My daughter loves art.
It manifests itself first through drawing but also through singing, being silly and expressive, doing funny faces and accents, and dancing. The other day, she was practicing drawings from a ‘how to draw’ book, and she asked if she could take it in the store while we shopped. In soccer practices, I sometimes catch her drawing in patches of sand. The pull is constant.
Of course, I have her in a school that allows her to play in her passion often. But it’s still a public school, and, rightly so, she is exposed to a comprehensive education (though it’s a bit 20th century-ish). This includes math, something she is pretty good at but tends to lag in score-wise due to her lack of enthusiasm for it. She says the way they have to learn it is boring. I understand, but no school is perfect, and she needs to apply herself.
Recently, I noticed some change of mine on the kitchen counter while we were housecleaning
Me – “You can have this if you can tell me the correct amount on the first go.”
Her – “Okay!”
She hurried, guessed and got it wrong.
Me – “Okay, you don’t get it.”
Her – “But… can I try again?”
Me – “No. You need to know what two quarters put together are in a heartbeat at this point. You know the answer. You knew it two years ago, and we’ve been over this many times.”
Thus began a conversation about the consequences in life of our choices. I was frank with her as I painted the picture a few years out of her lagging behind.
Her – “Every kid is different.”
Me – “Absolutely, and what is easy for another child may be harder for you. What is easy for you may be hard for them. And, I understand that you love art most of all. But these are reasonable learning expectations, and you are more than smart enough.”
She became teary-eyed as she realized that her guessing approach wasn’t going to help her as a kid or in life.
Her – “I don’t want that. I want to be good at math.”
Me – “What you want in life is what you are choosing. What you want is what you’re choosing. If you want to know what you really want in life, then look at the choices you’re making. We will do some coin counting and then we can do Christmas decorations.”
Her body deflated, a whine came out
Me – “See! You said you don’t want that result in math, but then I tell you we’re going to work on it, and you immediately resist. What you want is what you choose. Fine. If that’s what you want…”
Her – “No, no, no, I want to practice coin counting!”
So, we sat at the dining table with my container of coins, and I put little piles in front of her. It suddenly occurred to me that I ought to work on this in a way that is connected to her authentic self.
Me – “If you get the counting right, you can make art with the pile.”
She lit up.
Her – “Okay!”
For the next twenty minutes, I put out piles and helped her figure out how to count them in different ways, in groups, by carrying the ten forward on paper and just by adding them individually. As she got them right, she laid them down. What emerged was…
The word ‘Love’
A christmas tree
Love and math together. Go figure.
The reality is that if math was taught in a more creative way that folded into her passion, she would do it enthusiastically. This exercise was a clear example of how it can be.
Since it’s difficult for such a creative approach to happen in her classroom with so many kids to bring up to speed, it’s up to me to put in the time and to find a creative way to go about it.
Our little exercise taught her not only math but that she can link things in life to her passion if she’s creative. It taught me, too, that I need to keep challenging myself to find ways to do this with her and any time I’m involved with kids, which is often as a coach.
Find their bliss and fold everything inside of it. Bring learning to life.