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balancing other interests (e.g. music) vs. math


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Looking to hear your experience or thoughts on balancing other extracurricular interests vs. interest in math.  

My 4th grade son has so far focused on two main activities: cello(for 3 years) and math through math circle.  My son's cello teacher has told us that he is a rare talent and that he can go as far as he wants to go in cello if he were to put the necessary work in.  Our pipe dreams include going to Meadowmount Summer Music Camp and playing in National Youth Orchestra-USA like few of the older students with the same teacher have done.  I believe my son would really enjoy making music at such a high level.  

But, I realize that it would take a lot of work and perhaps almost singular dedication to reach these goals.   Herein lies our dilemma.   My son also enjoys math and math competitions; he would like to do well in AMC, MathCounts, JMO, etc.  This fall, he will be moving to a private school that has an excellent reputation in math; a recent MathCounts national winner as well as few USA(J)MO qualifiers have attended this school.  So we are about to amp up his time in math.  

What do you think?  Is it possible or reasonable to pursue these goals in two separate fields?  Right now, I am inclined to think that it is possible but we would not know until we really give it a try.  My son would have to really manage his time carefully and work efficiently.   However, my biggest fear is that I might push my son too hard and potentially rob him of a happy childhood.  Plus, I have a younger son as well who is also playing cello and showing interest in math.

Would esp. appreciate your first-hand account of success or struggles as well as any caveats or advice based on your experience.  Thx. a ton in advance!

 

 

 

 

 

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One specific question I forgot to ask:

If my son were to do a math-focused summer camp like Awesome Math, Mathcamp, etc., would he be able to find time to practice cello during the camp?  Or would it detract much from his math learning at these camps?  Not practicing for a couple of weeks in summer, although not the end of the world, might be a significant set-back, esp. since his youth orchestra audition takes place in August. 

Thx!

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I think you follow the path your child sets as long as it is practical and then you make decisions...some of which may be hard or some of which may be made for you by circumstance or changing interests or impossible meshing of schedules.  My middle son spent a reasonable amount of time on math competition material in 6th grade as well as geography and music. Now in 9th grade he has no interest in math competitions whatsoever, geography has fallen by the wayside, but he devotes about 20 hours a week to music, and not even necessarily with the intention of being as good as you are talking about or pursuing music itself as a career. He does play 2 instruments with weekly private lessons and participate in 5 different musical groups. This summer we are getting him private music technology lessons as this is where his interest actually lies as far as a future career. 

Sometimes schedules conflict or become too full and then you drop the thing at the bottom. We've done that with my 17 year old...and we often point out the right choice FOR him because it's obvious to us where the passion lies and that he is juggling too much for his mental health.

I wanted to add that both of these activities you listed are hugely beneficial to your child's development even if he quits next year, so nothing has been lost. I saw the 6th grade year with my middle son as a gift I was blessed to be able to provid; he got math and geography skills that will serve him for life because he was able to do his school work so quickly. 

 

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I would check with the specific camps. A lot of summer academic camps will actually tell you no, you won't have time for your instrument from what I've read on websites, although I know nothing specific to the math camps. And that's where you start running into difficult decisions...

 

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As an outsider's view, your comment about the cello was 

1 hour ago, whangty said:

Our pipe dreams

not his.  He is in 4th grade.  Maybe he will continue to love the cello.  Maybe he will decide he doesn't.  I would follow his lead and let him set his goal going forward months at a time, not yrs into the future.

In terms of Awesome Math and MathCamp, unless your student is quite old for 4th grade, the age of eligibility for those camps is 12-13.  You have a few yrs before you need to worry about which path he prefers and whether or not missing practice would matter.  FWIW, MathCamp is over a month long.  Not so sure about Awesome Math.  I know at camps our kids have gone to that there would not have been time (and even if there had been, I am not sure that is what they would have used their down time to pursue.  These types of camps are full days of classroom work, planned activities, and homework.  They go, go go the entire time.)

FWIW, by the time he is in middle school, his interests might have totally changed.  When my ds was in 4th grade, he loved math.  He enjoyed math as he got older, but physics became his passion.  He had no interest in attending math camps bc he wanted to attend physics camps like SSP. 

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3 minutes ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

As an outsider's view, your comment about the cello was 

not his.  He is in 4th grade.  Maybe he will continue to love the cello.  Maybe he will decide he doesn't.

In terms of Awesome Math and MathCamp, unless your student is quite old for 4th grade, the age of eligibility for those camps is 12-13.  You have a few yrs before you need to worry about which path he prefers and whether or not missing practice would matter.  FWIW, MathCamp is over a month long.  Not so sure about Awesome Math.  

FWIW, by the time he is in middle school, his interests might have totally changed.  When my ds was in 4th grade, he loved math.  He enjoyed math as he got older, but physics became his passion.  He had no interest in attending math camps bc he wanted to attend physics camps like SSP.  (and what did we do to "prepare" him. He just did what he wanted to do with his free time.)

 

Thank you very much for your response.   Yes, I was careful to frame it as our pipe dream, since my son did not even know about these opportunities until I first learned and shared with him.   Yes, I do want to be careful not to drive his life but at the same time I do want to keep plantings seeds for growth and challenging opportunities that my son might enjoy himself.  Ultimately, the choice would be his, not mine.

 

  

 

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11 minutes ago, brownie said:

I would check with the specific camps. A lot of summer academic camps will actually tell you no, you won't have time for your instrument from what I've read on websites, although I know nothing specific to the math camps. And that's where you start running into difficult decisions...

 

 

Thank you very much for this suggestion.  I also concur with you that both cello and math competition will be of benefit to my son or to any child in many different ways.  

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3 minutes ago, whangty said:

 

3 minutes ago, whangty said:

 

Thank you very much for your response.   Yes, I was careful to frame it as our pipe dream, since my son did not even know about these opportunities until I first learned and shared with him.   Yes, I do want to be careful not to drive his life but at the same time I do want to keep plantings seeds for growth and challenging opportunities that my son might enjoy himself.  Ultimately, the choice would be his, not mine.

 

Planting seeds that might interest him and worrying about a camp that he might possibly be accepted to yrs in the future interfering with a possible need to practice b/c he might decide he wants to pursue an instrument to a high level seems to be sending mixed signals.  In 6th grade, he might have a better vision of what he wants for himself.  If at that pt he wants to pursue both, then worry about how to balance both interests.

You asked for first hand experiences.  I have a lot of kids who were passionate about things around 4th grade that they totally left behind by the time they were teenagers.  They change a lot during those yrs.  But, I also have a ds who fell in love with physics in 8th grade and was convinced then that he wanted to pursue a phd in theoretical physics b/c he wanted to study dark matter.  Most people would probably react, sure, let me know how that turns out.  Well, he never changed his focus and will be doing exactly that.  BUT, all we did was give him what he needed to continue to pursue that interest.  We didn't do anything.  He was his own impetus.  When he was in 4th grade, like I wrote above, I would have thought math was going to be his love.  It just isn't.  He had absolutely zero desire to pursue math competitions.  

It is just a big wide world of future opportunities out there to be planning yrs out.  (I have family members whose adult children completely resent their parents  for pigeon-holing them when they were kids.  It is not a good place to be when you are the parent of adult kids.)

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No problem pursuing both and seeing how it goes.  If a conflict arises, deal with it then.  Skipping one camp doesn't mean he doesn't find something else to do that is comparable.

Agreeing that kids don't take their cello to camps other than music camp.

If you could find a music-and-math camp, that would be awesome.  :P

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27 minutes ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

Planting seeds that might interest him and worrying about a camp that he might possibly be accepted to yrs in the future interfering with a possible need to practice b/c he might decide he wants to pursue an instrument to a high level seems to be sending mixed signals.  In 6th grade, he might have a better vision of what he wants for himself.  If at that pt he wants to pursue both, then worry about how to balance both interests.

You asked for first hand experiences.  I have a lot of kids who were passionate about things around 4th grade that they totally left behind by the time they were teenagers.  They change a lot during those yrs.  But, I also have a ds who fell in love with physics in 8th grade and was convinced then that he wanted to pursue a phd in theoretical physics b/c he wanted to study dark matter.  Most people would probably react, sure, let me know how that turns out.  Well, he never changed his focus and will be doing exactly that.  BUT, all we did was give him what he needed to continue to pursue that interest.  We didn't do anything.  He was his own impetus.  When he was in 4th grade, like I wrote above, I would have thought math was going to be his love.  It just isn't.  He had absolutely zero desire to pursue math competitions.  

It is just a big wide world of future opportunities out there to be planning yrs out.  (I have family members whose adult children completely resent their parents  for pigeon-holing them when they were kids.  It is not a good place to be when you are the parent of adult kids.)

 

Thank you very much again for giving me several concrete examples.   For my son who already spends on average of 1.5 hrs. a day on cello practice everyday, it is a real challenge trying to add more math time every day.   It really seems that daily practice of similar length starting now would be a necessity in order to reach a high level in math.   The camp questions were yes a bit further away in the future.  Overall, I get your point re the danger of over-controlling your child.  But, frankly, esp. at this age, it has not been that easy for me to discern the fine line.  That is why I wanted to hear from other parents.  Thank you again.

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5 minutes ago, whangty said:

It really seems that daily practice of similar length starting now would be a necessity in order to reach a high level in math

Really? in 4th/5th grade? I can't fathom that on top of a full school day and homework.  I will leave that conversation to other parents bc that is so far removed from my parenting philosophy. 

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7 minutes ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

Really? in 4th/5th grade? I can't fathom that on top of a full school day and homework.  I will leave that conversation to other parents bc that is so far removed from my parenting philosophy. 

I agree. i can't even imagine a fourth grader spending 3 hours a day on cello and math on top of school and homework.  I think a high degree of play, exercise, family time and downtime are needed at that age to reach optimal mental and physical health. 

And I know children who reached high levels of math (way beyond Calc I in high school) who did not spend 1.5 hours a day on it when they were 9. 

And I agree not even to worry a minute about camps that are 2 years in the future.  You have no idea how his goals and strengths will develop.  I was sure my first born was headed in a STEM direction when he was 8.  He was precocious in math and loved science.  Now, on the cusp of high school graduation, he is solidly a humanities child.  He is still good at STEM subjects, but they don't excite him.  I wouldn't have said that 10 years ago.  Your ds will continue to grow and change in ways you can't even imagine.  Don't burn him out now.  Give him some time to play. 

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Neither should be a push, these are both things his heart must want to pursue.  Can you do both , sure but other things have to be dropped. Most likely that will be math and music as classes at his school, along with exercise.  You'll find yourself squeezed by transportation too, unless you live in a city and its easy to get to lessons and ensembles.  

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15 minutes ago, freesia said:

And I know children who reached high levels of math (way beyond Calc I in high school) who did not spend 1.5 hours a day on it when they were 9. 

 I so totally agree. My darling son didn't do anything out of the ordinary on a day-to-day basis until eighth grade. That didn't mean  he did not advance at his own pace. It just did not require any additional effort at that age. When he was older, he did spend more time bc that was his source of pleasure. I had to tell him, no, he couldn't add another course. Zero pushing from me and he graduated having taken multiple 300 level math and physics courses. 

In 4th grade,  building Lego contraptions and climbing trees to build forts were his main objectives in life.

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I assumed OP was homeschooling and would work the higher math into the daily curriculum.  He may or may not be up to a daily math diet of 1.5 hours.  I will say that at that age, it was pretty normal for one of my kids to spend that much time (or more) on math most days, because she was slow to learn it.  But if you're talking 1.5 hours over & above school math at late hours, that might be excessive.

I would provide the opportunity, but let it be child-led beyond basic school requirements.

My kids have always done multiple activities, but I can't say they did any of them with the kind of focus that would lead to serious competition.  At least not yet.

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What would be the end goal here? 

There's only so much time in the day, so to answer your question, yes, you have to sacrifice something.

I've chosen to encourage my kids (one of whom definitely meets the criteria for "she could do anything if only she cared") to branch out. Not for happiness, mind you. Happiness is ephemeral. Just for sanity. Mine, and theirs. I don't believe that it's my job to make them live up to some kind of potential. It's my job to ensure that they have what they need to do so, and that they are well-prepared to capitalize on natural talents thanks to a well-rounded, sufficient education.

I'm not going to sacrifice the sweetest years of my children's lives for the good of humanity, for some kind of unique achievement. At best, it gives them fame and self-confidence, both of which could be achieved in other ways. It contributes to humanity--but to my mind that's their sacrifice to make. At worst, it could cause resentment and hatred of the medium of success.

And again, for what? What is the goal? What do you want for your kid? A trophy? Fame? Money? What do they get out of all this hard work?

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My kid did spend 1.5 on daily math, but that is because half of it was at school.  He wanted to learn new things, not continually review. It wasnt hard work, it was pleasure, the natural desire of the child to use his brain and figure out how things work. He did not need the school class, the school math club and its mentor was sufficient...unfortunately that was cancelled in the full inclusion era.

With music, what they get is the ability to use their intelligence freely, if they arent pushed.  There is a story in the NYT now of a violin prodigy who walked away...a tragedy as he had so little control early on.  with my dc, he realized early on he didn't want to be an interpreter of music for the pleasure of others who have difficulty relating, but he did want enough musical proficiency for his own goals. This has given him a creative outlet while he pursued other long term interests, and because he took it to the level he did, he has ensembles he is invited to join, as well as gigs and personal projects. RIght now he is exploring sound via working with a college recording class, just one of many things he can do because of his proficiency level. Music is a way of relating to humanity, especially when one finds oneself amongst those who are ignoring their souls. 

It is a good thing to become proficient at something.

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Wow, lots of helpful and thought-provoking responses, all of which I do appreciate a great deal!  Thx. everyone for your input.  

Here are some clarifications.  

1.  My original question was really along the lines of whether anyone can become truly "pointy" in more than one area?   For my son, playing cello for the last three years has been a rewarding but a challenging journey as well, as we had to prioritize his daily practice and his lesson and youth orchestra rehearsals.  I suspect going all in trying to become a mathlete will demand similar dedication and focus.  Yes, I initially introduced or pushed my son to cello, but he is really enjoying it himself.   And, his interest in math competition has been self-initiated through his participation in a math circle and few competitions so far.   In addition to helping my son to work more efficiently, my other challenge is to help him narrow down his interests that keep expanding.   Esp. as he is super excited to switch to a private school this fall, he wants to try many things like soccer, cross country, student council, math club, etc.   I like to help him make wise choices and manage his time effectively.  

2.  As for my comment on doing math 1.5 hrs. each day, that figure really came about after having read stories about a MathCounts national winner and this person who narrowly missed USAMO after devoting pretty much all his waking hours to math after school for a couple of years.  I personally know of this girl who won a famous international music completion (jr. level) for violin in England at age 12; she practices three hours a day.  I really wish that my kid could play outside a couple of hours each day after school and also have a plenty of time to read just for fun.  But, if he wants to do some great things in math as well as cello, I do want to tell him upfront that it will take pretty significant effort in order to get there.  However, I do want to be cognizant of the fine line between working hard in a good way vs. working too hard in a bad way.  

3. As for the final outcome or goal for my son's interests in cello and math, we have discussed many times - much more for cello than math.  For cello, it is simply that he would enjoy making beautiful music himself and share that sublime joy with others.  It has been a great joy to witness some of this already.  Plus, it may be a nice break from his academic pursuits.  As for math, we have not given that much thought.  

Again, I appreciate and find everyone's input helpful.  

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I really wish that my kid could play outside a couple of hours each day after school and also have a plenty of time to read just for fun.  But, if he wants to do some great things in math as well as cello, I do want to tell him upfront that it will take pretty significant effort in order to get there.  

He doesn't have to do great things in math or cello as a child, though. He can explore during childhood and put his nose to the grindstone as a teen and adult.

He can just play around with cello, make average progress or even above-average. And he can finish Calc II or even Linear Algebra in high school with minimal homework until he reaches age 13 or 14 even, if he's talented. I mean if he WANTS to do math, you shouldn't take the book out of his hand and shove him outdoors. Sounds like he truly loves his cello.

But you don't have to win a math competition to put astronauts on Mars. 

https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/postsecondary/features/above-average-results.html

https://www.epicsysinc.com/blog/want-to-be-an-engineer

https://www.ecnmag.com/blog/2016/03/i-became-engineer-despite-being-bad-math

You can play an instrument for fun without spending 1.5 hours per day as a child. Granted, you won't necessarily be a virtuoso, but you could play well enough that people would enjoy it.

If your son wants to pursue these things, let him. But why ask it of him? I urge you to examine the level of sacrifice you're asking him to make at age 9 or 10. You mention great things in math, but many people achieve great things in math while not being a mathelete.

 

 

 

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With my daughter, she is interested in athletics, especially running and gymnastics.  I have suggested she do some things to get herself in great condition to do her best at these sports.  It's up to her whether / when she decides to make those independent efforts.

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How will he feel if at age 18 he hasn't won any major math award? If he misses that opportunity by a pt and he spent his entire childhood attempting to achieve that award?  What if he breaks his arm and can't  play the cello? Is his self-worth and identity going to be tied to that loss?

Your vision for your child reads like many of the posts on College Confidential where kids' hearts are broken bc they have poured every waking hour into these sorts of goals. They have the "perfect" application and yet a huge number of them are being rejected from their dream schools. They are devastated bc feel like they deserve acceptances bc of their levels of achievement and having spent every waking minute focused on the very goals that they have been told their whole lives will lead to that success (the next goal-driven post in the sequence of success-oriented list-filled childhoods.). How does the child respond when they recognize the reality that those awards don't guarantee anything? When they aren't accepted and those around them with fewer achievements (as perceived by them) are?

How much of their self-identify is tied to success vs just being themselves?

What will that math award ultimately give him? What will that music award ultimately give him? What will doing things simply bc he loves them without any recognition give him?  What will leaving the decisions up to him give him?

They can spend their early childhoods doing absolutely nothing goal-focused and just doing things at their own level of interest and achievement and end up surpassing the kids who spent their early childhoods pursuing some elusive future attainment. They aren't burned out.  They aren't resentful. They are energized to run forward to their own goals bc they are teens/young adults who have self-identified their long-term goals.  At that pt it isn't recognition/award oriented. It is love of learning oriented. 

No one can predict the future. Maybe the recognition-driven path will end up rewarding him with whatever the goal is.  But, no one can predict the future. Maybe it won't. They only have one childhood. And, at the end of it, there are thousands of paths that lead to the same place in adulthood. 

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1 hour ago, Tsuga said:

He doesn't have to do great things in math or cello as a child, though. He can explore during childhood and put his nose to the grindstone as a teen and adult.

He can just play around with cello, make average progress or even above-average. And he can finish Calc II or even Linear Algebra in high school with minimal homework until he reaches age 13 or 14 even, if he's talented. I mean if he WANTS to do math, you shouldn't take the book out of his hand and shove him outdoors. Sounds like he truly loves his cello.

But you don't have to win a math competition to put astronauts on Mars. 

https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/postsecondary/features/above-average-results.html

https://www.epicsysinc.com/blog/want-to-be-an-engineer

https://www.ecnmag.com/blog/2016/03/i-became-engineer-despite-being-bad-math

You can play an instrument for fun without spending 1.5 hours per day as a child. Granted, you won't necessarily be a virtuoso, but you could play well enough that people would enjoy it.

If your son wants to pursue these things, let him. But why ask it of him? I urge you to examine the level of sacrifice you're asking him to make at age 9 or 10. You mention great things in math, but many people achieve great things in math while not being a mathelete.

 

 

 

 

Thank you again for your response.   But, I just like to further clarify.  

Through playing cello in particular, my son has learned and experienced the value and reward of hard work.   Of course it is not that fun to practice every day for 1.5 hrs, but the fun part usually comes later.   Indeed, a lot of fun things have happened to my son like rapidly advancing through his youth orchestra and receiving an invitation to play in a masterclass with a well-known cellist, whose popular youtube videos have inspired him.   When I noticed my son's interest and enjoyment in math and math competitions, I thought that his work ethic developed through cello can and does translate into math very well. 

I didn't ask my son to achieve greatness as a child in cello or math.  I just ask him to strive to do his best in everything he does.  I often remind him that there is no shame in losing or failing after you have done your best.  Fortunately, through his hard work, my son has already attained some level of success.  His recent acceptance letter to a leading day school in our area specifically noted his success in cello as well as his math accomplishments.  I believe my son is quite happy and proud of these achievements and wants to work even harder.  

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1 hour ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

How will he feel if at age 18 he hasn't won any major math award? If he misses that opportunity by a pt and he spent his entire childhood attempting to achieve that award?  What if he breaks his arm and can't  play the cello? Is his self-worth and identity going to be tied to that loss?

Your vision for your child reads like many of the posts on College Confidential where kids' hearts are broken bc they have poured every waking hour into these sorts of goals. They have the "perfect" application and yet a huge number of them are being rejected from their dream schools. They are devastated bc feel like they deserve acceptances bc of their levels of achievement and having spent every waking minute focused on the very goals that they have been told their whole lives will lead to that success (the next goal-driven post in the sequence of success-oriented list-filled childhoods.). How does the child respond when they recognize the reality that those awards don't guarantee anything? When they aren't accepted and those around them with fewer achievements (as perceived by them) are?

How much of their self-identify is tied to success vs just being themselves?

What will that math award ultimately give him? What will that music award ultimately give him? What will doing things simply bc he loves them without any recognition give him?  What will leaving the decisions up to him give him?

They can spend their early childhoods doing absolutely nothing goal-focused and just doing things at their own level of interest and achievement and end up surpassing the kids who spent their early childhoods pursuing some elusive future attainment. They aren't burned out.  They aren't resentful. They are energized to run forward to their own goals bc they are teens/young adults who have self-identified their long-term goals.  At that pt it isn't recognition/award oriented. It is love of learning oriented. 

No one can predict the future. Maybe the recognition-driven path will end up rewarding him with whatever the goal is.  But, no one can predict the future. Maybe it won't. They only have one childhood. And, at the end of it, there are thousands of paths that lead to the same place in adulthood. 

 

Thank you again for your response.   You raise some great questions.   I think some great answers to your questions can be found by reading this article (titled math experience) found in the following link: https://artofproblemsolving.com/community/c5h280673   I just read this article yesterday and found it both moving and inspiring.    

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One of the best things my dc 'earned' as a payoff from taking private lessons rather than the group lesson offered thru school was the ability to play with people who could hear what being out of tune sounded like and correct. His ears were much happier.

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5 hours ago, HeighHo said:

My kid did spend 1.5 on daily math, but that is because half of it was at school.  He wanted to learn new things, not continually review. It wasnt hard work, it was pleasure, the natural desire of the child to use his brain and figure out how things work. He did not need the school class, the school math club and its mentor was sufficient...unfortunately that was cancelled in the full inclusion era.

With music, what they get is the ability to use their intelligence freely, if they arent pushed.  There is a story in the NYT now of a violin prodigy who walked away...a tragedy as he had so little control early on.  with my dc, he realized early on he didn't want to be an interpreter of music for the pleasure of others who have difficulty relating, but he did want enough musical proficiency for his own goals. This has given him a creative outlet while he pursued other long term interests, and because he took it to the level he did, he has ensembles he is invited to join, as well as gigs and personal projects. RIght now he is exploring sound via working with a college recording class, just one of many things he can do because of his proficiency level. Music is a way of relating to humanity, especially when one finds oneself amongst those who are ignoring their souls. 

It is a good thing to become proficient at something.

 

Just read the article in NYT Re the violin prodigy.   Great read!  Thx. so much for mentioning it.  

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In regards to the practice time "on top of a full day of school work", I don't think as a homeschooler with a gifted kid that necessarily needs to be the case. My son practiced instruments over an hour a day and worked on competition math daily, and I wouldn't even have called them passions. He was taking algebra but it only took him 20 minutes a day to ace the course. He read extensively on his own and had no need of spelling or vocab. Really his ordinary school work was taking 2 hours a day maybe? so for us an extra 3 hours of music and math would not have been an issue. It depends on your style and your kid's speed (not just ability) and I've known families who do full school work days but also those for whom homeschool only lasted 90 minutes each morning and those kids went on to major universities with scholarships and tremendous success. You need get to know your kid and their needs.

 

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9 hours ago, whangty said:

 

Thank you again for your response.   But, I just like to further clarify.  

Through playing cello in particular, my son has learned and experienced the value and reward of hard work.   Of course it is not that fun to practice every day for 1.5 hrs, but the fun part usually comes later.   Indeed, a lot of fun things have happened to my son like rapidly advancing through his youth orchestra and receiving an invitation to play in a masterclass with a well-known cellist, whose popular youtube videos have inspired him.   When I noticed my son's interest and enjoyment in math and math competitions, I thought that his work ethic developed through cello can and does translate into math very well. 

I didn't ask my son to achieve greatness as a child in cello or math.  I just ask him to strive to do his best in everything he does.  I often remind him that there is no shame in losing or failing after you have done your best.  Fortunately, through his hard work, my son has already attained some level of success.  His recent acceptance letter to a leading day school in our area specifically noted his success in cello as well as his math accomplishments.  I believe my son is quite happy and proud of these achievements and wants to work even harder.  

I understand that there is value to becoming a virtuoso. What I am saying is that there is also value to walking alone in the woods.

There is value to meeting famous people. There is also value to a chance encounter helping a person in a wheelchair cross the street.

You say you are asking him to do his best in everything he does, but what I hear here (and of course it is a very incomplete vision of your family, I understand that) is that you're asking him to push himself in math and music in particular. You're not talking about what it means to be the best citizen, or the best in visual art, or the best in spelling, or the best in self-care at least not in this discussion.

What about, "Should my son spend 1.5 hours per day studying Latin?" "How will my son find 2 hours per day to tutor disadvantaged peers?" "How can I help my son become a totally self-sufficient child without spending 4 hours on chores per day?" "I am concerned that my son won't have a deep understanding of the natural world without 1.5 hours per day on the trails, but he already spends 1.5 hours per day on cello."

Of course your son is happy and proud of his achievements. You're teaching him what is valuable by your emphasis on private school, cello, and math. It is not a coincidence that he's proud of those achievements in particular. But it is possible to be proud of many other achievements.

My child comes home and says "Mom, I know you're going to be so happy, because my principal recognized me for leadership in our green challenge to help the environment! Guess what I did!" She didn't come up with that on her own. She knows her family values civic participation, leadership, and the environment. We taught her that. 

Neither you nor I have a monopoly on what is right.

But we both need to recognize that our children have many, many, many options and that what we choose to emphasize is what they are going to jump to.

You're asking how to balance other interests with music and math. But then you come back and defend math and music achievements almost as if they are specially valuable in your mind. I think that if you want balance, you should emphasize balance and let your son choose to push himself when he chooses.

Again, it is possible to achieve many great things in one's life without achieving them in childhood. It's great that he's proud, but there are children with IQs of 70 who are super proud of reading a whole book. If pride is your goal, you can achieve that without 1.5 hours of cello practice. If lifetime achievement is your goal, he can (indeed, he must) choose that himself when he's older.

So again, what are you trying to achieve?

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I won't speak to weather or not it's "possible" to be pointy in more than one area. I will say that motivation is paramount, and in *many* things (though not all, certainly), motivation can cover a pretty vast deficit. Case in point: I decided in 9th grade that I liked singing. It was my first year in choir, and my parents had never been able to afford voice lessons previously. But I really, really liked singing. So three years later, I found myself applying for college and auditioning for voice scholarships (which I got). About 9 months after that, I decided that I didn't like the "cut-throat" nature of performance music, though, and called up my college to say I wasn't so excited by a performance major anymore. Needless to say, they said they weren't so excited about giving me that scholarship anymore, which left me scrambling to apply to a different (less expensive...) school about three weeks before classes started. I needed a major, and chose math since I'd always been good at it. But I'd not taken much of it (I had certainly NOT had things like trig or pre-calc in high school). The next year, I did my first math competition. (I got a stellar score of big-fat-0. But I had fun anyway.) The year after that, I tied for second place in the state.  I ended up with numerous awards and a PhD in math about 7 years after that. Who knows what would've been different for me if I'd been able to study music or taken a fancy to math earlier. Perhaps I could've gone much further or made far more amazing contributions to either field. But I think it's more important that I learned that I can actually change my mind -- and still accomplish my (new) goals.

My life path was far less "set" than it might have seemed to me before, and it was really good for me to learn that.  I tutor a lot of college kids who feel like they have to stay on the path they're currently on, despite their interests and passions changing. They feel they have too much invested now to turn away, and that they'll never be able to "catch up" in the new field that they're thinking sounds pretty cool now. Or worse, what if they try something new, it doesn't work out, and by then they've given up their current opportunities?? I'm so thankful that I never felt pressure to be "all" that I could be, and I had the opportunity to experience starting completely over, from a place that was way "behind" where I "should" have been, and learn that I could *still* accomplish the things I set my mind to.
 

Disclaimer: I'm not saying you're pressuring your kid at all. I'm just saying the things that come to my mind and my feelings as I reflect on my many course changes in life.

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9 hours ago, whangty said:

 

Thank you again for your response.   You raise some great questions.   I think some great answers to your questions can be found by reading this article (titled math experience) found in the following link: https://artofproblemsolving.com/community/c5h280673   I just read this article yesterday and found it both moving and inspiring.    

I think the fact that you found it inspiring demonstrates that we have very different goals for our children. I did not find it inspiring, and it is not an experience I would want my kids to emulate (granted I skimmed it quickly bc it was way too long and I wasn't overly interested in spending time reading it.) He got caught up in learning for competition's sake and connected his worth to his outcomes.  It is worth noting, though, that he also didn't start until high school and reached that high of a level (it didn't take hours from elementary school.)  (I would also interject an aside note here.  College admissions in 2018 is far removed from the process in 2009. His MIT acceptance and Yale/Harvard rejections in 2009 would probably not be replicated in 2018. The admission's landscape has changed dramatically.)

Fwiw, from my perspective it does not take competitions to achieve that level of internal motivation or that level of success. Kids can pursue  that level of challenge bc they have the desire to do so for themselves. Their self-worth isn't defined by outside perceptions. Their goals aren't connected outside acknowledgement but internal desire.

37 minutes ago, brownie said:

In regards to the practice time "on top of a full day of school work", I don't think as a homeschooler with a gifted kid that necessarily needs to be the case.

The OP stated that her ds will be enrolling in school.

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22 minutes ago, Tsuga said:

I understand that there is value to becoming a virtuoso. What I am saying is that there is also value to walking alone in the woods.

There is value to meeting famous people. There is also value to a chance encounter helping a person in a wheelchair cross the street.

You say you are asking him to do his best in everything he does, but what I hear here (and of course it is a very incomplete vision of your family, I understand that) is that you're asking him to push himself in math and music in particular. You're not talking about what it means to be the best citizen, or the best in visual art, or the best in spelling, or the best in self-care at least not in this discussion.

What about, "Should my son spend 1.5 hours per day studying Latin?" "How will my son find 2 hours per day to tutor disadvantaged peers?" "How can I help my son become a totally self-sufficient child without spending 4 hours on chores per day?" "I am concerned that my son won't have a deep understanding of the natural world without 1.5 hours per day on the trails, but he already spends 1.5 hours per day on cello."

Of course your son is happy and proud of his achievements. You're teaching him what is valuable by your emphasis on private school, cello, and math. It is not a coincidence that he's proud of those achievements in particular. But it is possible to be proud of many other achievements.

My child comes home and says "Mom, I know you're going to be so happy, because my principal recognized me for leadership in our green challenge to help the environment! Guess what I did!" She didn't come up with that on her own. She knows her family values civic participation, leadership, and the environment. We taught her that. 

Neither you nor I have a monopoly on what is right.

But we both need to recognize that our children have many, many, many options and that what we choose to emphasize is what they are going to jump to.

You're asking how to balance other interests with music and math. But then you come back and defend math and music achievements almost as if they are specially valuable in your mind. I think that if you want balance, you should emphasize balance and let your son choose to push himself when he chooses.

Again, it is possible to achieve many great things in one's life without achieving them in childhood. It's great that he's proud, but there are children with IQs of 70 who are super proud of reading a whole book. If pride is your goal, you can achieve that without 1.5 hours of cello practice. If lifetime achievement is your goal, he can (indeed, he must) choose that himself when he's older.

So again, what are you trying to achieve?

 

Again, thank you for your response.   But, it seems that there have been a lot of misunderstandings and assumptions made about me and my son that are simply not true.  

To answer your question, I am trying my best to raise my children to be healthy, happy, and balanced individuals who will meaningfully contribute to the world through their talents and education.   So I have emphasized from early on the value of hard work and have allowed or even encouraged them to dream big...   why not esp. at a young age... my son's musical or math aspirations are really no different than kids dreaming of playing in MLB or NFL.  Of course, these dreams might not be realistic for all sorts of reasons and may change as kids get older.  But, I see nothing wrong in setting big goals and doing one's best trying to attain them even at a young age...  

What is the alternative?  or for that matter, what is a balanced childhood?  is it simply a lot of daily free time with no particular focus?  I don't think it is an either/or proposition.  I think you can have a balanced childhood while working really hard on something.  It seems to me that without active and careful guidance from parents, more often than not, kids may simply resort to excessive TV, video games, etc.   From an outsider's perspective, it might seem excessive for a child to practice a couple hours a day honing their musical or other skills.   But, anyone who has achieved a high level of mastery in music or sports knows very well that such a dedication from a young age is exactly what it takes.   It is simply a misunderstanding that all of these kids do not do anything else or that they are somehow robbed of their childhood.  

Like I have written before, winning a competition or a trophy is not the main goal for my son.   Rather, it is to experience the simple but sublime joy of music and to share that joy with others.  My son has already played at church several times.   As he gets older, he will def. share his musical gift by visiting nursing homes and getting involved in fundraisers for causes that may capture his heart.  Please check out this youtube clip.  This group of young musicians represents what I hope my son to be able to do with his cello playing one day... i.e. glorifying God, touching the lives of people, and contributing in fundraising events for worthy causes.  The first time I heard them, it brought tears because in addition to the beauty of their music making, I could sense all the hard work they would have put in over the years.   I have a lot of respect for such people no matter the age.  

Again thank you for your response, as it helped me examine myself and my parenting philosophy again. 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, deanna1ynne said:

I won't speak to weather or not it's "possible" to be pointy in more than one area. I will say that motivation is paramount, and in *many* things (though not all, certainly), motivation can cover a pretty vast deficit. Case in point: I decided in 9th grade that I liked singing. It was my first year in choir, and my parents had never been able to afford voice lessons previously. But I really, really liked singing. So three years later, I found myself applying for college and auditioning for voice scholarships (which I got). About 9 months after that, I decided that I didn't like the "cut-throat" nature of performance music, though, and called up my college to say I wasn't so excited by a performance major anymore. Needless to say, they said they weren't so excited about giving me that scholarship anymore, which left me scrambling to apply to a different (less expensive...) school about three weeks before classes started. I needed a major, and chose math since I'd always been good at it. But I'd not taken much of it (I had certainly NOT had things like trig or pre-calc in high school). The next year, I did my first math competition. (I got a stellar score of big-fat-0. But I had fun anyway.) The year after that, I tied for second place in the state.  I ended up with numerous awards and a PhD in math about 7 years after that. Who knows what would've been different for me if I'd been able to study music or taken a fancy to math earlier. Perhaps I could've gone much further or made far more amazing contributions to either field. But I think it's more important that I learned that I can actually change my mind -- and still accomplish my (new) goals.

My life path was far less "set" than it might have seemed to me before, and it was really good for me to learn that.  I tutor a lot of college kids who feel like they have to stay on the path they're currently on, despite their interests and passions changing. They feel they have too much invested now to turn away, and that they'll never be able to "catch up" in the new field that they're thinking sounds pretty cool now. Or worse, what if they try something new, it doesn't work out, and by then they've given up their current opportunities?? I'm so thankful that I never felt pressure to be "all" that I could be, and I had the opportunity to experience starting completely over, from a place that was way "behind" where I "should" have been, and learn that I could *still* accomplish the things I set my mind to.
 

Disclaimer: I'm not saying you're pressuring your kid at all. I'm just saying the things that come to my mind and my feelings as I reflect on my many course changes in life.

 

Appreciate hearing your story.   I respect your "hard and gutsy" decisions.  I too have taken rather a circuitous route from an MBA and corporate marketing to my current job as a Christian minister.  I also appreciate hearing your experience with college students who were reluctant to venture out in an unknown territory.   As much as I want to help and support my children in their education and growth, I also want to respect their perspective, feelings, and desires more than mine.   Thx. again.  

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It is a completely false paradigm to say that the choices are parent-guided choices or tv and video games. 

Self.-regulation and self-entertainment are actual goals I have for my kids. TV and video games are not involved. (My younger kids don't play video games. TV is on a permission basis only and it limited in access.) They don't do pre-school. They don't have structured days.  They learn to use their imaginations to explore, discover, entertain.  By high school, they have developed strong interests that they pursue independently.

My older kids have chosen career paths based on their strong interests that they developed on their own. For example, I know nothing about physics at all. Ds fell in love with astronomy, the cosmos, etc. He requested books on dark matter. He bought Great Courses lectures with his birthday and Christmas $$. Our Dd taught herself French to fluency on her own. She asked to take Russian in 9th grade. She spent hrs perfecting her pronunciation. (I am clueless what is correct and what isn't.) She made the US team for an international Russian olympiad. 

If I had been involved in directing their interests, physics and foreign languages would never, ever have been choices.  ;) Our oldest ds is a chemE, and the one subject I detest above all others is chemistry!!  So, no, I don't think parental guidance is necessary for them to develop their own strong interests. I think encouraging inquisitive natures (through unstructured time :) ) and providing them what they need to explore those interests can lead to high levels of success and personal satisfaction.

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3 minutes ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

It is a complete false paradigm to say that the choices are parent-guided choices or tv and video games. 

Self.-regulation and self-entertainment are actual goals I have for my kids. TV and video games are not involved. (My younger kids don't play video games. TV is on a permission basis only and it limited in access.) They don't do pre-school. They don't have structured days.  They learn to use their imaginations to explore, discover, entertain.  By high school, they have developed strong interests that they pursue independently.

My older kids have chosen career paths based on their strong interests that they developed on their own. For example, I know nothing about physics at all. Ds fell in love with astronomy, the cosmos, etc. He requested books on dark matter. He bought Great Courses lectures with his birthday and Christmas $$. Our Dd taught herself French to fluency on her own. She asked to take Russian in 9th grade. She spent hrs perfecting her pronunciation. (I am clueless what is correct and what isn't.) She made the US team for an international Russian olympiad. 

If I had been involved in directing their interests, physics and foreign languages would never, ever have been choices.  ;) Our oldest ds is a chemE, and the one subject I detest above all others is chemistry!!  So, no, I don't think parental guidance is necessary for them to develop their own strong interests. I think encouraging inquisitive natures (through unstructured time :) ) and providing them what they need to explore those interests can lead to high levels of success and personal satisfaction.

 

Thx. again.   Please allow me to add the below.  

First I want to share a little story.  During my climbing trip to Nepal (a long time ago), I became heart-broken to witness that the children growing up in Himalayan villages were without access to quality education and role models in diverse fields such as scientists, doctors, engineers, etc.   In their world, all they could imagine and see was what their parents were doing, which was being a Sherpa (climbing guide) or a porter.   Even in their playing, I could see these young children pretending to be little porters with their miniature wooden baskets on their back.   The vast world of science, medicine, research, etc. seemed almost completely unknown to these kids.  I was glad to hear that an international school opened up later; hopefully the kids there can now dream of becoming someone different than what they see in their parents.  

My main point was simply that it is important for parents to provide guidance and exposure to children (esp. to younger children).   I too agree that ultimately the choice needs to be in the hand of the child and that child takes a lead more and more esp. as he gets older.   But, there is def. a place for parents to expose their children to different opportunities that are out there.  

Yes, our parenting philosophies may differ for one obvious reason.  BTW, I completely respect your parenting philosophy.  Half of my childhood was spent in Korea, and my wife spent her entire childhood in Korea.  In Korea, it is normal for children to go to school from 7 am till 11 pm during high school without counting additional two or three hours many students spend in special tutoring schools; they even go to school on Saturday mornings.  I don't necessarily approve of the Korean education model, but I am aware that I have been influenced by it, esp. when it comes to math and music education.   But in the end, in spite of our differences, I believe we share more in common than we may realize in our love and concern for our children.        

 

 

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2 hours ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

I think the fact that you found it inspiring demonstrates that we have very different goals for our children. I did not find it inspiring, and it is not an experience I would want my kids to emulate (granted I skimmed it quickly bc it was way too long and I wasn't overly interested in spending time reading it.) He got caught up in learning for competition's sake and connected his worth to his outcomes.  It is worth noting, though, that he also didn't start until high school and reached that high of a level (it didn't take hours from elementary school.)  (I would also interject an aside note here.  College admissions in 2018 is far removed from the process in 2009. His MIT acceptance and Yale/Harvard rejections in 2009 would probably not be replicated in 2018. The admission's landscape has changed dramatically.)

Fwiw, from my perspective it does not take competitions to achieve that level of internal motivation or that level of success. Kids can pursue  that level of challenge bc they have the desire to do so for themselves. Their self-worth isn't defined by outside perceptions. Their goals aren't connected outside acknowledgement but internal desire.

The OP stated that her ds will be enrolling in school.

 

I found his story inspiring for two reasons.   First, he somehow was able to discipline himself to that level of study and preparation.  Second, in what he became eventually.   He has since received his master's and Ph.d in math from Cambridge University in UK and is very much interested in teaching students, perhaps not to repeat what he went through.   Yes, his story is depressing in many parts.   But, through the lows and depressions, it seems that he got stronger and healthier ultimately.   Sorry that I forgot to ask you to read +100 responses on that forum, almost all of which comment on how the story deeply resonated, inspired, and humbled the readers.   

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Disclaimer: My oldest is six and I'm not even going to touch the heart of the comments but...

Couldn't you just take a light year in cello to maintain your son's current proficiency level by doing, say, half an hour practice three times a week, while focusing primarily on the math competitions stuff since its his first year? Then at the end of the year he and you will have the experience to know what it will take to get to the level he wants and perhaps have a better idea of how to balance that with his cello goals?

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At our house, we review these things before the start of every school year.  The kids and I list their school subjects and extracurricular activities.  I sketch out my academic plans and they give input - is there a science area that they particularly want to learn?  Would they like the math spring semester to be probability or number theory?  Then we discuss the extracurriculars, and they tell me whether they want to continue, quit, or try something new.  For the ones in the 'continue' category, we discuss level of participation.  Rec league (twice/week, short season) or travel (out of season practice, 4-5 days/week during a long season), music lessons or also join the orchestra, how many Science Olympiad events to do, knowing that each one is 1.5 hrs/week practice, etc.  We do discuss how each choice fits with their long-term goals, but those change.  And, always, I remind them that these activities are for them, not for me.  If they need more down time, want to explore something new, or want to do something more intensely...any of the above is fine with me, as long as they understand that taking a break may mean not making the team next year, or extra practice may mean less time to read.  When they want to try something new, I try to find a way with minimal commitment - a 1 week day camp or a month of lessons - so that they don't give up one activity, only to find that they don't like the new one.  But, I try to expose them to lots of things - my interests and abilities as an adult bear little resemblance to my elementary or teen activities.  One of my kids has been consistent with his extracurriculars but has varied his academic interests, while the other has tried several different extracurriculars over the years before finding something that they love.  

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2 hours ago, ClemsonDana said:

At our house, we review these things before the start of every school year.  The kids and I list their school subjects and extracurricular activities.  I sketch out my academic plans and they give input - is there a science area that they particularly want to learn?  Would they like the math spring semester to be probability or number theory?  Then we discuss the extracurriculars, and they tell me whether they want to continue, quit, or try something new.  For the ones in the 'continue' category, we discuss level of participation.  Rec league (twice/week, short season) or travel (out of season practice, 4-5 days/week during a long season), music lessons or also join the orchestra, how many Science Olympiad events to do, knowing that each one is 1.5 hrs/week practice, etc.  We do discuss how each choice fits with their long-term goals, but those change.  And, always, I remind them that these activities are for them, not for me.  If they need more down time, want to explore something new, or want to do something more intensely...any of the above is fine with me, as long as they understand that taking a break may mean not making the team next year, or extra practice may mean less time to read.  When they want to try something new, I try to find a way with minimal commitment - a 1 week day camp or a month of lessons - so that they don't give up one activity, only to find that they don't like the new one.  But, I try to expose them to lots of things - my interests and abilities as an adult bear little resemblance to my elementary or teen activities.  One of my kids has been consistent with his extracurriculars but has varied his academic interests, while the other has tried several different extracurriculars over the years before finding something that they love.  

Thank you for your input.  It is def. helpful to hear how your family makes decisions together.  Also I respect your intentional efforts in providing various exposure to your kids.  Thx again!

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Mastering a musical instrument is a wonderful achievement and a great goal for a child. Learning to play an instrument is doable for a good student with a few years of lessons. But it takes tremendous effort and hard work to achieve mastery in it. The discipline, work ethic and the persistence that a child learns from that endeavor are valuable life skills.

Preparing for math competitions, participating and enjoying the experience are also equally challenging and fulfilling.

But, at the highest levels of competition, those two things can be mutually exclusive - from my observation of kids who do those things in my area. If you take out the competition from both music and math study, you can fit those two into your child's schedule.

For music:

Have your son focus on the foundations of great technique and musicality with the cello. When it comes to music competitions, from what I have seen (even some international level competitions), judges are not looking for a 12 year old virtuoso who regularly practices 6 hours a day with 4 different music coaches, but, for a child who is very musical and can talk to the audience through emotions. If your child has strong technique and deep musicality, it does not require more practice than 1.5 hours a day to be exceptional at it. If at some point, he is interested in pursuing music as an end goal, it is a matter of dropping other interests and spending more effort on it.

For math:

At the highest level, for a highly proficient student, it takes anywhere between 30-40 hours a week for many months to stay competitive (you might even know more about it than me, given that Korea routinely wins gold medals at the IMO's). A child simply cannot do music and math competitions at such a high level simultaneously. Since your son is only a 4th grader, let him start participating in fun math contests like Mathcounts, Math kangaroo, CML and whatever else the school is going to provide. That is very good exposure for future competitions and if he is enthused, he can pursue math contests at higher levels at that point. 

Giftedness manifests differently in kids. Whereas one child would pick up an interest on their own, seek out resources, spend time on their own to gain personal fulfillment, not every gifted child wants to do that or have the executive functioning and maturity to be capable of doing that. I do not think that it is wrong for a parent to expose the child to what is out there in terms of opportunities and potential for achievement. But, it is very good to expose them to a whole lot of opportunities in addition to math and music competitions as well. My husband and I are computer engineers and my son wanted to do nothing but math, programming and music all his life until he studied biology, diseases and pathogens and now, he is obsessed with epidemiology which is surprising to us and which would not have happened if I had not exposed him to the topic in depth. We never know how a child's interest will develop. So, exposing them to all kinds of input is important.

One way we deal with music and math competitions in my family is that when my son participates in math competitions, he practices less music every day and when he has music competitions, he does not do any math competitions. He does more music competitions in some years and more math on other years, but, we discuss it and prioritize it before plunging into either. Good luck.

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I notice that lewelma has not chimed in.

whangty: you should look in the archives and read what lewelma has posted about her older son who is both an accomplished musician AND mathematician (International Math Olympiad level). And who has received a very well rounded education in other areas as well.

 

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4 hours ago, regentrude said:

I notice that lewelma has not chimed in.

whangty: you should look in the archives and read what lewelma has posted about her older son who is both an accomplished musician AND mathematician (International Math Olympiad level). And who has received a very well rounded education in other areas as well.

 

 

Will do.   Based on what I have read thus far, it seems that her son was able to discipline himself to study 2hrs. a day going through AoPS books starting when he was 12 years old.   What a tremendous effort, followed by the great outcome!   Thx. for this tip.  

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22 hours ago, mathnerd said:

Mastering a musical instrument is a wonderful achievement and a great goal for a child. Learning to play an instrument is doable for a good student with a few years of lessons. But it takes tremendous effort and hard work to achieve mastery in it. The discipline, work ethic and the persistence that a child learns from that endeavor are valuable life skills.

Preparing for math competitions, participating and enjoying the experience are also equally challenging and fulfilling.

But, at the highest levels of competition, those two things can be mutually exclusive - from my observation of kids who do those things in my area. If you take out the competition from both music and math study, you can fit those two into your child's schedule.

For music:

Have your son focus on the foundations of great technique and musicality with the cello. When it comes to music competitions, from what I have seen (even some international level competitions), judges are not looking for a 12 year old virtuoso who regularly practices 6 hours a day with 4 different music coaches, but, for a child who is very musical and can talk to the audience through emotions. If your child has strong technique and deep musicality, it does not require more practice than 1.5 hours a day to be exceptional at it. If at some point, he is interested in pursuing music as an end goal, it is a matter of dropping other interests and spending more effort on it.

For math:

At the highest level, for a highly proficient student, it takes anywhere between 30-40 hours a week for many months to stay competitive (you might even know more about it than me, given that Korea routinely wins gold medals at the IMO's). A child simply cannot do music and math competitions at such a high level simultaneously. Since your son is only a 4th grader, let him start participating in fun math contests like Mathcounts, Math kangaroo, CML and whatever else the school is going to provide. That is very good exposure for future competitions and if he is enthused, he can pursue math contests at higher levels at that point. 

Giftedness manifests differently in kids. Whereas one child would pick up an interest on their own, seek out resources, spend time on their own to gain personal fulfillment, not every gifted child wants to do that or have the executive functioning and maturity to be capable of doing that. I do not think that it is wrong for a parent to expose the child to what is out there in terms of opportunities and potential for achievement. But, it is very good to expose them to a whole lot of opportunities in addition to math and music competitions as well. My husband and I are computer engineers and my son wanted to do nothing but math, programming and music all his life until he studied biology, diseases and pathogens and now, he is obsessed with epidemiology which is surprising to us and which would not have happened if I had not exposed him to the topic in depth. We never know how a child's interest will develop. So, exposing them to all kinds of input is important.

One way we deal with music and math competitions in my family is that when my son participates in math competitions, he practices less music every day and when he has music competitions, he does not do any math competitions. He does more music competitions in some years and more math on other years, but, we discuss it and prioritize it before plunging into either. Good luck.

 

Thank you very much for sharing your first-hand experience.   I agree with so much of what you have written: e.g. how tremendous effort is absolutely necessary for achieving mastery in music as well as math or for that matter pretty much anything in life.   Also, your response reminded me of the perpetual debate of nature vs. nurture; it seems even natural talents need to be discovered and nurtured through appropriate exposure and guidance. 

As far as competitions go, my son actually has not done any competitions for cello yet.  We will completely trust and follow the lead of his teacher, few of whose students actually have done rather well on a national and even on an international level.  As for the math competitions, my son has done and enjoyed Math Kangaroo, Math is Cool, and couple others.   

Interestingly, my son's future career interests also lie in medicine, more specifically discovering cures for "incurable" diseases in the world.   We shall see how this may evolve over time.   Thx. again.  

 

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I have really struggled to decide how to answer your question.  The answer is both yes and no. 

The brief version: My ds went to the IMO at age 15, 16 and soon to be 17. He is completely self taught with no teachers, tutors, knowledgeable parent, or classes.  He is also at a National level in violin here in NZ and has studied with the Associate Concertmaster of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for the past 6 years. So that seems to say that Yes, it is possible to be pointy in two areas.  But it is so much more complicated than that.

The longer version: You can always be better. And when your focus becomes the competitions rather than the joy of learning, you start to second guess the time spent in other activities.  If ds did not play his violin so much, he could have spent more time on math and earned a silver last year at the IMO.  If he did not spend so much time on math, he would have had time to be in the National Youth Orchestra and get to the finalists in the National Chamber Music Competitions (both of his teacher's senior students did this last year). But there has simply not been time for everything.  Also when you focus on the competitions rather than the joy of learning, you become more aware that the kids you are competing against have sacrificed all for one goal, and you are holding onto 2.  This obviously puts you at a disadvantage, so if not careful, you can feel like a constant failure -- never living up to your potential because you have chosen 2 loves, rather than 1. So here's the point.  It can't be about competitions.  If that is the focus, it will destroy you.  

Doing well in competitions is a *side effect* of the love of learning.  My ds started competitions at the age of 13, because he was asked to take the British Math Olympiad by the NZ IMO camp.  He really didn't want to.  Competitions were never his goal, his goal was to be with others who shared his passion for math. He never studied for a competition by doing practice questions/exams until last year, when he studied actual "competition math" for the four months before the IMO. And you know what, it was a disaster.  This is what he wrote about the experience:

"Until the age of 16 I had never really studied for a mathematics olympiad. But three weeks before the Australian Math Olympiad I decided to try a new technique -- to study with intensity. The results were outstanding, and I earned ninth place. Bolstered by this success, I used the same technique to prepare for the Internaional Mathematical Olympiad spending even more time on math. This was a mistake. At first I loved the mystery of the problems and probing the unknown. But as time passed, and I put even more hours into math, I began to fear it -- all that mattered was whether I could solve the problem or not. By the time of the IMO, any enjoyment that I still felt about olympiad math had fled and with it all the creative problem solving I had cultivated for the previous years."

During those 4 months, he changed his *mindset* from passion to competition. And then it was all about beating the others. Others who were likely spending more time than he was, sacrificing all other passions, going to special camps, having special tutors, etc. The fear came from external judgment and recognition, whereas up until that point, math was all about internal beauty and focus. To do *really* well in the competitions, he would have had to sacrifice everything. But that would have left him a shadow of the man he has become. And if competitions had been the goal for all these years, the violin and his math would have actually started to compete for his time, and I think he would have felt pushed to quit one, pushed by his need to win. 

But what has come to pass is that he has both. Loves both, and does not regret spending time in both. Because neither one hindered the progress in the other and that was because he was only competing with himself and not with others.

Your son is 9. There is plenty of time. At 9, my boy was getting ready to spend 3 full years studying AoPS Intro Algebra, not exactly a speedy path to competition prowess. And at 9 he was learning violin from a Community Music Program, playing a $40 rented violin and taking $1 group lessons.  His technique was apparently atrocious and he was about to break his arm. 

You simply don't know what the future holds. What you do know is a small child's passion at this very moment.  I would focus on that, and let the competitions fall where they may.

Ruth in NZ

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43 minutes ago, lewelma said:

I have really struggled to decide how to answer your question.  The answer is both yes and no. 

The brief version: My ds went to the IMO at age 15, 16 and soon to be 17. He is completely self taught with no teachers, tutors, knowledgeable parent, or classes.  He is also at a National level in violin here in NZ and has studied with the Associate Concertmaster of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for the past 6 years. So that seems to say that Yes, it is possible to be pointy in two areas.  But it is so much more complicated than that.

The longer version: You can always be better. And when your focus becomes the competitions rather than the joy of learning, you start to second guess the time spent in other activities.  If ds did not play his violin so much, he could have spent more time on math and earned a silver last year at the IMO.  If he did not spend so much time on math, he would have had time to be in the National Youth Orchestra and get to the finalists in the National Chamber Music Competitions (both of his teacher's senior students did this last year). But there has simply not been time for everything.  Also when you focus on the competitions rather than the joy of learning, you become more aware that the kids you are competing against have sacrificed all for one goal, and you are holding onto 2.  This obviously puts you at a disadvantage, so if not careful, you can feel like a constant failure -- never living up to your potential because you have chosen 2 loves, rather than 1. So here's the point.  It can't be about competitions.  If that is the focus, it will destroy you.  

Doing well in competitions is a *side effect* of the love of learning.  My ds started competitions at the age of 13, because he was asked to take the British Math Olympiad by the NZ IMO camp.  He really didn't want to.  Competitions were never his goal, his goal was to be with others who shared his passion for math. He never studied for a competition by doing practice questions/exams until last year, when he studied actual "competition math" for the four months before the IMO. And you know what, it was a disaster.  This is what he wrote about the experience:

"Until the age of 16 I had never really studied for a mathematics olympiad. But three weeks before the Australian Math Olympiad I decided to try a new technique -- to study with intensity. The results were outstanding, and I earned ninth place. Bolstered by this success, I used the same technique to prepare for the Internaional Mathematical Olympiad spending even more time on math. This was a mistake. At first I loved the mystery of the problems and probing the unknown. But as time passed, and I put even more hours into math, I began to fear it -- all that mattered was whether I could solve the problem or not. By the time of the IMO, any enjoyment that I still felt about olympiad math had fled and with it all the creative problem solving I had cultivated for the previous years."

During those 4 months, he changed his *mindset* from passion to competition. And then it was all about beating the others. Others who were likely spending more time than he was, sacrificing all other passions, going to special camps, having special tutors, etc. The fear came from external judgment and recognition, whereas up until that point, math was all about internal beauty and focus. To do *really* well in the competitions, he would have had to sacrifice everything. But that would have left him a shadow of the man he has become. And if competitions had been the goal for all these years, the violin and his math would have actually started to compete for his time, and I think he would have felt pushed to quit one, pushed by his need to win. 

But what has come to pass is that he has both. Loves both, and does not regret spending time in both. Because neither one hindered the progress in the other and that was because he was only competing with himself and not with others.

Your son is 9. There is plenty of time. At 9, my boy was getting ready to spend 3 full years studying AoPS Intro Algebra, not exactly a speedy path to competition prowess. And at 9 he was learning violin from a Community Music Program, playing a $40 rented violin and taking $1 group lessons.  His technique was apparently atrocious and he was about to break his arm. 

You simply don't know what the future holds. What you do know is a small child's passion at this very moment.  I would focus on that, and let the competitions fall where they may.

Ruth in NZ

 I love everything about this response, but I particularly love your sons’ insight into his own inner workings.

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3 minutes ago, 4KookieKids said:

 I love everything about this response, but I particularly love your sons’ insight into his own inner workings.

It is a piece of one of his University Application essays.  It was very hard to write about at the time.  

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lewelma,

Thanks for sharing. Is my recollection correct that your son was homeschooled throughout that time? I would imagine that is also a factor in being able to pursue two passions as well. It sounds like OP's son is enrolled in a B&M school.

 

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I don't think a person can do their "absolute very best" at everything they undertake.  They just can't.  Doing your best takes a lot of time and commitment, even for your PERSONAL best.  You can't do that with academics and math and music.  Life, even as a child, is about making choices about where you put your time and effort.  That time might be spent at something concrete, like cello or math.  It might be legos or fort building.  It might be sports.  You might have one thing that you work towards your absolute best at and a couple of other things that you put secondary effort into.  And a whole lot of things that you put the bare minimum into.  I think we really, really do a disservice towards people when we ask them to always do their personal best, because that just isn't sustainable.  And as a fourth grader?  Let him try student council and running club and all those things.  You may have to cut back on that 1.5 hours of cello if he's going to school full time.  There will be at least some homework probably (although I disagree with elementary homework, but nobody asked me).  It's going to be hard to go to school full days, do homework, practice cello for 1.5 hours, and have free time to play outside and read and do legos, even if he completely drops math circle and doesn't try out any of the other opportunities his school offers.  That seems a sad life for a fourth grader, honestly, to me.

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Quote

Thanks for sharing. Is my recollection correct that your son was homeschooled throughout that time? I would imagine that is also a factor in being able to pursue two passions as well. It sounds like OP's son is enrolled in a B&M school.

Yes, he was homeschooled his entire life.  :-)

In my experience, the problem is not two passions at once, but rather music in particular.  I know of kids who are pointy in two areas, one of ds's friends went to the IMO and the IOI national camps (and they were in B&M school).  But the moment you throw music in, you have to rehearse typically somewhere you have to drive to. So it is not just studying on your own, but rather practicing with your accompanist or group, typically multiple times a week. It is all lessons, rehearsals, and recitals that are just so crazy time consuming and tiring.  I said that my ds is at a National *level* in music, I did not say that he competes.  He  is at the level that he *could* make it in to the National Youth Orchestra, and his teacher has asked him to, but he doesn't have time to do it.  And this is part of what I was talking about in my previous post. Yes, he is at that high level but he doesn't need competitions to prove this to either himself or others.  Just look at Quark's son.  He doesn't need competitions as proof of his level in math. The original poster asked about making music and doing math at an incredibly high level, but he confounded being competitive with working at that level.  You can work at that level without the competitions. Striving towards competitions in two fields, would result in regret like I described in my long post because you are *competing* with those focusing in a single field. *Studying* at a very high level in two fields is definitely possible and enjoyable in my experience.

And I think that comparing either math or music competitions to sports is missing a large distinction.  Math and music competitions are completely separate from success in these fields. This is not true of sports, because the goal *is* the competition, whether you are a child or adult. 

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On 4/6/2018 at 1:59 PM, whangty said:

But, I see nothing wrong in setting big goals and doing one's best trying to attain them even at a young age...  

 

Absolutely agree!  Better to encourage kids to think big and figure out how to get there than to have all their dreams squashed and be afraid to try something because adults tell them "they can't."

One of mine wants to be a youtuber.  I can't believe how many adults say "you can't make money doing that!"  I just want him doing something other than watching TV all day.  If he achieves his dreams, great!  If he doesn't, at least he's learning something trying.

PS:  I think working on both math and music is a good combination.  When he hits a wall in one, he can work on the other.   I don't think it has to necessarily be one or the other.

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I'm not competent to answer questions about developing musical or mathematic ability, but I do want to put in a plug for getting physical playtime and exercise. I'm sure you know this, but sometimes when we stress about how to balance worthwhile pursuits, we forget there is great value in climbing a tree, digging a hole, breathing fresh air, etc, and a lot of the benefit can only be gained if it is done regularly. You send an academic-oriented kid outside to blue of some energy and he comes in after ten minutes claiming boredom. You could take this as a sign that he would rather spend all his free time studying and practicing, but then you remind yourself that, as the parent, you have to encourage his physical health even when he isn't interested. If my kids want to do cross country, I will be elated (partly because, at my high school, that's where all the smart/cool kids hung out, including a runner-up at a huge national math competition.)

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