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Home » Notes to Parents »

Lessons and Instruction

Art lessons, music lessons, dance classes—the world is full of special lessons and instruction parents can provide for their children. In order to make good choices, expose your young child to various activities, people and ideas, and notice his preferences. Once preferences are identified, how fully they develop often depends on persistence and effort. By choosing to focus on one or two interests, children can develop excellent skills in an area while still having time to relax and stay in touch with their own thoughts and needs. A profoundly talented child may exhibit a strong need to engage in activities that further her gifts, while development in other areas may lag, though not in all cases. For other children, talents may take longer to emerge or unfold, but development may proceed more evenly across the board.

Once you have a sense of your child's interests, it can make sense to arrange for some instruction in the few chosen focus areas. Instruction will provide a repertoire of information, strategies and ideas to think with or use for novel combination. In the ideal scenario, you would be able to find a teacher who imparts skills and also encourages improvisation; for example, a piano teacher who assigns scales, exercises, songs and also twenty minutes a day of improvising. For more tips and ideas about lessons, you may want to look at Stacy DeBroff's book Sign Me Up. For each athletic, artistic, intellectual, or other organized activity she discusses evaluating the lessons, matching activities to your child, uncovering hidden costs and time commitments, dealing with exploring versus quitting, the usual age for starting, and a host of other issues.

Be creative about how you define and obtain instruction, too. You probably have talents you could teach your children, or even your friends' children. Perhaps your children's talents can be supported inexpensively through organizations you already belong to, a common one being singing for a church's children's choir. If your child is older and loves pets, maybe there's a humane society where she could volunteer. There are even groups that knit for cats in shelters!

Sources and Further Reading:

Nicholls, J. G. (1985) The Competitive Ethos and Democratic Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Elkind, D. (2001) The Hurried Child (3rd edition). Cambridge, MA: Perseus.

DeBroff. S. M. (2003) Sign Me Up. New York: Free Press.

Taylor, J. T. (2002) Positive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Child. New York: Hyperion.

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