Goodbye to Hard Work

I’m suffering a bit of too-many-thoughts paralysis lately — I want to write about everything, and so write about nothing!

But I’m a little excited about this one.

A Facebook friend linked to an article that many friends in the gifted community were annoyed with.

The title of the article pits giftedness against hard work, as if you only get one or the other. Those of us who have already endured 12 years of school hearing that nothing we do counts because “it’s so easy for you” find that tired argument difficult to sit through again.

An old grad school friend — now also a coworker with my husband — made me laugh when he commented on the article by observing that he has spent most of his life avoiding hard work, and it’s going pretty well so far.

(Of course this is not exactly true — this friend has succeeded at several different things since grad school.)

I realized, I may be in danger of passing on to my kids this obsession with “hard work” and being a “hard worker.” I follow the New Parenting Rules and praise them for effort and process rather than quality of product. My daughter wants me to read her NaNoWriMo novel and I say, “Wow, I am so proud of how much time you have put into this.” Is that what you’d want someone to say when they read your first draft of a novel?!

So phooey on that. I’m not going to teach my children to value their efforts by drops of sweat or sleepless nights.

I’m making some substitutions in my vocabulary, at least for myself:

“Hard Work” is now “Passion” or maybe even “Joy”

“Effort” is now “Faithfulness”

“Persistence” is now “Love”

This is where, I think, we’ve been going on our homeschool journey, though we didn’t know it when we embarked. The blessing of falling into homeschool for us is not that the girls “work to their potential” or get “challenged,” though sometimes those things happen. The blessing is that we are all learning and actively looking to give ourselves wholeheartedly to what we are doing.

This allows us to sidestep worries about the dire fates that apparently await many “prodigies,” and the “harsh truths” about the perils of giftedness. Much of the mainstream chatter about gifted kids — apart from the utterly contradictory advice — seems to focus on whether kids are working too hard (“pushy parents,” “unrealistic expectations”) or not hard enough (“underachievers,” “everything comes easy,” “don’t earn their successes”).

We’re exiting that conversation now.

How hard are my kids working? How hard am I working? Who cares?

Are we living and working with joy and passion? Do we love what we’re doing enough to carry on through the inevitable doldrums and frustrations?

I hope so. Whether it’s a massive Thanksgiving meal or a child-size NaNoWriMo goal, I hope that we are giving our whole selves out of joy — the joy of serving, performing, creating, feeling. If we are not — if we are only jumping through hoops, acting out of a sense of obligation, checking off the to-do list, or trying to impress — I hope we will learn to recognize that and correct it as best we can.


Filed under Gifted Ed, Gifted Heart and Soul, I'm Catholic Why?, Our Domestic Church, Our Philosophy (such as it is)

8 responses to “Goodbye to Hard Work

  1. Tony

    Love this!!! Agree with everything you say.

    I’m going to steal your vocabulary substitutions, they are perfect.

  2. It is so wonderful V completed her novel!!!

    As for the articles – blah. The real issues gifted children struggle with (according to what I’ve heard their mothers say for years now) have little to do with their intellect and more with their asynchronicity, hypersensitivity, allergies, processing issues, rage to learn, social issues, etc. For as long as the media presents “giftedness” as a thing involving intellect alone, the condition will be misunderstood and resented, and gifted children will continue to struggle with their real issues.

    Sorry. That darned soapbox got under my feet again somehow.

    I LOVE what you have written here. I think it is brilliant and I am going to bookmark this page to remind myself to use these words more often.

  3. Mariposa

    The articles are mostly opinion and general.

    I like how you presented your ideas. I try to use those words and others as part of our approach, and in our weekly summaries.

    I wonder what the outcome will be for kids who don’t get grades, or learn in non traditional settings?

    As a parent you need to do what you think is best for your kids.

  4. Nice post! Lots to think about.

    I think the problem with the parenting article is that it tries to disconnect giftedness and hard work. When you are doing something you really love, you do work hard at it, but it doesn’t feel like work. It seems interesting that the article points out that some day the child will grow up and compete with others as gifted as they are. Why? Why is there a need to compete just because you share the same talents as someone else? What’s wrong with just enjoying what you are doing? What does “hard work” mean to the author? The ability to make money from our gifts? Our society worries too much about competing and about the practical side of life. I wonder if it would really be possible for another DaVinci or Mozart to develop in such an environment (they had trouble enough in their own times!)

    Congratulations on your daughter’s novel! It sounds like she really loves writing. You are doing a great job of nurturing her gift!

  5. Applause.

    The whole obsession with hard work is more than a bit protestant/puritanical, I think. In a not really good way (and nothing to do with religion really).

    Also, I have found that sometimes when I’ve looked for an easier way to do something, I end up with better results. Sometimes if it is hard work, we need to think about how we could do it differently.

  6. Yes, that whole “its so easy for you” thing always used to piss me off, too. And I do praise hard work, but joy and passion are so much more important. What’s the use of working hard if it doesn’t bring you joy in the end? And if the joy comes easily???So much the better!

  7. This is a wonderful post! I love it! I can count on you for such meaty talk.

  8. Pingback: Ten Years On « Red Sea School

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