Friday, March 20, 2015


I am getting anxious for spring weather. It has been a ridiculously cold, snowy, disease-laden winter here. A few days this week were nice enough for walks, but tomorrow we are expected to get another round of snow. Will it ever end?!

When spring is on the horizon, I start feeling worn thin by our schooling routine. The boys are less likely to be cooperative and I am less likely to pleasantly motivate them to work. I started recognizing the onset of this spring fever last week and I know I will need to work hard to get us back on track. Once this round of snowy weather comes and goes I plan to take the boys on a few outings to improve morale. I'm thinking a hiking trip at one of the state parks in our area and maybe we'll sign up for a program or two in the next month. Or maybe just the chance to get out in the yard more often will be enough to end the cabin fever.

Another project I have going is choosing our curriculum for next year. As usual, my original plan had to be amended so I need to do a lot of research before purchasing can begin. EM finished Singapore math 6 this year so we need to decide where he's going next. I'm sure he's ready for some algebra; I'm just not sure if we should do a full year of pre-algebra or just go straight into algebra. I'm going to be pulling a few placement tests off the web to help make that decision. Then there is JT. He is a math enigma that I need to crack before we move on for next year. Algebra has been a struggle with Thinkwell this year, so we will not continue using that platform for his next math course. Whether we go online or with a text, geometry is the traditional choice, but I just can't see that as a good fit. I know he needs some in order to take the SATs, but I'm leaning more towards Art of Problem Solving's Introduction to Number Theory for his next step. It seems like a better fit for someone interested in game design. We can always do geometry for his junior year, or just do some SAT prep math in addition to the number theory.

I also need to look at science for next year. JT will have biology under his belt at the end of this year. In a usual setting, chemistry would be next. I'm thinking it would be better to look for a community college opportunity for chemistry later in his high school career. So, again, what's the next logical choice? Maybe environmental science, ecology, human anatomy? EM will likely continue his study of electronics or move on to study machines and physics. Or we could just pull a seventh grade science textbook and go with that.

If they were in public school we'd have such limited choices for their course work. It would be a drawback in some ways, but in others, I can see how it would be a blessing. With so many options in front of us, it's so hard to choose the best path.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Are All Opportunities Equal?

Last week at the end of his lesson, JT's drum teacher asked if he could give me a call to talk about something. I must have looked worried because he immediately said, "It's nothing bad." It turns out he wanted to tell me that he thinks JT is making excellent progress and that he feels more frequent lessons would be a good idea. I told him we'd discuss it and let him know.

JT started taking lessons from this instructor September of 2013. He had his first exposure to drums playing Rock Band. We realized immediately that he had a bit of natural talent. My husband had bought a drum set for himself not long before that and we moved Jacob to the real drums to see what he could do. In no time he was playing with his dad and even composing his own songs.

We decided to send him for lessons to make sure he learned the rudiments and didn't develop any bad habits learning independently. The instructor is a well-known drummer and his prices are on the more expensive end. We wanted to give it a try so we set him up for an hour lesson every other week. After the phone call, we were looking at doubling our expenses for the drum lessons.

So, would it be worth it?

My husband and I both agreed that even though JT has great natural talent and ability, he doesn't have the passion for drumming that we would want to see if we were going to spend that kind of money. Sure he 'likes' to play but does he 'love' it? I don't see him running to the drums to play on his own. He practices what he has been assigned, usually for the minimum number of hours expected each week. He goes to the lesson and plays well. But the passion just isn't there. In all honesty, we had started to wonder if the every other week lessons were going to continue much longer.

When the teacher called, my husband told him we'd keep things the way they are for now. He explained that even though JT is a good drummer we can't see his drumming ever being more than a hobby. If he were considering a career in drumming it might be worth the cost but as a hobby it's not.

Maybe that sounds harsh... or cheap... But as parents I think we are encouraged far too often to push our kids to have the absolute best opportunities even when they aren't a good fit. I see parents spending loads of money on elite sports teams, fancy summer camps, high-end music lessons, and every experience you can think of under the sun. What happens when they seem to be naturally good at everything they try? Do we have an obligation to keep pushing that pursuit if they are only mildly interested? If it's your child's passion and you have the means to do it, then go for it! But when it's something we do just because we can, I think there's absolutely nothing wrong with saying no.