Monday, February 4, 2013

I’m aiming for mediocrity

Every time I’ve ever watched the winter olympics as an adult I’ve had one overriding thought.  As each year’s story was told, of a child excelling in figure skating and being sent to live across the state (or even country) with a coach while the parents worked frantically to support the skating habit, I’ve thought: “I hope none of my kids are stars.”

Recently someone asked me if I was a proponent of a particular homeschooling system that presents itself as a superior way to educate children.  I said in an offhand, but heartfelt way: “No, I’m not trying to raise leaders.”

When I started homeschooling I had visions of what a little genius Cindy Lynn was going to become once she was freed from the inhibiting and restricting shackles of public school.  Without the constraints of the busywork she encountered there she would be able to rise to heights that her then 7 year old self had never considered possible. 

It came as a surprise that as the homeschooling started, my feelings on the subject (of my child being a genius) changed.  Over the years my reasons for homeschooling evolved depending on the then-current situation.  There was the year of “I’m so glad we homeschool because my kids are learning to play with each other again,” and the year of “I’m so glad we’re homeschooling because I would never manage to get the three older kids on the bus even if it is right outside my front door.”  There were many years of “I’m so glad we’re able to spend all of this time together and take these fun trips together” and eventually “I’m so glad that Cindy Lynn is exposed to fewer germs than she would be in public school.”   Never again was there a feeling like my purpose in homeschooling was to raise little geniuses.

At some point in the process I started (through reading current research and observing people around me) noticing something—that people who were academically “successful” were quite often not the people who succeeded in living happy lives.  My reasons for homeschooling started to include “raise people who are able to be happy grownups.” 


At one point Cindy Lynn was considered a violin prodigy.  It was very exciting there for a while, seeing the enthusiasm of the head of the Duke String School as she exclaimed over her amazing progress.  They encouraged us to have her take longer lessons and to attend more classes.  It was a time in our lives when we had extra money (boy do I miss that!) and time and so we could and did.  Eventually, though, she wasn’t quite the prodigy that she had been.  Then she got sick every winter and was unable to practice for months at a time, and she fell behind kids that had started playing at the same time she did. 

I don’t regret at all any of Cindy Lynn’s musical training.  She had some really great experiences.  She & I played the violin and piano together in church when she was here after Christmas and it was so lovely to be able to do.  Being able to play an instrument (well, perhaps not the tuba) is a wonderful life skill.

What I learned, though, is that however great someone thought one of my kids was at any one thing, there was almost a 100% chance that that child was not going to go one to win fame and fortune in that area of life.  Not in music, not in sports, not in academics.  And while all of those things are worth pursuing to some degree, none of them were more important than my main goals: having quality family time, and raising kids who were happy adults.

I don’t know if everyone has this experience, but we’ve actually known people who were invested in their child/children performing their thing on a national level.  And sure—someone has to be the next Michael Phelps.  But what I’ve seen as I’ve watched these people is that something has to give.  You can’t have what I want and what they want co-existing in the same family.

That’s why I’m glad for my kids to be normal.  I’ll be a totally happy mom if my kids grow up to be adults who are able to play nicely with others.  I will consider that my job was well done if they realize that they are not the center of the universe, and they’re ok with that.  I hope and pray daily that we will succeed in teaching them to work hard. 

Cindy Lynn sent me a link just a while ago to an article that mirrors a lot of my thoughts and feelings.  I thought it had some interesting ideas in it.

Rant over.  Smile


  1. What do you have against tubas? I think they're awesome! I am staunchly anti-saxophone though.

    But seriously- I agree with you here. I want my kids to have fun doing things they love- heck, even trying to do that for four kids is killing me- I can't imagine my life if all or even one of them were prodigies!

  2. Love these thoughts, Cindy! I agree with you - but I'd never actually put it into a conscious thought before. You've given me something to think about...