Monday, September 27, 2010
Having recently read the book Outliers which challenges the way we look at success (hard work and opportunity vs talent and luck), I was really struck by the effect of hard work. Apparently 10 000 is the magic number of hours you need to put in before you can be considered an expert. Most people fall way short of practicing anything -- an instrument, sport, computing even. It's got me thinking again about how I view my kid's free time. Right now they are still young -- I want them to play as much as they can and to enjoy the freedom of having zero responsibility. Family time is about doing fun things together, not schlepping them to endless scheduled activities. I want them to be generalists and be exposed to a variety of interests so that they can eventually find their 'thing'. But am I doing them a disservice by not helping them develop their talents sooner?
The book also examined the principals of hard work and discipline. It suggested that countries (typically Asian) that have a longer school year, produce smarter children. I've thought a lot about supplementing my child's learning with my own 'Mommy school' (I did teach my son to read after all) on weekends and during evenings. But then the whining starts and I feel guilty for intruding on their playtime. Plus I trust that our school is making the best use of time with my kids. And then I think about what a waste my own elementary school days were...
I'm beginning to think that this 'Kumon Method' of learning by wrote (for math especially) is the way to go. Math is just one of those things that you've got to practice over and over again in order to build confidence. You hear about it in Asian countries -- kids reciting their times tables and doing pages and pages of the same kinds of problems until it's embedded. My kids are going to hate me for this, but I can't get it out of my head. I don't want them to have the same fear of basic math that I have (you know the sudden urge to leave the room when the cheque arrives and you have to calculate the tip ... can't wait to start using the 'I forgot my glasses' excuse for that one).
At any rate, it's given me a lot to think about -- the value of hard work. Yeah, it's right up there with teaching my kids love and respect. I need to do something about this.