their college students to specialize.

 

Your approach to specialization is perfectly acceptable. Parents just have different philosophies about it. We were reluctant to allow our kids to specialize in high school because we see that as an ideal age to discover and discard. Liberal arts and new experiences can be useful in unusual ways even many decades later and we wanted to make sure our kids had as much exposure to those ideas as to the subjects they preferred. I think this is why our two oldest work in startups. The youngest is studying theoretical math but certain areas of humanities interest him quite a bit, too. However, we know kids who specialized early and they are doing just fine, too.

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Well, my ds is well rounded as I explained in my pp, but interestingly, when I ran a thread on the accelerated board a couple of years ago about my ds specializing young, the opinions were evenly mixed.  Half argued that he should stay well rounded and the other half voted for specialization.  So definitely no agree upon opinion.  We have chosen the middle path - specialization but not to the extent that he would desire.  But interestingly, if I graduated him now, he could specialize in math at age 15 (there is no liberal arts year in NZ universities), and people would be much less likely to complain.  But specializing while in highschool is somehow less ok.  Very interesting.

 

I realize peopel disagree on this, however I think being educated is actually the purpose of education, and early specialization compomises that, sometimes significantly. 

 

I would say the reason for the difference of opinion is that it isn't at that level about the age - its about the (often incorrect) assumption that someone in university has already received the general education that would be given in high school.  How this is done depends on the system where you live, but in the past in pretty much all of the English systems, university students were expected to have the basics of the liberal arts before specializing significantly.  This wasn't just about producing literate people who could function as good citizens, but it was a theory of knowledge thing - if all knowledge is ultimately inter-related, than being compromised in other areas is potentially a problem even within one's own area.

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Well, I do think there is talent directly related to a specific sport or music or interest. That is passion. Which cannot be predicted or explained. Dd1 has competed on the national level in two sports. But only in one sport, swimming, did she find the love that motivated her to keep going, even when times are tough.

Ds1 has talent but no passion for sport. When training got hard and the alarm was going off at 4:40 am, he called it quits. Dd1, still, amazingly, gets out of bed and heads to practice. She wouldn't have done that for her other sport, talented as she was at it.

Recruiting good athletes into other sports does happen (it has definitely happened to us), but I personally haven't seen it work. People can be strategic about sports: small pond, scholarships, etc, but they usually go back to the one they love.

 

But how does that passion, when it manifests, choose where to manifest?  Perhaps the child who might develop a passion for cricket in India might choose baseball, or lacrosse, in another setting.   

 

It isn't uncommon in elite sports for atheletes to be cross-overs from other things, especially with new sports - that's often where the first competitors come from.  I find it a bit strange actually that so many parents encourage sport specialization in kids at home, when professional teams often prefer athletes who play more than one sport, and among those who remain in sports for fun as adults, kids who play many sports are much less likely to drop out of physical activity.

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I don't know how passion manifests itself. I do know that you can't manufacture it or that all kids have it. I think the discussion of specialization is a also a discussion of passion. Kids who want to specialize tend to drag their parents along for the ride. Many kids don't want to do that. They want to have a fall sport, ski in the winter, and swim in the summer. That is perfectly fine and I agree, more parents should be fine with that approach. But for the kid who wants to specialize and loves mastery, it is not fine to force on them an ideal of well-rounded ness that is at odds with their goals and personality.

 

I think that the oft-repeated idea that professional/pseudo professional (DI ) teams want two sport athletes is not actually true. They look for people with a high degree of athleticism and ability to be coached. Two sport participation signals that, but the athlete has to be accomplished in the recruited area as well. It is extraordinarily difficult to be equally accomplished at two different sports. The time investment (speaking from experience here) is extraordinary. Something has to give. And it can't be academics. Because college coaches want good academics. And it can't be sleep, because the physical workload is so so heavy. There are always anecdotes about two sport athletes in college, but they are very, very few and generally lucky that their chosen sports aren't the same season.

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Well I don't think being equally gifted is really the point, it is not being specialized.  University and professional sports has a high number of players who, at kids and in high school, were not specialists, when compared to kids in high school.  I think is suggestive - the kids who do not specialize are relatively more likely to play at higher levels.  Kids who specialize young are also much more likely to suffer serious injuries.

 

Lots of kids want to specialize and their parents don't allow it because it would be obviously foolish.  I am not letting my musical daughter give up math, however much she finds it a chore at the moment.  High school students have more autonomy of course, but they still don't really know what it means to be educated.  Not knowing anything about history is a serious educational gap, however much a keen mathematics or science student thinks it's useless.

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but in the past in pretty much all of the English systems, university students were expected to have the basics of the liberal arts before specializing significantly.  This wasn't just about producing literate people who could function as good citizens, but it was a theory of knowledge thing - if all knowledge is ultimately inter-related, than being compromised in other areas is potentially a problem even within one's own area.

 

Yes, we have run up against this problem.  Basically to take a single university class in mathematics, ds must also have the university entrance criteria for English. And this is an exam/portfolio based system whose assessors are nationally moderated, so I'm not talking about a homeschool mom just saying he has it.   So what really means is that no student can ever be more than a year separated in achievement in math and english. I've heard some 'experts' on the radio suggesting that for gifted kids, you focus on their weaknesses to keep them 'even.'  Yeah right.  

 

 My ds at his peak had a 6 year spread between English and Maths.  At 13 he was writing as a very average 13 year old, but writing proofs that were evaluated  as worthy of a second year university math class. It seemed incredibly unfair to me to expect my ds, no even require him, to be accelerated in all things.  He was working *at level* for English, why should anyone require him to work *above* level in English so he could work above level in Math.  It was not like he was behind in English.  But here's the really interesting part.  From 13 to 14.5 he took 4 AoPS classes, and wrote between 2 and 4 full page long proofs per week that were graded with very detailed comments on math but also how the proof was written and structured, including for spelling/grammar/standard english.  During this 1.5 years, he was so busy that he did not have much time for English.  I think he wrote about 6 papers in 1.5 years, although he did read quite a bit of deep literature. And do you know what?  This year as a 9th grader (age 14-15) he has passed all his university entrance requirements for English in a single year. He did a 4 year jump while not studying English at all. In fact, his paper on Brothers Karamazov was assessed as publishable. He compared the implications of freewill from a theological and scientific point of view using quantum mechanics by evaluating the ideas of the monk Zozima to the atheist Ivan.   :huh:

 

 It has to do with passion, his passion for mathematics.  That passion drove him to learn how to clarify his approach, organize his thoughts, write to an appropriate audience, maintain tone, conclude appropriately, edit, proofread. It might have been all numbers and equations, but he still had to *write* them down. His passion was the driving point.  He worked HARD.  Improving his English was a side effect, a big one, but still only a side effect.  And I think that is why so many passionate hard working kids achieve so much in so many fields -- the work is synergistic.  They learn how to harness their brains, emotions, drive, etc.  And it ends up applying to all aspects of life.   But if we had focused on English and let Mathematics move more slowly, he would have been angry and unmotivated.  The path was clear, and we took it.

Edited by lewelma
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I will add that the above post is why I would love to have my younger find a passion.  There is just so much to be gained.  But I just think that some people are generalists -- my dh is. And you really can't push a kid to find a passion.  They find one or they don't.  All you can do is introduce them to many different things and encourage them on the road to self discovery.

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I will say that some sports have a deadline. A girl with Olympic dreams in gymnastics is on a short timetable. For dd1, her timetable needed to be best times her jr yr of high school. Dropping guitar and art made sense to her. 20 + hours of training per week also made sense to her. Good grades were important, but deep study was not. Test scores were important, but additional reading was not. She achieved her goal, and in doing so learned incredibly important lessons to her and her future success. I have a hard time saying that she would have been better off if I had insisted that a well rounded life was more important than her passion. I can guarantee that we would not be as close as we are.

 

Guitar and art, deep study will wait for when her athletic career is over. And it will be, because every athlete "retires" eventually.

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Well I don't think being equally gifted is really the point, it is not being specialized.  University and professional sports has a high number of players who, at kids and in high school, were not specialists, when compared to kids in high school.  I think is suggestive - the kids who do not specialize are relatively more likely to play at higher levels.  Kids who specialize young are also much more likely to suffer serious injuries.

 

Lots of kids want to specialize and their parents don't allow it because it would be obviously foolish.  I am not letting my musical daughter give up math, however much she finds it a chore at the moment.  High school students have more autonomy of course, but they still don't really know what it means to be educated.  Not knowing anything about history is a serious educational gap, however much a keen mathematics or science student thinks it's useless.

 

For me, as a parent of a kid with an academic passion, it's not about being a generalist vs a specialist. I didn't pick the specialty for DD, and hand her a snake in the cradle planning to have the next great herpetologist! She did. Her passion for the creepy, crawly, and just plain weird has been around and is an intrinsic part of her. I suspect that if snakes and frogs hadn't been an option, she would have still ended up focused on something creepy, crawly, or just plain weird.

 

But I can also tell you this. She writes far more and far more willingly and far better because she needs to write for science than she ever did when I tried to pull her through a writing program. Understanding geography became extremely important to her when it tied into biogeography. Understanding history and pulling it together went from slightly interesting to extremely so after she spent at day at a conference on the history and bibliography of herpetology, and learned just how much impact, say, the British Empire, had on herpetological research. Her next target is Australian history-largely motivated by references to historical events in herp books.  And Latin...well, her whole reason to want to know Latin was binomial nomenclature.

 

Everything comes back to snakes. So, while I do a more minimal form of school in some ways, which allows her to spend long amounts of time on reptiles and amphibians and biology in general, she actually spends far more time on subjects than I suspect she would if I actually taught them to the WTM logic stage recommendations. And for that reason, I'm confident that if she eventually gives up herpetology, she'll still have enough skills to move on from that point in whatever direction she wants.

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Lots of kids want to specialize and their parents don't allow it because it would be obviously foolish.  I am not letting my musical daughter give up math, however much she finds it a chore at the moment.  High school students have more autonomy of course, but they still don't really know what it means to be educated.  Not knowing anything about history is a serious educational gap, however much a keen mathematics or science student thinks it's useless.

 

This is cultural.  Here, core classes in 8th and 9th grade are math, science, english.  After that kids specialize.  To get into university here you need 10th grade math, 11th grade english, and the equivalent of 4-5 APs in any subject you want. There is no history to be seen.

 

So for example, you could do English, Media Studies, History, and Drama for a humanities type.  Or Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, and Computer Science for a STEM major. My ds will get APs in English, Music, Physics, and Chemistry.  He is actually skipping the math AP because the maths department gave him entrance when he was 13.   However, having said that, I do agree with you that history is an important part of an education, but I think the social sciences are even more important - economics, psychology, law, sociology, geography. So we do these casually. I'm sure I could cobble a credit together for an American transcript, but there is no way he would want to take a history exam -- too prescribed.  

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Reading this thread with immense interest. Lots of good thoughts!

 

I have a question for parents of children with innate talent and their siblings with average ability (for lack of better words...I hate using these terms).

 

The reality has come to me that my dd7 has a natural talent, meaning, music comes very easy for her...nothing has been too difficult for her to learn.  My ds9, however, loves playing cello, but he just cannot hear himself sometimes, and it's a lot more work for him.  I'm worried that he is going to start living in his sister's shadow, and I'm not sure how to deal with this.  I know he is a different child, and I should have different expectations for him.  He wants to be good at cello, and he tries very, very hard.  His sister, however, is having a much easier time even with more difficult music.

 

I'm not sure how to deal with the comments directed at his sister, but not at him.  Comments like, "When are you (dd) going to audition for the Conservatory?"  Or, "You play so well!  Will you come perform at a benefit concert for our charity?"  My son doesn't get asked.  My son is still a beginner, so he has some time to grow as a musician.  But, how do you deal with the exceptional child and the average sibling?  I really don't foresee this changing in the future.  I know he will play the cello well one day.  I praise his hard work, but he is starting to realize that he is isn't the musician like his sister.

 

Thoughts?

 

I didn't read every response and perhaps someone has already mentioned this. I was very intrigued recently when a friend showed me a chart in a psychology textbook detailing  brain development in girls vs boys. There is a period in childhood where boys and girls are somewhat equal and then from about age 5, if I recall correctly, girls develop consistently about 2+ years ahead boys of the same age. This continues through early adolescence and boys only catch up around age 16 or so. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the textbook but this helped me to understand some of the concerns we had been having. Kiddo doesn't have a sibling for me to compare him to but he does have friends who are girls.

 

I think it's far too early to be sure about the bolded.

 

I can also relate my own experience learning music as a child. I learned the violin much more quickly as a 5yo than my brother did as an 8yo. But he beat me soundly in academics. No fair. I obviously had much finer motor control and musical ability than he did but can't hold a candle now to his abilities as a surgeon performing intricate operations and saving lives. :laugh:

 

As a parent you might be able to gently steer the conversation in such a way that your son doesn't feel left out. It would depend on the context. The very fact that you are aware is positive. He might or might not be more talented than his sister but there could be other talents that develop with time.

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