Today I've invited Jonathan Harris to share a free homeschooling and/or parenting resource with you. You're going to love it! And yes, it is food related — keep reading. 🙂
Jonathan is the author of the 10K to Talent blog (and husband to Renee Harris from MadeOn Hard Lotion). He homeschools their eight children, ages 14 and younger. Because of his desire to develop talent and life-long passion in his children early-on, he developed and practices an idea he calls 10k to Talent.
The idea is that since world-class talent takes about 10,000 hours (10k) to develop, he wants to help each of his children identify and practice much of their talent development under parental direction and before the age of 18 — so they'll enter the adult world already very skilled at things they love to do!
Brilliant idea, isn't it? He wrote it up in a free e-guide he calls “How to Find and Develop Your Child's First 100 Hours of Talent”. You can download it for free in the sidebar of his blog. I highly encourage you to sign up for his email updates as well.
I'm going to turn now to our interview. You'll hear more about the 10k to Talent plan and how Jonathan uses it to direct his son Gideon in baking and his other children in their interests. Be sure to welcome Jonathan in the comments, and feel free to ask questions, too.
1. In a nutshell, what's the idea behind your free 10k to Talent workshop and your 10ktoTalent.com blog?
The key idea is to start developing talent early in your child’s life so your child doesn’t spend his early adult life struggling with trying to discover a marketable skillset while also trying to put food on the table.
If parents wait for a child to be old enough and sophisticated enough to orchestrate his own talent development, it will probably be too late for him to gain enough hours to achieve a 10,000 hour world-class level of talent by early adulthood.
In my free e-guide — “How to Find and Develop Your Child’s First 100 Hours of Talent” — I provide parents a step-by-step method for starting a child on talent path. (You can download it free from the sidebar of my blog.)
Through my 10ktoTalent.com blog, I hope to remind parents that they have the ability to see possibilities which are still invisible to the child himself. Parents are not just an appendage to their child’s life! They shouldn’t let time and opportunities pass by. Parents have the ability and authority to prioritize the child’s interests — young children don’t.
Many a time I have cleared the way for my son to work side by side with a crusty old curmudgeon for a few hours of a specific skill instruction. Had I let him (11 years old at the time) figure out how to navigate that social minefield on his own in an older man’s club, he wouldn’t have had opportunities like that until he was at least 15.
I created the workshop and my blog to encourage you not to leave your child's talent development to chance. Nor should you wait for the “perfect” situation to find something that excites your child for the long term.
2. Tell us about your son Gideon and his identifiable talents. How did you recognize his talents and distinguish them from a quaint hobbies or passing interests?
Gideon is my 9-year-old baker guy. For the last several years, we noticed his peculiar negative physical reactions to too many starchy foods. As a consequence, we have had to watch his food proportions closely. As we monitored his food intake, he has grown more aware of the types of food he is eating and has learned to find tasty substitutes.
This awareness, plus our encouragement for him to find alternatives, has caused him to be creative in the kitchen. He can make his own small and tasty snack while the others are gorging on big slices of fresh baked bread. And so Gideon’s baking and cooking interest led us to getting him connected in Traditional Cooking School online classes.
By the way, at the very moment I’m writing this, I can see Gideon proudly selecting a few optimally ripened persimmons from the pile on our baker’s rack for his morning breakfast. The other children will probably have oatmeal or cream-of-wheat, but he will have fresh fruit with homemade yogurt.
Gideon’s interest in baking and cooking is not a passing interest. He has had and still has many passing interests, just as any other child would, depending on whatever new and shiny things pop up in our life and in the neighborhood. What is different about his baking interest is that it has been elevated to one of the core skills in his young life that he is consistently pursuing.
And that skill — and this is a critical point — has been elevated to that level because my wife and I have consciously recognized it as something worthy to prioritize for him on his behalf. I allowed his baking activities to develop further because it supported our lifestyle in the short term (we eat healthy home cooked meals all the time) and I knew my wife and I could easily help him pursue his interest further to the point of it becoming a serious skill (we have kitchen tools for working with whole foods).
We could have encouraged him to pursue other passing interests. But at this point, those interests were either outside our means or outside of our other time commitments. So we actively encouraged him with cooking: through verbal encouragement, by giving him space and time to cook, through buying him a kitchen tool or two, or even commandeering an older brother to help him out in the kitchen.
As Gideon has followed recipes and learned to be fast enough, his status among the siblings has risen and this in turn has fueled his desire to want to become better and better.
A couple years ago, my mother visited. She was in charge of cooking for the household while my wife was giving birth to our youngest daughter. If you do the 10k to Talent workshop, you will see why this type of social encounter can play a role in finding a talent to develop. During that stay with us, she regularly set the table with several small, simple sauces presented in crystal ware or in decorative small pottery dishes.
That was new to our table and this kind of culinary experience was a big hit with young Gideon. I grew up in France of American parents. My parents are deeply enmeshed into the culture there and have assimilated many aspects of French life — including that flair for presenting the table and dishes just right. Gideon connected with this flair, along with the added benefit of bonding with his grandmother they worked together setting the table.
Also, I have a couple of Jacques Pepin cooking DVDs in our library. Gideon was mesmerized by this French-American chef’s virtuosity in preparing and elevating simple, easy dishes such as scrambled eggs and omelets. Jacques Pepin looks very masculine and confident in his chef garb, speaks about the food with passion and authority, and yet is mindful of the needs of those for whom he is cooking. All of this has influenced my son’s interest in baking and cooking.
3. Can you describe the process of coming up with your 10k to Talent action plan for Gideon?
The 10k to Talent action plan is really designed with children twelve years or older in mind, so I have Gideon (age 9) on a partial 10k-to-Talent plan. Because of the excitement created by his older brothers in the pursuit of their own burgeoning talents, he has entered into the talent-building zone earlier than I expected. I suppose that’s positive peer pressure in the homeschool!
Understandably Gideon wants to position himself in the family in terms of what he can do and wants be able to display his own productivity. His older brothers are already getting status for what they can do in their own realms, and he wants to share in that, too.
4. What is Gideon's 10k to Talent plan? What does his schooling look like given this focus on cooking/baking?
Gideon is on the tails of his older brothers, in terms of having a core interest that can be built up into a talent. But, with regard to using his normal school work with his talent, he is not quite at the same level of engagement. The older boys intertwine quite a bit of their schoolwork with an aspect of their talent, but Gideon doesn't at this point.
However, like his older brothers, I make sure that a normal day offers as much time and priority for his baking as his school work. Compared to his older brothers, he does not have as much confidence and maturity to explore, for example, the history of his skill set.
If he were twelve or older, I would insist that he read and write about the food and the role of food during the time of Julius Caesar (for example). But he is not mature enough at this time to carry through that type of thinking consistently on his own without being overwhelmed. So I am patient enough to wait till his maturity grows.
Usually it will be around the age of twelve that the inner drive of a child seems to really take off. I will wait until then before insisting his schoolwork supports his talent.
Here are eight principles I follow to develop talent in my children (these are more fully explained the free e-guide). You can see which Gideon is using:
- Starting young — yes for Gideon
- Practicing daily — yes for Gideon
- Using environment and assets — yes for Gideon
- Decomposing talent into smaller skills — not quite yet, since not many skills
- Merging skills from different fields — not yet
- Enlisting family goals and desires — yes for Gideon
- Acting out the talent in a way that gives value to others — yes for Gideon
- Making homeschool curriculum feed your child’s talent — not yet for Gideon
5. Will you share some highlights of Gideon's progress?
Gideon helps out regularly in the kitchen. He helps his older brother bake bread for the family. He helps out with baking special bread treats for church events, and occasions when we have visitors and we need crepes or pancakes. Recently he baked your fermented chocolate cake for the twins' birthdays (and got lots of attention for that!). He had been watching Traditional Cooking School class videos, especially the sourdough videos. Also recently, I saw him practicing napkin folding (from the Real Food Kids class).
Because he’s young, his greatest difficulty is in being consistent — such as remembering to feed his sourdough starter (he has had to restart or rescue it a couple of times) or deciding he is too tired to cook up extra servings for his brothers. That’s where I, as a parent, will step in to encourage him to keep going or I will realize that a particular project is too ambitious and send him out to play.
Also as Dad, I’m still the one who cleans out the messy dough equipment after a big project. 🙂 But the day will soon come when I expect him to graduate to the clean-up duties of the baking world.
6. What do you expect for Gideon's future in terms of employment and vocation? What does Gideon want to do when he's grown up?
For now Gideon focuses on building core baking skills. My intention is that he will add more skills as his personal interests and/or the marketplace reveal opportunities.
When I think about talent — and specifically about talent development in children — I think it helps to name the talent for the short term. But I remain flexible as to what the end talent will be. Gideon may say he wants to be a baker, but perhaps the opportunities that open for him over time might be an industrial kitchen designer or as chemist.
The baking talent he's developing now are providing the content, not the end goal. Other skills build on that.
The 10k to Talent method recommends you build on top of existing skills and stay extremely flexible into extending yourself into new directions. So you are simultaneously creating depth of knowledge and flexibility to market conditions.
In fact, ideally, I hope that the final end talent doesn’t even have a definite name, because it is yet to be created!
If you were to ask Gideon what he wants to do, he probably would say he wants to be a baker or an architect of some sort. I smile when I think about it, because he may not wind up doing anything that has the official title of baker or architect in it, but he may wind up, for all I know, becoming an industrial designer of kitchenware and tableware — an architect for bakers of a sort.
Gideon has good math aptitudes and loves to sketch out very precise ideas for buildings. Maybe at some point, and helped by parental design and child input, one or more those skills will be developed in conjunction with baking or architecture.
This is the beauty of the 10k-to-Talent method. Each skill you add to a talent, combining them in interesting ways with the other skills, creates talent that is more and more unique and more likely to impact others significantly.
7. What are some of your other children's talents that you're developing through 10k to Talent?
My oldest son, about to turn fifteen, has a good managerial and business head plus strong interests in coins and videography. He was first interested in coins, and then small business activities and videography. He is outside the public eye on his business skills — because he is not ready for too much outside criticism and because our home business details are confidential. So he can’t share too much of what he is learning with others on that topic.
I’m trying to encourage him to use his interest in coins and economics as content for his videography, but I think he needs more practice. However, I’m happy that he is experimenting with making short fun videos for to learn basic filming and storyboarding techniques (along with friends and relatives). He helps his mother with basic photography of his mother's hard lotion products.
My second son (13) is interested in working with metals, stones, jewelry. In three years of active involvement in a local gem and mineral club, he learned how to grind stones and make basic silver rings. At this point, he has somewhat outgrown the help he could get from the older retired hobbyists in the club. He has now started taking private lessons from a professional jeweler in our area. The interest in gems and metals has sparked an interest in chemistry, and it will be interesting how this might be added to his growing talent.
My third son (11) is very interested in computer programming. He has a hand me down desktop computer from his Uncle. On it, he likes to practice coding. He is not twelve yet, but many a time I’ve allowed him to opt out of drawing and artwork, instead asking him to write simple little programs that test him on his regular school subjects. It’s very exciting to watch him wrap his mind around such programming concepts as looping and variable control. By having little goals like that, he is making quick progress. I hope that more skills will be added around these core programming skills.
My oldest daughter (11) likes to draw and is not as verbally advanced as her brothers. I encourage her to draw out many of her normal school subjects, both so she can make progress on on them and so she can continually stretch herself in her drawing abilities. Lately she has learned some sewing skills, so it will be interesting to see if and how this will intertwine with her drawing skills.
8. How can you help other families find their children's talents and develop them?
I wrote a PDF e-guide on how to find something in your child’s life that can be used as the beginning of a talent journey — “How to Find and Develop Your Child’s First 100 Hours of Talent”. It’s available as a free download in the sidebar of my blog. You can read my 10ktoTalent blog for inspiration and ideas, plus sign up for my email newsletter (the form is in the sidebar).
I would love to hear from parents who have tried the workshop and would like feedback as to what they could do differently. You can email me at jonathan at 10ktotalent dot com.
9. Is there anything else you want to share?
I want to encourage parents to keep in mind that when the Bible speaks of talents — as in the parable of the talents — God makes it clear that even though many things are gifted to us by God, we are expected to take whatever we have, whether big or small, and really go at it to multiply the talents.
This investment parable is specifically addressing the spiritual side of our life, but the material and educational applications are equally applicable. Waiting too long or doing nothing at all because we might fail is the wrong attitude. We are expected to take risks.
I apply the same principle to finding and developing talent in our children. Don’t be afraid to at least try to develop something.
Even if your plans for developing a magnificent talent in your child doesn't work out exactly as you imagined, you are not any worse off than if you had not tried at all. In fact, you're probably better off!
Thank you so much, Jonathan. Your 10k to Talent workshop is awesome and I hope many parents will take advantage of it.
Parents: Are you doing anything similar to find and develop talent in your children? What are your children's talents? Do you have any questions for Jonathan? Please share!
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