First let me add a disclaimer…I have a date with my camera and a lake in about 30 minutes, without kids, so this is kind of a rush job. If it makes no sense whatsoever, blame summer and I’ll edit it and repost it next week, lol.
When Naturalist was still in school; struggling emotionally, mentally, and physically, I kept her in that position for a good 2 years after my heart was telling me to find another learning path for her. I ask myself why sometimes. As a mom, part of my job is to watch out for her, help her thrive…and yet I watched her become more withdrawn, more listless, more anxious and upset, and more depressed. Why? What trumped my maternal instinct?
For one, I listened to most people…teachers, principal, friends…who said that if Naturalist never learned how to succeed in school, she’d never learn how to succeed period. Like, learning how to sit still and write letters perfectly was some kind of indicator for future success. Everyone seemed to agree that she needed to keep on being subjected to an environment that clearly didn’t suit her in order to make her a better person. A strong person. Someone who didn’t give up, but who would learn how to be persistent. If I pulled her out of school, she would only learn how to be a quitter.
If we’re talking about 2e kids here, and I am, then that is totally wrong. First, we have to start with the premise that these kids are wicked smart, and they are. Not in the traditional sense of skipping multiple grades and graduating early…in fact, many of them are the opposite–struggling in classes and taking longer in school.
But the fact is, if you combine wicked intelligence with a profound insight and internal value system, calling the public school system in its current form a worthy challenge for these kids is insulting. Because it isn’t. To a very divergent, creative thinker, it’s a place where kids go to be taught how to fit in, sit still, be normal, and learn what someone else wants them to. It’s insulting. While there, Naturalist wasn’t learning anything positive, she learned how to disappear in a crowd, how to skate by, how to fake sickness to avoid situations, how to daydream to get away.
That being said, I think it IS totally important for kids to do hard things…to push themselves to succeed and achieve. But writing in perfect handwriting, going all week without a black mark on your name, being able to complete a timed test in math in a minute, or writing a perfect essay are not challenges to a 2e kid. They certainly are challenging, because a 2e kid maybe wont be able to do any of those things. But it’s not important. These kids have a bigger role to fill in their lives. They aren’t thinking about penmanship, they’re wondering about saving hippos in Rwanda, or orphans in Africa, or the frogs in the lakes and streams in their backyards. They’re wondering about how to bring solar power to the poor, or make social security last longer, or create something better than what exists right now.
The bigger the picture, the better the challenge.
I saw Naturalist and Golfer thrive when I let them pick their own challenge and let go of the fight. As my boyfriend John Muir says, “Tug on anything at all and you’ll find it connected to everything else in the universe.” Academics naturally follow passion.
Golfers first challenge was beating a video game. It wasn’t saving the world, but I bit my tongue and supported him. Turns out, it was a fantastic way to get a perfectionistic, easily distracted, highly driven kid to sit and focus on doing something that was really hard and that he failed at quite a bit. The perfectionism in him, at that time, would have made him quit trying on most everything else, but the video game was just fun enough to keep him involved. He learned more from beating that video game than sitting at a desk, repeating the spelling of a word over and over again. There’s a great article about video games, here.
Naturalist challenges herself outdoors. Her goal of 14 14’ers by the time she’s 14 has been fantastic in every area of her life. And she needed it, after her time at school that led to some pretty big emotional and mental blocks. That in and of itself is another post, but I’ll just say that when I went for my first 14’er last week, I was amazed with her. At one point she was giving pep talks to encourage others to keep going when it got hard, at another point she told me, “Mom, every step you’ll think you just can’t do it. You just can’t go one more step. But you will. You’ll dig deep and something inside will help you take that step. So just think one step at a time until you get to the top.” And you know what? That’s exactly right. In school, she was learning the opposite. Climbing a mountain is her kind of challenge.
Challenge your 2e kids, but let it be their own quest. Let them make their own way. Find out what their passion is, and then help them take it further!
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