What Makes a Good Student

Have I told you this story?

If I know you in real life, I probably have:

When Violet had just turned 6, she took golf lessons. She was really interested in golf, and was excited about the class. I so vividly remember driving home one day, asking her about the class, how she liked her teacher, what they did during class (I was walking Victoria around in the stroller, myself).

Then I asked her, “So does your teacher ever give you tips or suggestions on how to hit the ball a certain way, or swing the club.”

“Yes,” she said, with some distaste. “And it is getting Really Annoying.”

I tell this story a lot because I think it expresses something Very Violet. And I told her this story today, after she repeatedly argued with me about following her teacher’s directions for practicing a particular piano piece.

She loved the punch line, laughed in surprise, and then laughed in recognition. When I said, “So I think you have always kind of disliked taking instruction,” she kept on smiling and laughing and said, “Yeah, I guess so!”

That gave us a good opening to talk about her resistance to taking input from people with more experience, without a lot of yelling (on my part). We noted that her education was largely structured to allow her a lot of freedom and independent learning, but that she could also think more about being flexible in the way that she learns.

This was just today, so I did not have a brilliant 5-point strategy for how to implement any of that. What I hope we did accomplish was getting both of us to recognize that disliking being told how to do something is a pretty firmly ingrained part of her character — it doesn’t have to be a character flaw, or willful disobedience, just part of who she is and how she is likely to stay, to some extent.

I hope our next steps can include talking about what she doesn’t like about taking instructions, whether there are times when direction hasn’t bothered her, and what our options could be for making taking instructions more bearable. I hope we can both be more flexible — that I can find more times to let her do things her way, and that she can separate her preference for going solo from acting out when she doesn’t get her way.

I can’t tell — is this child tailor-made for unschooling, or does stubborn, willful indifference to the knowledge and experience of others disqualify her? 😉



Filed under Gifted Ed, Gifted Heart and Soul, Learning Styles, Our Philosophy (such as it is), Why Homeschool?

7 responses to “What Makes a Good Student

  1. When you find your answer to that last question, please let me know!

  2. A few years ago I would have said “She’s going to have BIG trouble when she’s working age,” but now I think “Ah, when she’s more mature she’ll figure it out.”

    They’re our kids: I think it’s inevitable we’ll see their Dark Sides sooner than anyone else. And worry about them more. And stress about them. But if we were to die tomorrow (this is my analogy, I stress) they would HAVE to get along. And they would. They might struggle a little, but they would. We all do.

  3. Oh my gosh. That describes Zoe very well.

    Recently I told her “As your parent and your teacher I just have to tell you what to do sometimes. And it is not okay to glare at me every time.”


    Okay, so it is not every time. Sometimes she is in a more cooperative mood and doesn’t seem to realize I am _telling_ her what to do, i.e. teaching her.

    Other times she has a high sensitive antenna for anything that could be someone trying to tell her what to do, and the most offending offender seems to be me.

    I like how you are framing this trait. I try to think of it like that too… sometimes. But also I feel like Zoe is eight and often requires instruction. So, let us know if you get any bright ideas or 5 point strategies. 🙂

  4. Angela, QueenBee

    I had radar going up all over the place as I read this. This is Buzz, and it did not go away no matter how much wishful thinking I put into it. And it got worse before it got better. It it very common in exceptionally bright children to develop this sort of impatience and arrogance, if you will, that really can become a hindrance as they age in their social relationships as well.
    Over the years, the goal has been to reduce the level of disdain for any instruction that is deemed unworthy and focus on respect for the instructor and peers. While the idea of unschooling may or may not fit the personality type, the reality of getting beyond the “I’m so beyond you” air that can grow from these early beginnings is so important.

  5. Oh my gosh, you’ve got my Kipp!! He could care less about instructions. His first question is inevitably, “But, can’t I do it my way?” This very issue has me debating whether to put him in a LEGO engineering class this fall, because the class will do projects, but Kipp will want to do his own thing.

    Sometimes, I love the net. At times, you don’t feel like you are the only one.

  6. My daughter is this way.

  7. “Over the years, the goal has been to reduce the level of disdain for any instruction that is deemed unworthy and focus on respect for the instructor and peers.”

    Great comment, Angela. Cultivating tolerance and respect is a good direction for any parent to take.

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