How to Really Challenge Your Kids for Growth

One of the difficulties (and benefits) we find as parents of homeschoolers is that we are in charge of finding ways for our children to grow.  I am talking about the kind of growth that we as the main adult in their lives can’t really provide.  Kids, well all people actually, model the people they are around the most.  I know for me one of the difficulties I have is that I hate math.  I focus really hard on not letting that affect my kids, but I know I am not the best person to teach them that subject.  With that in mind, we have found several people over the years that LOVE math.  These are the people I really want my kids to study with!

 What does excellence look like?
Now I want to take this idea to a higher level.  I am going to start with a story.  My middle daughter was a competitive figure skater for many years.  When she started, she wanted to skate like the older kids at this little beginner school near our house.  One thing I noticed was she could only progress to the top of that school.  As she gained more and more skill, she out grew that school and quickly needed more.  We switched rinks, found a coach, and she had a new, higher level to strive for.  A year or two passed, she started to compete, and had a new level of “top” to work towards.  As she reached that top level, we found we needed to switch things up again.  Her new coaches started to have her travel to competitions.  Something they said stuck with me and I still apply it regularly to our lives.  They told us that to be an excellent figure skater, she needed to see lots of different excellent skaters so she can see what excellent really looks like.

Think about it
When you are learning to do something, you set an expectation of how well something is supposed to be done.  You can only strive for the top of the example you are shown.  Imagine in figure skating competing with everyone from your rink versus competing with the best in the country.  After time, you could win the competition at your rink easily because you know what is expected, you practice at the level the other kids are skating at, but there isn’t the challenge or stretch there could be.  In comparison, imagine the practice time before a national competition.  Seeing all of the other skaters, with their varied developed skills, now raises the bar.  It creates a new standard-a new base line.  It pushes you to be the best you can be in all areas.  Another analogy could be tennis.  Think of playing two games of tennis.  One is with your buddy and you two are pretty evenly matched.  The other is with a high level player and he really challenges you.  Which game would instigate more growth in you as a player?

Success leaves clues
Often our kids have a talent or love for something that is not our strong suit.  I know for me that at a certain point I needed to find someone else who loved and knew things about math that I could not provide.  I was able to find a tutor for them.  There are many ways to provide an outside mentor to ensure a higher-level viewpoint.  There are always teachers and coaches, but be sure to get ones who really know and love their subject.  Your kids can skip years of trial and error learning by being taught by the best. 

Reading autobiographies and biographies allows your kids to experience how successful people think.  It is those thoughts that help them truly excel.  How we think about things often helps us grow much more than what we think about.  Another option for mentors is to mentally go through your family, friends, neighbors, etc. and figure out who has special skills or interests that might be willing to talk to or work with your kids.  To have them really be challenged, actively seek out the best in the topic your child is interested in and have your child contact them.  If they are local, maybe your kid could intern with them, volunteer, or spend a day shadowing them.  If they are not local, have your child email or snail mail them with questions.  I have found many successful adults love kids who are interested in what they are doing.

As I mentioned above, success leaves clues.  Set your kids on a hunt for the traits of successful people.  It will really speed up learning and growth.