Growing up I had a best friend who loved to dance. When I would go over after school the rugs would be rolled up and she would practice her ballet or tap or jazz before we could hang out and play. Their living room was her ballet studio and her calloused feet were her trophies. She was a dancer. School was just something she had to do until she got old enough to dance full time. After graduation she worked for Disney and went on to have a family and over the years we lost touch and I'm not sure where she is or what she is doing now, but I'll bet it has something to do with dance.
What do you do when you have a child with interests that don't fall within a traditional education framework? Grace feels about photography the way my friend did about dance. It is all she wants to do, well, that and music. She starts her day with new product releases from Olympus. She watches YouTube tutorials on product usage or technique. She does not dream about owning her own car, she dreams about owning a professional wide angle lens. She has made the decision to pursue photography professionally and we have two schools to look at.
Following behind her is Lilah. Creativity oozes from her pores. She can read for hours, draw, paint, and write. She is a storyteller and while she has work to do in the grammar department, she tells stories I can only dream of creating. She thinks kitchens are beautiful and has a beautiful eye for photography but she lacks the desire to be technically proficient. I don't know what her future holds. She does not have a set desire in terms of a career. Since she too favors the arts (language arts), I doubt (although I never rule out) a S.T.E.M career is for her.
I wonder how my friend's mom felt raising her creative, talented daughter. Did she worry about math or science? Did she worry about booklists, AP, wait, AP was not even an issue then. Back then it was just honors and you took one or two and if you didn't it was no big deal. AP did not drive high school students. We took the SAT, there was no ACT, and we did not take prep classes that cost thousands of dollars. We did not hire college consultants. We did not stress over extra curriculars. To be fair, I'm sure some did, but not in my circle of friends. We went to school, did sports, were part of a club, did our homework, still had time to hang out after school and have weekend sleepovers.
Now I think kids have to excel in all the do. They must have a plan. They must "keep up". They must compete at the highest level in their sport possible. They must be prepared for a "global workforce". They must produce more than we ever imagined in the same amount of time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for four years. What if your kid does not fit into this standard mold? I see it with my nieces and nephews and I see it with my kids and my friend's kids. We have kids that have talents and gifts outside of those which are conventionally seen as valued and honored. They are writing books, winning photography contests, fixing their own cars, working jobs to earn money to pay for their cars, clothes and insurance. They are caring and kind. They are honest and trustworthy.
Grace has two options she is debating right now:
- two years of community college to earn her AA in music then transfer to a 4 year art school focusing on photography. Having her associates in music will allow her to teach music lessons with more credibility while she pursues photography.
- Attend a one year intensive photography program in Manhattan and come out ready to pursue her dream of being a photographer. She can then do two years at community college for music. We are blessed to have a community college nearby with an excellent music program.
Lilah is 14 and she has no plan. And that is just okay by me.