A few years ago I saw a quote by Deepak Chopra that really stuck with me.
“If a child is poor in math but good at tennis, most people would hire a math tutor. I would rather hire a tennis coach.”
Reading this struck me not because of the specifics of math and tennis, but because I have a child who is dyslexic. The struggle to learn to read had taken up hours and hours of the last school year, with little progress.
And not only that, but I was coming to terms with all the things we didn’t do because I was so focused on reading. Honestly, we hadn’t spent the time on math, history, or science that we should have. We had worked so hard on reading that year, it became our focus and overshadowed everything.
I hadn’t taken any time to think about my child’s strengths. It wasn’t good.
Taking a Step Back
I don’t think anyone is going to feel good about themselves if their entire education focuses on their weaknesses and ignores their strengths. I don’t want to spend my life doing things I’m bad at. I don’t enjoy most of the things that I struggle with. Why would my child feel any differently?
Yes, overcoming a challenge can feel good. However, if the challenge goes on day after day, with no end in sight, that isn’t good. Focusing deeply on one’s weaknesses can hurt our self-esteem and sense of self.
Finding Balance and Focus
So, I’m working on making sure I honor what my kids are good at. That doesn’t mean that we don’t do things that are hard. But it means those things don’t take precedence over all else. I want my kids to have a balanced education in all things. Therefore, I have to make sure I teach a wide range of things and don’t let one subject eat all of our school time. If one subject area is behind, whether it is math or reading or writing, that’s okay. I can meet my child where they are in that area.
The other thing about this quote reminds me is about the importance of supporting your child’s strengths. What if your child’s greatest gift isn’t academic? What if they are meant to be a world-class chef? Or their gift is in sports, dance, or music? What if they have skills, but they need space to explore more physical activities and sports to find what they are actually good at? What if their real gift, is something you don’t even understand, like on-line gaming?
Letting Them Discover Their Strengths
While I chose a very traditional education and career path, I’m working on remembering that my children don’t have to do that. Not only that but not every passion has to be a career path to be worthwhile. Maybe my kids will have healthy hobbies and do amazing things I don’t understand. That’s okay. My job right now is to make sure their potential isn’t squashed before it even gets a chance to blossom.
So, this week, my dyslexic child did a reading lesson, baked cookies, started a garden project, and took a kickboxing class. Which of those is going to matter most when she’s an adult? I have no clue. I just know we are going to keep moving forward in all of it.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.