As we are entering the last semester of High School with Connor, and have had a surprising level of success both with admissions and scholarships, I have been asked several times recently about how we made Connor such an attractive prospect to schools.  Ultimately, the answer is God.  God has a plan for Connor’s life and made him such a unique, wonderful guy that we knew God has paved the way.  That being said, there are some things that I have both seen in Connor’s High School career and in the High School career of friends who are seeing the same level of success, that I think can be quantified.

1.  Excellence – We have always pushed our kids to strive for excellence, not perfection, but excellence.  If we are not as good at something or don’t get it right the first time, that’s fine but we will not move on or give up until we understand. If they got a problem wrong in math, that’s fine but we work on it until we get it right.  Understanding is the key and we work on something until we know it and can do it successfully.

2.  Failure is an option –  we have tried to instill in our kids that we should always try.  We might fail but then we just get up, brush ourselves off and try again.  Failure is just an opportunity to do it again, but better.  What if Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Edison gave up at their first sign of failure?  The world would be a much worse place.

3.  Middle School is vital – Middle School is where we ramp up, it’s where we start making judgements on the world, it’s where connections start making sense.  Middle School is where we really have to start paying attention to our kids passions.  It’s where we start talking to them about what interests them, what makes stand up and pay attention, what makes them tick. It’s also when we start dream and aspiration casting.  “What do you think you want to do?  What colleges do you think you are interested in?”  At this age, we set no limits.  Cambridge, Harvard, MIT?  Sure, all of that is possible but it’s going to take WORK!  Academics needs to be really kick started in Middle School because it’s where we prep for High School which is where we prep for College or Career.

5.  Follow their Lead –  In or Around Middle School we really started paying attention to our kids interests.  When we went to the library, I would tell our kids to get a history and a science book they were interested in.  I started paying attention their choices and patterns started emerging.  Caileigh picked out gardening books and books on gross germs and diseases.  I gave her some seeds and a patch of the garden and got more books on Biology.  Connor wanted books on programming and inventors.  We started him on Scratch and started looking for First Lego League teams.  Collin likes facts, physics and Legos.  We started buying more Physics books and talking about what things he likes to build.  We asked why they were interested in those subjects.  What would they like to do about those interests?  Tried to find people in their life that they could talk to about those interests.

6. In or around 8th grade, we have them read, “How to be a High School Superstar” by Cal Newport. This is a great book that talks about following a passion, not only following but purposely structuring time and energy both towards finding a passion and then following that passion.  We also like them to read, “Do Hard Things” and “Start Here” by the Harris brothers.  We want them to do hard things in God’s kingdom and these books are a great starting place. This is also a great time to discuss that we can be workers in God’s kingdom without following the traditional path of Pastor and Missionary.  For kids who want to do God’s will sometimes they can miss the fact that God can use them in many different areas.  Connor has taught inner city kids Computer Science and witnessed to Professors in major secular universities by being involved in Scratch and SNAP!.  God created our kids and will work His will into whatever paths He leads them in and our kids need to understand that.

7.  Structure High School to allow time to follow their passions. – I actually struggled with this with Connor.  I had a pretty rigorous plan in place before I read, “How to Be a High School Superstar” and I struggled with the thought of changing those plans.  After much prayer and discussions with my husband, we restructured.  I kept a base level of an academically sound education in History, English, Arts and Foreign Language which would prepare Connor for college but then ramped up Math, Science and Computer Science.  We also gave Connor extra time in his day to work with Scratch.


8. Be willing to say, ‘yes’ and follow through. –  Looking back I can see several times that we could have said , ‘no’ to Connor because it was too hard, too time consuming or too far fetched which would have completely changed Connor’s High School career.  It is hard and sometimes it seemed completely far fetched, like Connor actually be invited to speak to Comp Sci a educators in Barcelona.  I mean, who expects that a 15 year old can figure out a problem that graduate students at Berkely haven’t been able to?  We said ‘yes’ and allowed Connor the time to do so and he did.  We said ‘yes’ when they were interested in First Lego League (FLL) and started a team.  We said ‘yes’ to Caileigh when she was interested in Aquaponics and Scott spent hours helping her figure the system out and she did and successfully built an enclosed system with fish and plants which then fed us with fresh herbs and vegetables.  It does add more work and time and sometimes money.  Start small with their interests, buy seeds and give them a plot of ground with some library books if they are interested in gardening.  If they are interested in knitting, buy them cheap needles and Wal-Mart yarn and see if they follow through.  If they do, take the next step.  Find a class for beginners to help them and then watch to see what they do with it.  When we did FLL we discovered that Connor didn’t like building the robot, he liked programming the robot.  We took that and moved in a different direction. It takes a lot of work on a parents part to say, ‘yes’ but ultimately it is worth it.  I know it can seem really expensive but I can also see where God supplied the money when we needed it.  Sometimes the kids worked for the money, Grandparents have helped out or we had an unexpected extra job to help pay.  Now, it is paying off 

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