What I’m Hearing is This: It’s About Nothing



This is what I’m hearing in this comedy clip:

“Everybody I know is a character going to college…and it’s about nothing…what’s college about? It’s about nothing…who says you have to have a story?…I have this idea about going to college for nothing…I think you may have something here!”

Seinfeld’s humor notwithstanding, please don’t let your son or daughter go to college without a real plot line. It doesn’t have to be “about nothing.” But if your young adult knows what his storyline is, then he will make decisions that will enhance his future. With his own storyline, then it could be a college degree for something.

Don’t have a storyline yet? I can help you find one that is unique for your child.


We Were Drowning in the Abundance of Possibilities


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(and now you know why our grammar-curriculum is still in its box)

Excerpt from an interview that will be released soon about why I had to start the website to show other parents how to uncover unique talent in their children: 

I could have my children memorize every single river tributary in South America, if I so chose, because the resources and topography is available at my fingertips. I could have them memorize the biography of the wives of all the vice-presidents of the United States, because that resource is available too, with cute little stories to go with it. I could move them onto another amazing grammar-busting curriculum, with accompanying Latin-roots lectures, because that resource is even better than all the ones made before in the history of mankind. 

We were drowning in the abundance of possibilities, but I was afraid that it would have meant we were going to have super-smart educated children, but not with anything that could actually make a dramatic impact in their lives when they become adults.

I love options and I’m very excited about what this abundance and access can do and I hope our abundance increases even more! But I was also afraid it would be equipping our children into adulthood with a library full of amazing illustrated cookbooks on every cuisine known to man, but no one would ever want to hire them because they didn’t really know how to cook any particular cuisine well enough.

So this then begs the question how do you know on what to focus that will make a real difference?…”

When the online teaching resources and knowledge databases for children grow another ten-fold, are you still going to make them drink straight from that fire hose of abundance? If no, then you need a strategy. Follow me and I will give you weekly tips and reviews and strategical advice on how to customize your learning so that it creates a better future for your child than you ever had available.

Several Modest Skills in Unique Combination


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“Contrary to conventional wisdom, success in entrepreneurship isn’t necessarily related to being the best at any particular activity. Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert comic series, explains his success this way:

‘I succeeded as a cartoonist with negligible art talent, some basic writing skills, an ordinary sense of humor and a bit of experience in the business world. The Dilbert comic is a combination of all four skills. The world has plenty of better artists, smarter writers, funnier humorists and more experienced business people. The rare part is that each of those modest skills is collected  in one person. That’s how value is created.’  “

*Quote from the book “The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living” by Chris Guillebeau.


I wish I would have started as YOUNG as you did


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Guest Post by Renee Harris.

This question comes up frequently in homeschool communities:

“Is it worth sending the next children in line to college, when we are already not so sure that college is going to make a difference to the son that is currently in college? We are getting more flack from the possibility of not choosing college for our children, than when we first decided to homeschool years ago. What is your advice?”

Here below is my response:

I absolutely think it’s necessary to think outside the box with regards to our kids’ future and education.

Here’s what our family does:

Our two older kids are at the age where they’re starting to get questioned about where they’ll attend college, as if it’s a natural extension of their high school graduation. We’re training them to understand that college should work FOR them, not the other way around. It’s more important that they have a passion/skill/talent (call it what you’d like) that can bring in an income, and that’s the way we homeschool our kids.

My husband and I are using our skills as online business owners to teach our kids how to turn that talent into an income (notice I didn’t say “job” or “employee” – whatever they do to pay the bills in the future may as well be something they love doing). Beginning at age 12, it’s critical that we start identifying and developing that talent by giving them plenty of time to explore it in depth, while feeding the necessary subject content to go right along side it.

For example: our bladesmith will study history and science through the eyes of his craft, and he then picks up physics and chemistry as he needs it for his talent. Because he’s also a very good writer, we use the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum to weave what he knows about history and bladesmithing into his novel. It makes for a much more interesting book. He’s also active on forums (and Instagram)… because it is on the private bladesmithing forums where he’s able to interact with  Master Bladesmiths, and even meet them in person, which he’s done with a few of these men…

He’s almost 15 and what do the people at the top of his craft say to him?:

“I wish I would have started as YOUNG as you did”

I’m not too worried about what college he’ll attend, because IF he chooses to go to college, it will be a college that will support his craft and make him better at it. It’s hard to top one-on-one mentorship with the guys he’s already interacting with. He will have a variety of ways to monetize his craft online, so that he can work from home or anywhere in the world.

Yesterday I was chatting with my CSA guy about my 16 year old and told him that I was able to leave for 5 days and my son had no problem taking over the business with shipping the products and managing my emails. The CSA friend said, “Wow! He deserves his own email account!” Au contraire, mon frere! He already has several emails, his own business website that he created himself, and he’s on his second round of business cards. What’s most impressive is that he has a fantastic business that he loves that generates good income.

His current obstacle? He’s slowed down by the fact that he needs to help out around the house, he still needs to “graduate” from high school, and he needs to fit in regular kid life of taking hikes with his buddies and camping with his family. Here’s what he does… something unheard of a few years ago: (because we think outside the box).

If your homeschooler is approaching graduation and you haven’t thought out the following 4 years, then yes, maybe he/she should to go college. If you have a 12-16 year old, then I highly recommend you think through what the post-high school experience can look like.

I have to credit my husband for having our homeschool goals look different than most. Here’s some food for thought, because he always asks the “why” question :

Don’t let these excuses drive you to sending your kids off to college if there’s a better alternative (and maybe there’s not… it depends on the situation)

1.) I’m getting pressure from the relatives…. (is there a good reason to do what they tell you to do… like, are they paying all your bills?)

2.) The schools/gov’t are offering free/discounted education… (are you sure there are no strings attached, including an opposing agenda? Or the temptation of accepting something for free again and again? Or a mentality that will lure your child into Visa’s free t-shirt booth in exchange for your child’s signature?)

3.) My kids need the experience since they’ve been with me the past 18 years… (please clarify: as in the experience of being in a room full of their peers? or the experience of being on their own? or the experience of having a different teacher? I would discount the first, and find alternatives for #2 and #3)

4.) They’ll make more money if they go to college first… (Look at this differently than how we were raised. Times are a-changin’. It’s not entirely true, especially if they take a talent-based route through homeschooling.  Or, ask those who graduated from college in the past decade how that degree is working for them.)

5.) There’s status with a degree. (How many people have asked you where you went to school and what degree you have? We usually volunteer it, right? There’s also debt with the degree.)

All that said, we are NOT against going to college. Our kids may decide that they need a particular degree, certification or even status to do what they want to do in the future. If that’s the case, they’ll at least already have an income first, and then they can pursue the degree. They are strategizing what they need and where they’ll go to get it, but it won’t be to just attend Shasta College because they didn’t have anything else to do.

My husband has been blogging about this for the past 2+ years and has begun to create ebooks and video courses to teach people. Check out the guide “How to Discover and Develop your Child’s First 100 Hours of Talent.”

Here’s what his ideas are all about:

(Note: The 10K part doesn’t refer to money, but to time – it takes 10,000 hours of focused time to become really good in your niche, so the idea is to start early, when you have the energy, resources, and you’re not strapped with a mortgage, or, um… college debt.)

Renee Harris

Mom of 8


Goody Two-Shoes


Fight the darkness. This is a recurring theme that all of us need to hear regularly.

There is underlying mood in the general public that can seep in under our own doors and basically whisper to us that all of our efforts in the end is for naught. That good or bad, it is all for ashes and it makes no difference if we are wise in our efforts with our children or not. It’s all a crap shoot. But I’m hear to tell you that that is not true.

Here’s why I believe philosophically that it is not true: I use the Bible as my ultimate guiding authority and the Bible tells me explicitly that the actions of righteous people do matter. The choices of godly people and the efforts they make bear fruit, sometimes immediately and sometimes down the line. A false flagellating modesty poisons the confidence of many well-meaning moms and paralyzes them into inaction.

Mothers can start believing that their desires and efforts to do good with their children are ethically and spiritually the same in weight in God’s eyes as those of their drugged-out neighbor or of those of a profligate friend’s feeble attempts to hold her family together. The underlying sneer they hear is “you are a goody two-shoes.” They are told that since there are so many false people out there, then that can only mean they must be false and hypocritical too. And so, good acts are immediately labeled as acts of hidden malice and undiscovered hypocrisy. Good is labeled as evil. Well, that is false and unbiblical.

The correct attitude of the Christian is even though it wasn’t innate goodness that originally made us friends with God (and that of course keeps us humble and we are reminded of that), that God is now pleased to give us confidence that what we do now, once we are His friend, does make a difference in His eyes.

We are told:

“we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

(Ephesians chapter 2)

and “God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

(Hebrews chapter 6)

Instead you are instructed to awaken, get busy doing good, so that it can be said of you:

“Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
‘Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.’
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates”.

Proverbs chapter 31


Teaser Clip for Talent Discovery Workshop


Watch the teaser clip for my upcoming talent-for-children video course. It is designed to accompany the guide “How to Discover and Develop Your Child’s First 100 Hours of Talent”.

In this clip you will see an excerpt of Jimmie Lanley putting herself out on the line as an example of how it can be done by working with me on creating a First 100 Hours talent statement. This was to create a talent statement based on her daughter’s interests and her family’s unique advantages.


Use Family Goals to Help Talent


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It is possible to have your child try to develop his talent without involving your family’s collective goals and aspirations. But here is why I discourage you from ignoring what makes you different from all the other families.

Any skill, and collections of skills, used in the development of a long term talent need to be applied in a particular situation and place in time in order to have an impact on the world around you. It’s all fine and dandy to say that your child wants to be a singer, but he will not be a singer in a vacuum.

(WARNING: If your child is well into developing his core talent of singing and he is only singing for his teacher, you need to stop your talent trajectory RIGHT NOW. You should make sure you are not developing an expensive HOBBY that has no value for others in his adult life. Your paid teacher does not count as proof that your child’s talent has meaning for the future.)

You would still need to decide on where and for whom your child would actually start singing. The place and the people your child would start practicing his singing will influence over time the type of singing he will favor over all the other types of singing he could practice. This is where family goals come into place. You could randomly let any number of accessible venues be an option for your child to perform his burgeoning talent.

Maybe you currently have the following choices:

  • a year-round Wednesday night community choir
  • a weekly Sunday volunteer group that visits retirement homes and would welcome singers
  • musical plays put on by a beloved community theater group
  • an international month-long jazz festival

Of all the above choices, there is in fact one that stands out over all the others as being the best choice for your child’s talent development. You can know there is one best choice and not just guess at what to get involved with.

Why can you be so certain? Because when you look at the list of family goals you wrote down in the talent discovery workshop, you are reminded that hosting foreigners happens to be an important family tradition that your family is particularly adept at carrying out and it derives great joy in exercising that kind of hospitality. By saying yes to the international jazz festival, you are foregoing the other venues. By saying yes to the festival, your child is riding the tide of your family’s positive energy to be part of hosting foreigners coming from out of town.

Some of those foreigners will actually be some of the smaller jazz bands who can’t afford full on hotel stays and your family is already on the list of hosting homes. Your son will continue to be the beneficiary of all the informal inside tips on how to interact with people from other cultures, but this time those tips will also help him to interact with the talented people in his field of interest. Not only that, but in anticipation of the international event, the rest of the family will be excited to come and watch him practice his year-round jazz singing. He’s practicing his jazz that much because he managed to join the the local amateur jazz band that will be opening the act for the bigger bands. He won’t be the primary vocalist, but he’s persuaded the adult members that he can add a lot to the variety of background vocals with his youthful timber.

By choosing to exercise his talent in the context of his parents’ family goals and traditions, he is maximizing the potential to be in harmony with the world around him and maximizing the likelihood that his parents are going to go all out in giving the time and space to practice his talent. This is why family goals should not be overlooked or despised.

Fear or Prudence – How Do You Run Your Homeschool?


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How do you run your homeschool?

Is it with fear or with prudence?

There is a difference between the two and the impact on your children will not be the same. Fear will cause you to hunker down and pass up opportunities that you should have taken for your children. Prudence on the other hand will know that it should keep its distance from some dangers, but it will willingly accept other opportunities, even though they also involve risks.

To discern the difference, you have to have a standard by which you can decide what should stop you in your tracks and what you should accept as an acceptable risk.

This is where the power of two people, two parents, the male and the female, really comes to shine. As husband and wife you can together assess the risks and opportunities from different angles and help encourage and re-assure each other as to what course of action to take. This is the proverbial balance between not letting a toddler play in the neighborhood street unsupervised, but allowing boys to climb trees. Bottom line you are important as parents to navigate those risks and opportunities. A hired teacher can not, should not, and will not make those decisions for you. It is your glorious burden.

The other source of knowledge I highly recommend is to be found in the Book of Proverbs, in the Bible. It is shock full of instructions on what to accept as acceptable risks and what risks should be avoided at all costs. It even tells you that whatever you do, you should definitely not accept gifts from the local mafia godfather*! Well okay it doesn’t actually that, but you judge for yourself if that verse would encompass a mafia godfather :)

It is also shock full of instructions to be diligent and to not be ruled by fear to the point of paralysis. It teaches you to accept that some risks,should they come to materialize, are outside of your role of responsibility and clearly fall under God’s providential will that a calamity should occur. In that case your conscience would be free of guilt. But without knowing what those good and acceptable boundaries are, you would not know what is reckless and what is acceptable action.

God is good and he teaches us how to recognize those boundaries.


* Proverbs Chapter 23: verses 1-3

When you sit down to dine with a ruler,

Consider carefully what is before you,

And put a knife to your throat

If you are a man of great appetite.

Do not desire his delicacies,

For it is deceptive food.

Experience History Through Your Music Talent



How does a parent realistically provide for the time and energy to develop a super-talented child?

On the one hand, you might be concerned about ripping the family apart because 15 year old Susan needs to be taken every night to her training and taken every other weekend out of town in order to progress to the next level of her talent. If that’s the case and you are more tender-hearted, then you are likely to abandon the effort in order to save the family. If you are more ruthless, you might decide it is in fact worth ripping the nuclear family apart and spend every spare moment of the family’s normal rest time to go all out for it. If you do go that route, you have to be aware that parents might divorce over the toll that it can take. I’ve painted extremes ends of different types of reactions can have to the presence of real emerging talent in their son or daughter’s life. Nevertheless those dangers are common enough occurrences that could become a reality in your family if you don’t have a strategy in place.

So is there anything you can do that still allows you to not be quitters with regards to your child’s talent and still allows you to keep the family harmony intact? Yes, yes, and yes!

One of those yeses is because you can take advantage of the fact that you are homeschooling your child and are therefore in charge of your normal school curriculum. So for example, if your child’s long-term talent has music as its core skill, then you should seriously consider choosing a history curriculum that will study the time periods through the expression of the lyrics and songs written during that time. This means that if you are studying history one hour a day through the music and lyrics of that time, then you will automatically be turning that hour into one of pushing your child’s talent deeper into his intellectual understanding. If you also should choose to have your child practice in the next hour, composing new lyrics in the style of that era on the topics of concern in that era, then you would be combining her English writing time with talent development. Again, her art would be pushed deeper into her mind and broaden her musical abilities.

If you really pick-up the spirit of dovetailing school work with talent time, then you could also focus on the science of sound and mathematics of sound when you realize that you can choose to focus on an aspect of science and math that supports your daughter’s talent growth.

Once you start dovetailing your school time with your child’s talent development time, the stress of trying to be like everyone with normal school and the stress of trying to find a separate, additional time for talent will evaporate. Harmony in the family will be restored and your daughter will be compounding the benefits of what were previously completely unrelated skills.

If you sign up for my newsletter, the first thing I will send you is worksheet to help you evaluate your current school time against one of how it could look if you leverage it to develop talent at that same time. So forward this post now to a friend who’s looking to get ahead with their child’s talent. Have them sign-up for my newsletter of weekly tips and I will immediately send them that worksheet too.

Cold Calling


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Thanks to a family friend who makes a successful living using the techniques of cold-calling, my oldest son, who is now 16 years old, was able to get some mini-mentoring tips on how to write a custom script for calling potential clients. He did well on following the detailed instructions and examples he was given by this sales professional and today he got his first acceptance for agreeing to see a full demonstration of the aerial photography service he is selling. He also followed through on advice he got from his parents on how to set-up an automated feedback form that helps uncover the true needs of his client base.

These mini sales skills are not unimportant, but vitally important in my son’s overall talent pursuit as he needs them to be able to connect with the right people who actually would find great value in his service. We are continuing to pursue talent in our family as a journey of gradually adding the right kind of skill mix that will help make him a real success in his adult life and not a flash-in-the-pan child prodigy. It is not a static pursuit where he is doing 10,000 hours over and over of the exact same skill.

This brings me back to the topic of what kind of talent your child should be pursuing. Talent should be used to bring value to others and should not be seen as a work to please just oneself. This sounds obvious, but it is not always understood that way during childhood. In order for a talent to not turn into a pure consumption activity for private enjoyment, it is important that you cultivate a self-awareness as as to why your child is involved in activities that demand lots of his time. For talent to gradually bring more and more real value to others, you son or daughter must adapt his skills to meet people where their true needs and desires are.

Discovering how exactly to meet those true needs of others takes effort. It also takes emotional courage to put oneself out there to test in small ways if others want your child’s talent in at least some small way. This is where you a parent can really make a big difference at an early age. Sons and daughters will take risks at exposing their work to the scrutiny of outsiders if they can count on you to guide them and support them in the discovery process. There will be failures and disappointing non-responses to your young adult’s work. There will also be some amazing “lucky” opportunities that pop up seemingly out of nowhere and push your child forward in a dramatic way. Your job as a parent is to help guard them from the extremes of despair and the extremes of arrogance.


Another way to promote your child’s talent to the right people is through the use of a blog documenting what he can do for others. Get your guide here below.

The Rise of the Young Polyglots


How does one explain the rise of polyglots, of young people being able to speak six, eight, or 12 languages conversationally?

There is something fundamentally different in the methods of the new young polyglots as compared to traditional school learning of foreign languages and it should challenge you to reconsider WHY you want your son or daughter to spend three to four years learning to speak minimal conversational Spanish or French. Listen to this interview and see if you can interpret the difference in approach.

Oh, and by the way, Luca is a native Italian and in this interview he is speaking English with an American accent even though he has NEVER visited to the United States. I know French very well and I’ve heard him speak that language flawlessly too. Don’t you also love the suitably grungy look that lets us imagine ourselves speaking another language like this in a Paris cafe? Awesome. Amazing. The learning revolution continues.

This is how you approach serious talent building in your child’s life. It’s not about doing school to your child, it’s about taking control and making school a slave to your son or daughter’s goals. Sometimes it looks traditional, sometimes it doesn’t. If it doesn’t work in a traditional learning format, you must jettison the traditional in order to multiply your child’s talent tenfold or hundredfold.



How to Trust Her with Freedoms in the Teenage Years


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Guest post by Renee Harris:

I was so encouraged after writing “Philosophy for Five Year Olds.”

That’s because the feedback from several readers was that:

      1. those who recognized the need for laying a foundation of discipline and obedience before jumping into the books had no regrets of starting in this order, and
      2. those who launched their curriculum before having these important steps in place wished they wouldn’t have given in to the pressure of doing school at home.

As promised, I want to suggest a valuable resource that we found very encouraging when our children were young:

Raising Godly Tomatoes by Elizabeth Krueger

We love that book so much we bought ten copies and have shared them with friends over the years.

My favorite concept is what Elizabeth calls “tomato staking.” Have you ever planted a tomato plant but neglected to prop up the vines as the plant started to grow? The plant grows fast and wild, with large, juicy fruit that weighs the branches down. Without structure, the branches grow into a heap and the tomato fruit that should have been round, ripe and delicious instead begins to rot, feeding the local insects instead of your family.

The well-cared for plant is given structure, a nurturing environment, room to grow, with strong supportive stakes to hold up the weight of the heavy branches. This is how you should grow your child. Ideally, start when your child is old enough to communicate to start tomato staking.

How does Tomato Staking work?

From the time your child is an infant, he is within a few feet of you, learning from you, listening to your voice and tone, watching how you interact with those around you, and receiving plenty of love and attention. As your child grows, you still keep him near you, even if it is not within direct eyesight, and expect his behavior and actions to meet your expectations. What happens if you hand over this privilege of molding and guiding to someone else too soon? Your child’s behavior will meet the (probably low) expectations of those around him. Remember how difficult it is to hold another person’s child that you are babysitting to the same level of behavioral accountability as your own, even though your are at least physically responsible for the child’s safety? If not much is expected, not much will be produced. Then as your trust grows in the maturity of your child’s actions, you can gradually give the corresponding freedom.

It looks like this in practice: while they are still earning your trust, your young children are within feet of you. You are there to correct small infractions and prevent bickering conversations. While you may feel like this young person is violating your space, as your child is learning correct behavior, he stops becoming an invader and becomes a joy to be with. Your son will sit at the counter to watch you chop carrots, and your daughter will enjoy small tasks like shucking corn (however long it takes to complete the task!). He learns to respectfully listen while you chat on the telephone, and she’ll find joy in separating the nickels and pennies in the coin jar.

Watch what happens if you hand over parental trust to the general public before your child has earned trust from you:

      • Your five year old surprises you with mildly inappropriate language because he hears it from young children in the neighborhood. (How to avoid this? Limit the amount of random time your child spends with other children. We had a set schedule that our kids could spend with other kids, while on our property and within our view.)
      • Your seven year old says he is finished with a task when in truth, he only half completed it. (How to avoid this? At age five, you gave small tasks and made sure your son completed the job correctly the first time. With any issues of lying, he was disciplined, not ignored.)
      • Your four year old lies about the artwork she has so meticulously created on the wall with a permanent marker. (How to avoid this? When she was two, she already learned that she was not to touch the permanent markers, and for the first few years of her life, she was always with you to learn appropriate behavior until she could be trusted not to get into mischief with the markers)
      • Ignoring your child is taking the easy way out, at least at first – but you will run into problems later.

Have you ever met the family where all the children enjoyed the vegetables that were served to them at the dinner table? Did the parents wait until they were teenagers and then expect them to suddenly like vegetables? No. They were raised on good food and good habits. The same goes with the basics of trust, honesty, respect, finishing a job they started, and making good choices when no one is there to check on them.

Here’s why you need those basic character traits established now:

      • You need your five year old to be able to set up, play with, and clean up his Lego’s in the span of thirty minutes, with the timer set.
      • Your seven year old should have no problem finding sharpened pencils and paper to do his artwork with.
      • Your ten year old should complete his online math lesson and correct his own work, and then report to you to show you his work without your prompting.
      • Your 12 year old should look to you as his mentor, not his killjoy, and he will respect your ideas and suggestions.
      • Your 14 year old can be trusted on the internet to research his work without wandering to inappropriate sites, even though you’re not in the room to double check.
      • Your 16 year old can be counted on to take the car on errands and return with the receipts, purchasing the items on your list.
      • And so on…

If you can’t say that you have the trust you need in your child, you need to go back to tomato staking and build him or her up to that level of trust again…no matter what age your child is. This means even teenagers can be asked to give up their Friday nights with friends and give up their cell phones and their car privileges, if you find you can no longer trust them to handle those resources appropriately. Instead they can spend their time in close proximity with you at home until the trust rebuilds.

When you keep them near you in their younger years, you can trust them with the freedoms you grant them in their teenage years.

For more ideas on tomato staking, including what Elizabeth calls intense tomato staking, occasional tomato staking, loose tomato staking, and lifestyle tomato staking, read Raising Godly Tomatoes.




Sew Your Way Through History


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How does your daughter make significant headway in a talent field that at first seems to have little to do with her standard history and other school curriculum? Take a page from the playbook of Heather in her article “Teaching History and Literature with Fashion.” Her daughter is into some serious fashion and sewing skill building and is combining her normal history and literature studies with what is going on in the world and role of fashion during the same time periods.

Heather Woodie:

“…study history with an emphasis on something your student enjoys. My eighth grade daughter loves to sew, and she has grown quite talented at it over the years. This year we combined literature and history with her love of making fashions…Allow your student to research different fashions over time, among classes of people, and around the world all during the same portion of the timeline…”

When you combine traditional learning time with a deliberate overlap into time spent building talent (a.k.a. dovetailing), you can change the entire course of your child’s adult life. If Heather keeps double-dipping her child’s time for serious talent (see her article), her daughter will easily be able to open doors with her skills by the time she is 18.

Consider the scenario where your daughter does sewing and learns to study fashion for four serious hours a day: at the end of one week, she can easily accumulate over 20 hours of skill building. That could easily be two daily hours during standard school time (such as history), with two daily hours after school time.

Compare the above scenario to a girl who takes one regular sewing class on a Saturday morning. The latter, which is really just a hobby, gives you only 2 hours of intense focus. That’s a ten-fold difference!

Rinse and repeat that focus and double-dip method for the next ten years. The mind boggles at the gap in expertise between the one who takes control of her learning in her youth and the one who waits to be told what to do after High School.

The irony is that even though this daughter is double-dipping her subjects (history+talent), I bet she will never forget her history. She is the one that will be interesting to talk to at a party. The child who is not double-dipping will struggle a couple years later to remember just the history details, even though it was theoretically less work. That’s the power of pegging relevance to what a child is learning from the textbooks.

Don’t have a talent around which your daughter can get motivated? I can help you find one that will get you and the whole family excited for her.  Walk through my e-course “How To Discover and Develop Your Child’s First 100 Hours” and send me your questions by email.



What the first few hours of a talent journey look like


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Today I snuck a picture of what the beginning first few hours of a 10,000 hours talent journey looks like for a young boy.

What you see is my son Simeon reading from “Hank the Cowdog.” He is eight years old and he is in his first few hours of attempting to get good at voice-acting. Notice that next to him he has an old digital recorder that he borrowed from me. He started  a few weeks ago with reading “Calvin and Hobbes” aloud with lots of enthusiasm. I then encouraged him to record himself so he can play it back and see what parts of his voice acting he does and doesn’t like. Every day now for the last couple of weeks, I have agreed that one of his regular school hours will be dedicated to practicing his voice by reading aloud to the recorder.

He likes his privacy as he is still very self-conscious, but his confidence is growing daily. Last week we had to close his bedroom window so that the neighbors did not misconstrue the noises drifting over the fence for someone who was truly in pain – there was a “pain” passage in the text that he discovered he could really bring out with extra gusto.

So what do I expect from all this daily effort from a little boy? Well, I expect that this one little skill will grow, but it will not stay on a fixed trajectory. I fully expect the skill to morph into something different and unique as we add one other little skill on top of another to make it more challenging, interesting, and meaningful. He also has, per Dad’s insistence, a set time every day that he must practice. I treat it as seriously as his math or handwriting.

The next step after recording for his private feedback, might be to set him up with a little audio blog. Maybe he can read his older sister’s blog stories and load those up. Maybe at some point he can start reading some of his regular school materials with some voice interpretations so he can start pegging what he is learning with the skill he is interested in. He’s already concerned that his voice sounds too babyish. This is gradually getting him more emotionally invested in what he is doing.  Maybe this concern will translate into an opportunity for his older brother to help him digitally enhance his recorded voice to sound better. And this could get him introduced in a meaningful way to the technical side of audio recording.

The possibilities are expanding as he digs in a little deeper every week. I expect that we will not choose to exercise all the possibilities that present themselves. This is because we want to grow a talent for him that adapts to the best opportunities available. I do not want to slavishly follow a path to match a career labeled “voice actor” that may or may not exist for him when he is an adult. 

This is how you start lighting the fire of motivation in a young boy’s life. The beginning of a 10,000 hours of talent journey is discreet and modest just like this. You have the power to jump-start this journey early. And I can help you find a realistic focus that makes sense to both your child’s future and to your family’s unique environment.

For a treat, listen to Simeon’s early voice practice.


Can Street Children Use Your Talent ?



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Is my skepticism of college education nullified if it is going to knowingly be used for serving the poor and the weak? And if it is fully understand that the student will not be able to earn a living from it? In other words, it has no value in the marketplace, but the charity value still makes it worthwhile for the student to invest the time and money.

For example: you and your student hope that in her adult life she will be able to help street children in Sao Paulo, Brazil by using her skills as a master violinist.  Clearly, the street children have nothing of real value to offer in exchange that could possibly pay you back for your student’s time and expense. To add to that, the children may often not even understand the value you bring to them that starts the change in their lives until years later.

I will answer that I still maintain skepticism of expensive college degrees, even for charity work. Here’s why.

Putting aside other considerations for the moment, I would still recommend that if a long-term talent is being developed solely to be given away freely to others, then some of the same principles apply for talent applied to charity as to talent that is being developed to bring market value to others. Specifically, the principle still applies that there should be a continuous effort to discover where and how the talent will be applied to bring added-value. Normally, the marketplace recipient would tell you if your music is adding to their quality of life: if they never buy your violin concert tickets or you can’t get others to play your compositions, then clearly you are not meeting their wants and desires.

But in the case of charitable giving, you still have to have a goal you want to accomplish with your talent. If your goal is to change the lives of street children, will your violin playing change their lives? There is one way to find out for sure BEFORE you commit to four or six years of advanced formal training. You test the value by attempting to apply an aspect of your talent to a charitable group already working with orphans.

You may discover, as you attempt to play your violin, that what really brings in the street children is…warm food…or rap music…or loud speakers playing MP3…or staying up through the night to help with detox from drug addiction. It may even be your violin music that brings them in, after all (pardon my extreme doubt here). But there’s the key. You will know for certain as you attempt to gradually work it out. That is why I encourage students to gradually discover their long term talent. If it is not violin playing that really helps street children, but instead raucous loud story telling with a rap bent to it, then all your years of expensive violin training are really doing nothing to change the lives of those you hoped to impact. If it’s loud story telling, are you ready to have your student stop college and instead invest in practicing that skill on the street and in clubs for four years? If you are not ready to have your child do that, you may be trying to justify a fantasy status education. It will turn out to be an education that will neither help your child to earn a living nor help the needy to climb out of their difficult situations.

What about getting a medical degree to help the poor? – this has not only charity value, but true market value.

What about bringing your business degree and experience to help refugees start businesses of their own? – this has not only charity value, but true market value.

What about an engineering degree to help dig wells and build charity hospitals? – again, this has not only charity value, but true market value.

Clearly, some expensive college degrees have straightforward charity value while also having market value. Others are much more dubious. Of course exceptions can be found. But make sure you choose wisely your college degree even if it is for a lifetime of work in charity.

If you could use an approach that gently guides your child over time to developing a talent that is very valuable and useful to other people, I recommend you fill out the worksheets available in my talent guide.


Latin vs Italian – Which Would You Choose?


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Should you choose to teach Latin or Italian in your homeschool?

This question came up in the context of a conversation with an American friend who was asking my opinion about which foreign language would be the best to start teaching their young children. I can tell you right now, I would do neither of those languages with my children. Now that I caught your attention, I will also tell you that yes, I think those are wonderful languages to be able to know, but you need a strategy in order to decide if those specific languages are worth learning, among the hundreds you could learn.

You need to understand what your family goals are and ideally, what your talent goals are for your children. (By the way, talent goals for your children SHOULD leverage your family goals for maximum speed and maximum motivation). So my answer back to this friend was “what do you plan on doing with that language once you’ve acquired conversational level?” – I was met with bewildered silence.

Then I started asking if there was any particular foreign language they could think of that would actually open the doors of communication for their child or their family to do something they wish they could do? This is when it came out that Italian could really fit into their family’s love of Italian Opera. They also told me they had aspirations for their young son to be engaged more throughly at some point in Italian opera, which was a family passion of theirs. The husband woke up from his quiet listening and added enthusiastically that he wished they could have more connection with an Italian side of his heritage on his grandmother’s side, maybe even go back and visit his roots. This is the power of understanding your family goals and understanding the purpose of the skills you might learn, such as a foreign language. Once you understand your goals, you understand then which language to choose. It was not until I asked about their family’s NON-ACADEMIC and NON-LEGALLY required goals, that the waters of confusion parted and land was now in view. In this instance, I closed the case with this recommendation: choose to learn Italian.


In my household, I chose French and Dutch, because I grew up in France and my wife has family in the Netherlands.



The Knowledge Gourmet Mentality


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Parents, don’t allow your child to fall victim to the Knowledge Gourmet mentality. Read this metaphor and see how long it takes you to figure out exactly what I’m talking about.

Paul has an amazing life. In his mind, it’s pretty grueling, but you and I wouldn’t mind a day or two of in the life of Paul. After all, he’s a Knowledge Gourmet. Each day Paul spends at least three hours in three different restaurants, sampling, nibbling, engorging on the restaurant’s “special.” He’s there to taste and enjoy everything from garlic fries to coq-au-vin, from Dutch apple pie to Zabajone gelato. Every menu is memorized, every taste is logged into a book, and part of his work involves being able to recite the biographies of every chef he meets. Along with the tastings comes the Venn diagram: he must compare and contrast the Asian cuisine with the American, noting even the differences between the wall art and types of napkins used.  Clean napkins are there at his disposal, and they miraculously appear with every swipe of food from his lips. I neglected to mention that this is not a weekend retreat for Paul.

This work involves daily restaurant visits and weekly reports that will take him four years to work through. Before you ask how Paul pays for this experience, let’s first talk about his goal, which is far more important. Paul’s plans are to become the next big celebrity chef. Good thing he has such a lofty goal, because reaching it will pay the restaurant tabs, right? His parents sure hope so, since they co-signed the tabs to prove their dedication to their son’s future. The government, too, wants to invest in Paul, so they happily send him the paperwork to promise him both grant money, and an amazing loan opportunity with low interest rates he won’t have to pay back on until he’s finished with the program.

I will stop this metaphor at this point because this is so obviously preposterous and foolish that someone would so easily confuse information consumption for the ability to produce. Some occasional fine dining here and there, yes, but he should have been starting at the stove and learning the business management of a restaurant in order to later have a chance at becoming a celebrity chef.  Now all he will have is the cruel memory of four extravagant years, followed by years of paying back debt and probably working on anything but the culinary world (unless it involves a cash register and a “would you like fries with that?”).

Unfortunately, without careful planning, parents approach their child’s college experience the same way: apply, get accepted and then acquire a taste for the most expensive educational courses possible. This teaches the child how to consume information, but without producing anything genuine of his own.  Some of the most abused college education by knowledge gourmets are those who pursue music degrees, history degrees, fine art degrees and English literature degrees.  It is consume, consume, consume, but as the formal education comes to an end, all their involvement in that world of knowledge also comes to a complete stop. Why? That’s because there is no training or ability to produce anything of value for others and the money that has thus far fueled this most delicious consumption has come to an end.

The moral of this story: if you wait for your child to turn 18 to suddenly look for a talent direction, you might have already raised up a Knowledge Gourmet who is headed for years of post-college heartache. Instead, start early in his teen years looking for ways to gently build up a long-term talent and get him used to producing something of value for others in that domain. Then when he’s ready for college, he and you will know which educational investments will make the most sense to his future and his family’s future. And yes, somewhere in there, there’s still room to enjoy a little bit of Zabajone gelato after all.

Your child doesn’t have a serious talent yet? Drop your haphazard two-year search for a unique talent of his own down to only seven days by following my talent discovery method. Order and download my e-course “How to Discover and Develop Your Child’s First 100 Hours of Talent.”


Philosophy for Five Year Olds


philosophy for five year olds.jpgGuest Post by Renee Harris:

This past week I spoke on the phone with two different women, in two very different situations, who eventually asked the same question: what curriculum should I choose?

The first woman was a grandmother who saw the lasting results of homeschooling in other families and wanted to encourage her daughter to homeschool her own child. The second woman pulled her child out of public school last January when she grew exhausted from the petty dealings of the administration who cried “bully intervention!” every time there was a disagreement on the playground.

While both women had seen enough of the homeschool world to know there’s value in educating the child at home, each was hung up on how to teach him.

Did I mention that in each situation, the child was only five years old? Five!

For you veteran homeschoolers, you remember the early days. Once the decision to homeschool was made, you immediately began collecting curriculum catalogs, attending workshops and fairs, and asking questions of other homeschoolers.

If I had wanted to end the conversation abruptly with each of these women, I would have directed them to some popular “box” curriculum websites, where an all-in-one package is ready to jump start each family on its homeschool adventures. Or I would have suggested looking for play groups and co-ops to enroll their children to make sure the socialization part of the homeschool day was met. Or ultimately I could have suggested they look into the local charter school. In the latter case, they could have educational professionals ready to create a plan for their child, and even provide funding for extracurricular activities, like piano lessons or swimming.

But I couldn’t give them a short term answer, when I knew there were negative long term consequences to those choices when they are not selected in the context of a good home education philosophy. It was one of the comments which brought the underlying issue to light: “My son can’t sit still for 15 minutes to get through his writing lesson.”

Right there, the issue being brought out in this comment is not really the problem of finding the right curriculum, but the problem of not having a strategy and plan for managing the focus of young and active little boys (little girls, too, but especially little boys). In this conversation, my husband was also part of the Skype call and we both immediately told her to stop worrying about the writing lessons… at least for now.

I won’t deny that the pressure is there to come up with the quickest fix possible. The new homeschooling mother feels like she must prove to the outside world that Junior can identify his letters and colors by age four, know his states and capitals by third grade, and soon after be able to distinguish between a direct object and an indirect object. In short, she must produce a child that looks like everyone else’s child, at the same stage in life, and on exactly the same subjects of interest.

Here’s the problem if either of these women go down the short term road:

  1. She’ll produce average children, who won’t look any more interesting than any other average children on your neighborhood block.
  2. She will either underwhelm or overwhelm the child, leaving her child feeling very frustrated in some subjects and leaving him completely bored in other subjects.
  3. Her child’s time and education will be dictated by a workbook, which can’t possibly care for the family’s or child’s natural strengths and handicaps.

So what’s the better alternative for a young child?

For the five year old, here is the philosophy I recommend in approaching selecting learning resources and apportioning time:

  1. Provide gentle home activities where the child learns to share: puzzles, Legos, and coloring.
  2. Provide a home schedule where the child learns to clean up after himself, as part of his learning and not as an after-thought: create 30 minute increments of “school” where the focus is not on worksheets, but rather tactile learning. The focus should be to teach how to set up and clean up (known as “mise en place” for you foodies). You’ll be thankful when he’s 10 and knows where to find his pencils and paper…. and printer ink.
  3. Provide opportunities to interact respectfully with his parents and siblings. He should know how to wait to ask for help rather than demand attention from an adult who is deep in conversation on the telephone. How do you teach this? Provide a 30 minute period of time where he is not allowed to interrupt you from your work. Set the timer so he knows when he’s free to talk to you.
  4. Provide “jobs” reserved just for him which place an importance on the child’s place in the family. Our five year old empties the dishwasher a couple times a day. He “reads” comic books with his little sister or plays Dominos with her. He fills her glass with water at meal time.

Do you notice how most of those activities are not really for sale in standard curriculum?

Make this the primary focus of your five year old’s education. Sharing, showing respect, taking care of one’s property, and completing chores are best taught at age five, not twelve. Then later at age twelve, he can go all out on much more traditional learning type of activities because the mechanics of organization and respectful interaction in the family are assimilated. Reminders and growth in maturity are always necessary, but you won’t be dealing with the basics any more.

Follow those guidelines for a jumpstart to homeschool success for your youngster. Provide him plenty of snuggle time with you, reading, chatting and playing. It’s a great philosophy for five year olds and you instinctively know it. After all, you brought him home so that you can be with him. What will surprise you is that this emphasis on responsibility, respect, and “big boy-ness” causes him to be able to assimilate what you’re trying to do through workbooks, tears and frustration. He will WANT to be able to learn his letters and colors when the workbook frustrations are alleviated. You are teaching him and providing him the time within to learn how to love learning and how to be able to learn within a social context.

In the next post I’ll share some of the books and resources that Jonathan and I found extremely helpful for homeschooling our children in the younger years. By creating the right environment now, you will be able to build the foundation for later constructing the talent-based homeschool.

The Answer to Your Question is: Blog


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Should your older child blog? Absolutely, unreservedly, yes!

Do you want your child’s talent to be discoverable even while still living under your roof?

Then the answer is: blog!

Do you want your child to be able to connect with experts from around the world in his field of interest?

Then the answer is: blog!

Do you believe that your child’s ability to communicate about his talent is as important as the talent itself?

Then the answer is: blog!

Do you want your child to learn to write with passion and focus about something that he cares about?

Then the answer is: blog!

Do you want your child to build a portfolio of hundreds, and eventually thousands, of documented evidences of his talent?

Then the answer is: blog!

Do you want your child to build his own unique voice within the context of a larger field of talent?

Then the answer is: blog!

If you want to get your child up and going on a blog focused around his or her talent within 42 days, then I recommend you buy and print out my “Blog to Your Talent” guide. Hand it off directly to your young adult to do it on their own. Also check out the full e-course to get even more personal hand-holding from me. All the techniques in the guide, I have applied to my own teenage sons.

Order the e-Course:
Blog to Your Talent: Learn How to Showcase Your Talent in 42 Lessons

Prepping: Do You Have Your Questions Ready?


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In the book “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell, he has a chapter entitled “The Problem With Geniuses, Part II.” In that chapter, he discusses what seems to be quite a big missing social skill in children who are otherwise academically well taught, but can’t seem to socially climb the talent ladder within their talent field. He boils it down to one basic reason: those children do not know how to engage and question authority figures in a way that helps them make progress. And this lack of social intelligence hurts them later in their adult life. They tend to just sit passively and let authority figures drone on and on without ever knowing how to interrupt to redirect the conversation in a way that is more helpful to the child.

A typical example of that type of behavior is that when this child, with that lacking social skill, goes to the doctor’s office, he just sits there quietly with very little verbal feedback to the doctor, who in turn just gives instructions. But here is the most interesting part, this type of child is actually mirroring his parent’s behavior. When the parents of that same child visit the doctor for their own needs, they also usually wind up  sitting very quietly with eyes lowered as the doctor speaks in a monologue. Compare the very different behavior of the child who is respectfully, but assertively, interrupting the doctor with more accurate information about his personal medical condition. This intelligent social behavior has usually been prepped by his mother beforehand in the car as to what kind of questions might be asked. He’s also instructed by his mother to make sure to ask the authority figure to provide better information if he doesn’t fully understand to his satisfaction. That is the key: parents, whether mother or father, are key to teaching their children by patterning and by explicit verbal instruction on how to vigorously engage themselves with experts. This is important because with that ability to question, they can make progress in their understanding that is applicable to their situation. Children do NOT naturally learn that skill on their own and so parents who believe that it can be learned and passed on, act on this belief and take time to instruct on how to address authority figures and on how to extract information from them.

This is why I frequently run through a little informal prep session with my own sons. I check with them to hear if they are ready to answer questions with an expert they are about to meet for the first time. I check to see if they are also ready with their own list of questions to ask. I also prep them with how to respectfully, but assertively, redirect adults off of inappropriate topics when they have social difficulty staying to the topic of their expertise. Sometimes we will also run through possible scenarios where we discuss how to handle an adult who is extremely introverted or on the other extreme, handling an adult who is so enjoying the rapt attention of the child that he forgets to actually “teach” to the situation at hand.  All this engagement, instead of turning off adult experts, actually draws them in more to wanting to help your son or daughter become more successful.

This teaching our children on how to engage authorities is one of the building blocks to talent success. This parental input makes a significant difference in the lives of our offspring. I encourage you to harness this social skill to teach your sons and daughters how to use in the context of the their talent growth. If you have a nifty story on how your child was able to use that social skill to win over an expert to helping them out, I would love for you to share it with me.