Archive for May 2014

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.