Archive for April 2012

Not Just the Skill

Talent Mentor with Skills AND Moral Character

Tip from homeschooling Dad, Will Goulding, about selecting mentoring opportunities for your son or daughter: “It’s not just about skill building and it is not so important as losing some notches in the character belt.” Some adults that you come across will excel in their skill set and would love to work with your child in helping them build their talent, but you will ultimately decide whether or not the mentor’s character is too much of a negative influence on your child. This is why you are still important as a father to your child’s success. He still depends on your life experience to ferret out the bad from the good.

Mind Map of Potential Talent Development

Sketch Mind Maps to Help You See Possibilities

Talent-building options will narrow down as you consider the advantages you already have on hand, the opportunities that can fit within the time constraints of the rest of the family, and of course, the financial limitations. If you live in a mountainous area, then being able to study streams, watersheds, and snowfalls is going to be much more accessible than studying desert oasis and ocean shore lines. So, for example, if your child has a long term interest in studying water, you are going to naturally gravitate to studying water within the mountain context and eliminate all other options for now. A great way to do this is for you as a parent to make a Mind Map of your child’s opportunities. Do this periodically to help you guide your child’s first 1,000 hours of talent building.

Tips to Finding a Mentor for your Child

expert mentors.jpg

My friend Will G. is an experienced homeschooling Dad who has helped his teenage son line up several talent mentor relationships over the years. Fathers will do really well at this kind of task list, so I recommend you pass this on to the dad to push the opportunities to the next level. Note that step number 6 is what keeps the mentors coming back to the table to help your 14 year old son on his quest to becoming the best.

This is how you get started finding experts for your son’s field of interest by using these tips from Will:

  1. Screen potential mentors by looking at your circle of friends of acquaintances to see if they have both the  expertise AND integrity to be a positive role model
  2. Approach the expert in his field to see if he will let your son just stand by and observe work on a very specific, one-time task, without asking about any kind of mentoring possibility.
  3. As a father, watch to see if there is a positive dynamic between that expert and your son
  4. Approach the chosen expert and ask if your son could follow him for a part of day on a regular occasions – if the experts say “yes”, you will have your first official mini talent “mentor” (you can have more than one)
  5. Encourage your child to help the expert by doing specific tasks while he is tagging along.
  6. Have your child get VERY good at a specific, narrow, sub-task so that he is establishing a little reputation of his own as being dependable, bright, and a joy to be around. This will pave the way to more extended mentor opportunities.
  7. Rinse and repeat this process with other experts, building your child’s expertise as he goes up the pyramid of responsibility and ability.

To also help convince potential mentors, you want a blog portfolio of what your young person has already done in that same field of interest. Don’t have a blog yet? No problem, your son can jumpstart to a full blown blog within a month’s time by following the “Blog to Your Talent” e-course.


Updated: May 2014

Cultivate the Uniqueness of Mentor-Mentee

Le petit prince

Le petit prince (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was struck with a passing comment that a friend made about the reasons why a mentor agrees to give of his time and talent. We were talking about what the older, adult mentors get out of the relationship with their mentee and he mentioned he had bolstered his son’s confidence by saying “There’s a uniqueness that you have…there is something that you can give back to your mentors in a way that is unique to you.” This observation triggered some deep thoughts within me.

It is true that in any specific relationship there is a uniqueness to it because the individuals themselves are unique. And when you add to that relationship, the large gap in age between the older mentor and the very young person being mentored, there is a dynamic that can be cultivated into a type of gift back to the mentor. The mentor wants to be blessed by being able to give of himself to someone else. The mentor can find that blessing if he is able to find a receiver who is willing to understand what he has to pass on.

― Antoine de Saint-ExupéryThe Little Prince

“I am looking for friends. What does that mean — tame?”

“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”

“To establish ties?”

“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….”

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Read Biographies of Talented People

Reading About Contemporary Arguments prior to the Minting of First U.S. Coins

When studying a particular time period in the course of your standard homeschooling curriculum, have your son or daughter choose to read a biography of an individual who excelled in some particular area of focus related to his long-term term interest. This is not only a great way to build a deep understanding into the 10,000 hours of talent building, it is also a great way to peg general historical facts into a living context. History becomes very detailed and real because as he accumulates his reading of specialized biographies, he increases his ability to understand the general limitations and opportunities of a specific time period. For example, knowing the amount of timber, effort, and cost that smelting ore for 130+ warships in 1588, before the advent of Bessemer process, it really brought home to my 12 year old son the scale of the Spanish Armada preparing for war with the English. He was already familiar with some of the dramatic advances that new smelting techniques had brought to the world in the 1800s, so when he reads of vast quantities of copper and iron being smelted before those technological advances, he could correctly assess the deadly seriousness of the Spanish Armada in the 16th century.

Find Club to Support Long Term Learning Goal

Participating in Club's Rock and Gem Auction

Find a club that supports an aspect of your child’s long-term learning goal of building 10,000 hours of world class talent. This is a great way to socialize your child into the culture of a specialized interest and get to hear first-hand about other learning opportunities that would never be broadcasted elsewhere. The best clubs will often be the ones geared for adult practitioners as your child will invariably get great feedback and advice. My metals and minerals focused son goes weekly to a gem and mineral club that has been meeting since the 1930s. I accompany him as his adult supervisor so he gets a chance to play and use tens-of-thousands of dollars of expensive equipment and hundreds of years of combined experience in one room.

Use High Tech for Memory Drills

Use High-Tech iPad for Memory Drills

We embrace both low-tech and high-tech for learning in our homeschool. The advantage that high-tech learning tools can bring, such as the iPad, is that they are perfect for drills and memorization of lists. Technology can help you overcome the drudgery of some of that necessary repetitious work and dare-I-say, even make it fun by using reflexes, sounds, and strategy in addition to brute memory. Search around the iTunes app store and see if there is an app related to your child’s long term focus and read the reviews to find a good one. My metals-focused son will often grab the iPhone for himself in the back seat of the car and quiz himself on his memorization of the table of elements.

Doodling Your Way to Understanding

Doodle Map of Early Banking

I encourage my homeschooled children to sketch and doodle (see example of doodling during sermons) about their interest to engage themselves more fully with their material. Doodling is a great way to learn how to abstract out the basics of what they have learned when words can only slow you down. They use it mainly for personal exploration of the subject on hand and is not meant for sharing with the world. Recently, for example, my metals-focused son enjoyed sketching several versions of the Bowie knife to highlight the various functional elements of the blade. My other son, who is focused on the history of coins of money, sketched out several pages of the development of early banking with goldsmiths in England.

Develop Child’s Talents to the Maximum

Silver crown of William III, dated 1695.

Ability or Talent is Meant to be Invested and Multiplied (Silver crown of William III, dated 1695. - Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are creating something of great additional value that others can recognize and desire, then it is a fair and wonderful human activity to be able trade your talent for someone else’s goods and talent. This enriches you and the other person by enabling you both to achieve greater physical prosperity and greater professional satisfaction. Exercising one’s potential talent to the maximum is everyone’s dream, but it often requires one to be able to start early, in childhood. It is a beautiful serendipity of words that the English Bible term for money is “talent” in the Parable-of-the-Talents and that the modern meaning of talent is one’s ability or skill developed to a high point of proficiency. A child’s talent could be developed to such a point that it can also provide for him in his adult life and not be just merely something to be exercised as a hobby on the weekends.

Start Your Child Blogging Today with These Five Questions

Child 1

Gradually Flex Writing (Photo credit: Tony Trần)

Dovetail your child’s standard historical study with a blog post related to his developing talent as it was during that time period.

Start your child writing blog posts today with these five questions:

  1. Does the blog post focus on answering one basic question?
  2. Does it relate to his on-going focus in some way?
  3. Does it relate to the historical time-period he is studying?
  4. Is there a personal observation or interpretation?
  5. Is there something you can compare to that will help your reader understand what you are saying?

I gently ask those questions of my children every time they write and they gradually flex their writing accordingly. At this early stage, it is more important that they start writing something in their own words about their topic of interest then it is to delay because they don’t have an excellent writing style.