How to compete with Generation Z

I’m convinced that the biggest impact Generation Z will have on the workplace is in their schooling. They will be lifelong, self-learners, who take more personal responsibility for their ongoing education than any generation in history. I am not talking about graduate school here. I am talking about a more creative, independent way of learning that does not stop at college, but rather, picks up pace remarkably after college, when real experiential learning starts happening.

The question is, how do we get this lifelong learning bug now, as adults, so we can compete with the young people when they enter the workforce. I thought about this question a lot last week, while I was at cello camp with my son.

1. When it comes to learning, keep your bar very high.
At cello camp my son's classes are about 80% Asian. It's like being a Jew in NYC — sort of a demographic optical illusion. We are at ground zero for the Tiger Mom. We are at a camp where six-year-olds play cello for five hours a day.

I am used to being the crazy, overbearing mom in the rural farm community where we live. I’m asked, “Why do you have to drive two hours to a music lesson? There’s a piano teacher in Darlington!” because I ignore the advice of my neighbors and I drive four hours round trip so my son can take lessons from a music professor at the University of Wisconsin.

And I think I’m on the right track, because Lisa Nielsen, an education reformer working in the New York City public schools, says that lifelong learners are great at creating their own networks of experts.

2. Walk a narrow path so you can keep learning to jump off the path.
But at cello camp I find that I’m the laid back, bar-is-low mom. My son played ping-pong with little white girls in between classes. There was one soccer ball in the whole camp, and my son joined the other kid. Who was white, of course. And in group class, my son is the one who wants to try his own rhythms “just once I promise please please mom.”

At first I was thinking I am in a race to keep up with the Asian parents.

But then I think about Wesley Yang, the Asian guy who recently wrote an extremely controversial article in New York magazine. The article is about why Asian families are obsessed with childhood achievement at the expense of social skills and creativity.

Yang writes about the famously merit-based magnet high school, Stuyvesant, in New York City. There is no way to get in except to have high test scores. And while the Asian population in NYC is only 12%, the Asian student population at Stuyvesant is 72%. At Stuyvesant, the white kids who actually get in do less homework than the Asian kids do, but white kids do as well in school. But when those kids graduate from college, the Asians don't do well in corporate America. Because Asians are generally taught to follow rules, learn what’s on the test, and don’t make a scene: The exact wrong stuff to learn if you want to succeed in corporate America.

So then what traits create a lifelong learner? I think it has to do with knowing oneself and knowing how to ask creative questions in areas of personal interest. And then I get scared being surrounded by Tiger moms. My kid has great social skills. No small feat in a family full of Aspergers. I want my son to be creative and fun. But I want him to have the self-discipline to reach goals he sets for himself.

There’s a great TED speech from Sir Ken Robinson that addresses just this topic: how to protect creative thinking from being squashed by adult institutions. I tell myself that my challenge at cello camp is the same challenge that I tell people they have at work: follow enough rules to be relevant, and foster enough creativity to bring joy and surprise to the things you do.

3. Learn by way of discovering what you care about, and not the other way around.
“Learning doesn’t happen insides a box — schooling does — and these are two very different things,” says Nielsen. Her subversive opus The Teenagers Guide to Opting Out Not Dropping Out explains why education ideas like unschooling and natural learning are great because they are student-directed. And she says we should not divide learning by subject or location. Rather, the whole world is a learning environment and the student learns by doing whatever he or she is interested in.

I wonder, “Is my son becoming a robot when I drag him to Suzuki camp for hours on end?” Certainly he’d rather be playing video games. But he is developing opinions about his learning, which is part of the process of asking good questions. For example he wants to play Witch’s Dance instead of Minuet 1. I let him. It’s against the rules to skip around, but I sneak it. And, anyway, his teacher at University of Wisconsin is not such a stickler for Suzuki rules.

But what I’m saying is that you can follow your passion within constraints. I don’t think lifelong learning is about turning on a dime, switching on a whim. I think it’s following old paths and layering them with new, internally generated questions. But you need to be on some sort of path to have a stable place to form a question.

4. Cater to your learning style.
By the third day of camp, we are the only ones who lost our nametags. This is probably better because we are also the only ones who are late. So maybe no one will know who we are.

But they do. Because I have a kid who is an EFJ. That’s not a typo – there are only three Myers-Briggs letters for kids under 12. (You can be obsessive with your kids, too. Here’s the test.) My kid is my personality type opposite. He loves people and people love him. (This is such an unlikely outcome from my Ex and me that my ex has accused me of having had an affair.)

So my regular way of coping with lots of people is disappearing into the background, but that doesn't work with him. His favorite way to learn is to be in a room full of people. Charming everyone.

I threw a (minor) fit that his private lesson is not actually private – it’s with three other kids. In a group class like it, I would tune out because I don’t like groups. But he is totally happy, and I realize that as adults, we seldom learn by watching other people learn. We watch and judge instead of watch and learn.

5. Accept that lifelong learning is a huge time investment.
In school, kids do not see their parents investing in lifelong learning. In fact, school teaches kids that adults do not belong in learning environments. In the Suzuki method, where the parent is the music teacher, I have no idea what I’m doing. I don’t play an instrument, I don’t read music, and my musical knowledge is about one month ahead of where my son is. So my son sees me in every single class, learning right alongside him.

The payoff is being able to get through the song without getting lost.

Which, like all good learning, is not really an end goal but rather just one more step down the path – in this case, the path to learning how to play in an orchestra.

6. Spend as much time unlearning as you do learning.
I think a lot about what our adult learning needs to look like in order to succeed at work in the next ten years. We will be competing with Generation Z. We will have to learn as effectively as they learn. Alvin Toffler, a futurist, has the answer: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn and unlearn and relearn.” (via

Starting over is a key to lifelong learning. Starting from that feeling of knowing nothing, over and over again, will eventually yield learning on a grand scale.

There's a teacher institute within our camp program. I can’t help wondering: Why are the students mostly Asian but the teachers in training are mostly white?

Maybe my lifelong learning will include unlearning stereotypes I am peppering throughout this post. It’s difficult to know what to unlearn. If you have a teacher who can tell you: she’s a keeper.

One of my son’s teachers at camp was the inimitable Amy Barston. She spent the first two days of class making him sit differently, hold the cello differently, and place his feet in a new spot. At the end of that second day, he wrote a note on the chalkboard:

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  1. Don B.
    Don B. says:

    Penelope you are a great mother and writer. I enjoyed this article beyond my ability to express. I like how observant you are about everything and then how you recall the experience. Thanks again. On why the Asian count in the class. I think economics and social effort. They have the funds and are driven to provide opportunity. Europeons were the same in the USA when still closer to their immigrant roots. Your description of the makeup matches what we see here in math and music.

  2. Chris
    Chris says:

    Hi, Penelope! I was a “serious” music student from the time I was 10, and eventually studied music at Indiana University School of Music. Seeking out great teachers is absolutely key in every aspect of life, and you’re absolutely right that the time spent in the car pays off for your son. I never grew as much as a musician, or had as much fun as when I spent time with great teachers. I no longer play, but I use skills I learned as a musician every day, to great effect. Bless you for supporting your son in his passion for the cello!

  3. Eliza J
    Eliza J says:

    Sometimes I read your blog and I think ‘This woman is a LUNATIC! Why are you taking her advice?’.

    Then I think some more and I realise; you are super brave (for telling all your truths) and you care A LOT; and they are two things I can get behind.

    I’m currently in a corporate job I hate and your blog (and book) are helping me find a way out.

    Thank you!

    • Lynn
      Lynn says:

      Hi, I just read the book “Outliers” with my summer class. It was a good book and very different. I like the 10,000 hour rule! Makes me wish I had some talent that I practiced when I was a kid!
      I think Malcolm made some very good points in his book.

  4. Natalie
    Natalie says:

    Number 5 about being a lifelong endeavor is a big one. I just finished reading Malcom Gladwell’s “Outliers” and one of the chapters discusses that to be truly proficient at a given subject or task (whether it be sports, or a school subject, or even music) it takes about 10,000 hours of time and practice. What he found is that those who excel or seem to excel often times put in more hours at practice and study at a younger age/shorter span. He applied it to hockey players, famous computer scientists (Bill Gates and Bob Joy), and musicians (Mozart!).
    So I say, let your son enjoy his cello lessons. If he enjoys it, he will practice more. If he practices more, he will get better. And if he practices more, he will succeed!

  5. Tony
    Tony says:

    The Z’s do seem to have it all, they’re better connected than we X’s ever were, and all the world’s knowledge is at their fingertips. It’s a learner’s paradise, and one I would have relished growing up in.

    However there is still hope for us. Their opportunities are ours as well, even if it may come a little easier to them.

    My career requires lifelong learning and that’s a large part of it’s appeal to me, but we all have so many opportunities to learn whatever we do, if not in work then out of it – and hey, it is fun and rewarding!

    Us X’s aren’t beat just yet!

    Lovely pictures of your little lad BTW.

  6. Marcy
    Marcy says:

    I think one of the key traits that creates lifelong learners is being able to pinpoint and then develop a plan to address your own knowledge gaps. And unfortunately, it’s hard to know what you *don’t* know without some common base level of knowledge. For that reason, I think formal learning will remain important through at least the secondary level. I was happy to see that you wrote self learning will pick up the pace after college.

  7. David Moss
    David Moss says:

    “But when those kids graduate from college, the Asians don't do well in corporate America. Because Asians are generally taught to follow rules, learn what’s on the test, and don’t make a scene: The exact wrong stuff to learn if you want to succeed in corporate America.”

    Also they’re not white, which is a much more significant disadvantage.

  8. Marci
    Marci says:

    I read your blog faithfully. I love the photos in this post. The ideas are interesting and intriguing. I think your son is so adorable, he qualifies for having a “munch-able” face — a term of affection for me, and probably having its origin in some instinctual mammal- need to groom one’s young (and kissing a little face instead). And then I read the end of the blog, where you mention the “inimitable Amy Barston” — and holy Toledo! I KNOW Amy! She and I first met when I was made the president of the board of a chamber music festival she helped found in my city. She’s been here for it for the last 7 (??) years. And here she is, teaching your son at cello camp. It all came circled so beautifully and made me realize what a small world it is (for me). Amy is a great teacher and you’re a great mom.

  9. dl
    dl says:

    Your son is the cutest thing ever! I love his scruffy mop of hair and toothless grin. I love, too, that you allow him the flexibility to be creative. Whether he sticks with cello or not, I’m sure he’ll always remember this special vacation with his mom.

    My sons are engineers and they relayed descriptions of their Asian classmates similar to yours. According to them, Asians generally excelled in books and classes, yet were not as good in thinking for themselves and outside the box. The smartest people, whether artistic, musical, scientific, or whatever, are those who can think creatively, who know no limitations and do not accept the words “it can’t be done” or “we never did it this way before.”

  10. Diana
    Diana says:

    Your son is adorable, I mean REALLY!
    You are right you have a lot of stereotypes peppered in the post and my gut tells me you’ll get a lot of mail from those who are perpetually offended by anything that slightly resembles politically incorrect.
    In so many ways it seems you are homeschooling your children. Why not go all the way, pull them out of public school? They would likely benefit far greater from that, and I know there are clubs and such locally that they can join to make up for the social aspect of school that always seems to be the big objection to home schooling. Just a thought.
    You two look happy and I am so glad!

  11. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    My daughter always wanted to be a fiddler. So we got her a fiddle teacher, one of the best in the country, as well as a violin teacher, because we wanted her to have structure. Recently she decided she needed Ottawa Valley Step Dance (to go with the fiddling, like matching shoes for the outfit!). So now she has three practices to do every day. She also performs at a pub once a week as part of an Irish band.

    She’s 13.

    Sometimes she sighs and says she has no idea what she wants to do when she grows up. I tell her it doesn’t matter. She’s already steering her own ship. That’s what matters.

    This is what it’s about – taking charge of yourself. School teaches kids to be passive.

  12. dl
    dl says:

    PS. Have you always gone so el-natural in the makeup department? Or are you becoming Midwesternized? You look stunningly, naturally beautiful!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I”m actually a total nut about what I look like in photos on the blog. And I’m constantly worried that I don’t have the right clothes on or the right makeup. I am very bad with clothes. If I want to look good, I have to have someone else put my outfit together. So photos of me in everyday life make me nervous.

      What’s funny, though, is that this post was really hard for me to write. I don’t write about this topic a lot, and it’s way outside of my expertise, and it took me a few days to write it so that I didn’t have both homeschoolers and Asians ready to kill me. And by the time I was done writing it, I totally forgot to worry about that I had no makeup on for the photos.

      Maybe this post is me learning to relax a bit about the photos. Thanks for pointing it out,


      • Fred
        Fred says:

        This is an inspiring post. My wife (and I, too, actually) home school our twin boys. What an adventure! We’re learning at the same time they are. My wife has become nearly fluent in Spanish while teaching them with the help of Rosetta Stone. They are energized by learning in a way that many kids in school just aren’t. We get to see them pursue their passions. We get interested in what they’re interested in. Our kids are going into second grade. They already know about the US Revolution, the civil war, slavery, discrimination, the web, and more… They get to read multiple perspectives, understand that everyone has bias (even their parents!) and they are encouraged to really THINK and UNDERSTAND what they are being taught, not just blindly accept it.

        “Home schooling” is such a loaded, outdated term. Sounds as though we don’t own two cars and take our kids all over creation for their learning. We visited Guatemala with them last Fall. Totally awesome to watch them take in the culture, understand how other people in the world live, eat Spanish food, etc. And since the “structured” part of school is over at about noon every day, the rest of the day is opened up for bigger learning, serving others, or just playing with friends. And when they’re older, that time might just go into getting a head start on their very own business.

        I can all but guarantee our Generation Z kids will have an entrepreneurial, “I can do it” bent on life that will help them go far, no matter where their passions take them. So if you’re competing with them, beware. Home schooling is, in itself, an entrepreneurial endeavor. Generation Z may just become America’s most innovative.

      • Lori
        Lori says:

        agree agree re: “homeschooling” being a loaded and, if not outdated, at least a term whose definition hasn’t kept up with people’s understanding of what it means.

        “I’m convinced that the biggest impact Generation Z will have on the workplace is in their schooling. They will be lifelong, self-learners, who take more personal responsibility for their ongoing education than any generation in history.”

        this is confusing to me. my sons are homeschooled and they meet this definition. but their publicly schooled friends do not. maybe it is our area and our local school, but they are bored, hate school, “hate to read”, equate “learning” and “educational” with doom, etc.

        i ran a program for several years where i had daily contact with public school kids, and to generalize, they simply wanted to be told what was required of them so they could do it as quickly as possible and get it over with.

  13. Heather
    Heather says:

    Excellent post! I completely agree, and you made me feel better about my crazy unconventional ways, as I’m an electrical engineer by schooling, I’m in statistics and process management in the financial industry by work, but I’m constantly looking for the new thing and learning something new. I get bored doing the same thing day in/day out. I’ll work on learning piano, yoga, fitness, macrobiotics, whatever has me turned on at that moment. I’m definitely not in the Gen Z that you talk about as I’m recently turned 40. But it’s how I was brought up. My favorite teacher in high school was trying to teach us that school was not about the grades, but about what did we learn about life and ourselves. I think I’m the only one that got it.

  14. Andrea Downing
    Andrea Downing says:

    Such a good life lesson – this post is inspiring!

    Reminds me of my own struggles with learning to play the piano growing up. I am slightly dislexic and always struggled with reading music which made my eyes hurt. It never occured to me (or my teacher) to try learning in different ways.

    It wasn’t until adulthood that I learned how to experiment and improvise on the piano to make playing enjoyable and creative, rather than seeing it as a chore. This translates to so many things in life. The willingness to unlearn is equally as important for growth!

  15. Irving Podolsky
    Irving Podolsky says:

    Gonna keep it short this time. No “Add’s.” Just a comment.

    This post was so informative, along with your links, that I spent over an hour delving into the subject. There were only six comments when I first arrived. Now look where I am I!


  16. Samantha
    Samantha says:

    Another great post, and super-great photos. Your sons are ADORABLE. P, you’re a great Mom!

  17. Lynn
    Lynn says:

    I’m a teacher and I LOVED this post. I’m a huge beiever in project based and independnt learning. Unfortunately for my students, I don’t always plan for question such as “how long does it have to be”, “what size font”, “what do you want”. I have to train my students that I am their guide through this learning process and that they are free to create whatever they want within my broad guidelines.

  18. Veronica Sawyer
    Veronica Sawyer says:

    I can’t help wondering: Why are the students mostly Asian but the teachers in training are mostly white?

    I know this one! Generally the strongest musicians go into performance, not teaching. And, at the risk of stereotyping, the skills you mention Asian students having are better suited to performance than teaching.

  19. rb
    rb says:

    Is it shallow of me to gloss over the content and only focus on the photos? I can’t help it. Your son is adorable!

  20. Gwen Nicodemus
    Gwen Nicodemus says:

    That lady that said you’re close to homeschooling, why not go all out? I agree with her. But then, I homeschool my kids.

    And, I mostly agree with your take on gen Z and learning–frequently using your posts and links to show my husband, friends, or fellow homeschoolers that I’m not the only person that thinks that way.

    There’s a potential problem. I try my best to make learning fun, but I also think it should be fun naturally. This summer we’re doing a middle ages unit study, and we’re all having lots of fun. (I’m learning so much. I hope the kids are too. :-)

    My kids, husband, and I are all taking piano lessons. One of the kids protests piano lessons and I am forcing them on her. We gave her an end point though. Since she doesn’t like it, she’ll never be a Mozart, but she needs to learn enough to have that basic music education. I think a person should be able to pick up some music and be able to get a sense of what the rhythm and melody are.

    I hate that I have to push some topics (reading for my son, math for my daughter).

  21. chris Keller
    chris Keller says:

    And further, with respect to early dedication and mastery, such as the track your son is on, you are more likely to appreciate how much you can accomplish, how much you have within you. You are less likely to become a drifter–or, in the case of some adolescents, to drop out and become aimless, or worse, rebellious. You will know how to be passionate about pursuing a goal, learning something new to get yourself to the next level. Lifelong learning is being curious and passionate in your desire to know and do. There is a natural discipline that you develop, natural routines that evolve . . .

  22. chris Keller
    chris Keller says:

    You wisely do not mention competitiveness in this equation. I agree. This is a pact you have with yourself–to be a lifelong learner and to develop and pursue goals. It is a matter of personal best–no need to match yourself against any other.

    • thatgirl
      thatgirl says:

      such a good point! i always thought that my failure to develop a wholly competitive atitude was indicative of failure growing up; we had that need marketed to us, and one couldn’t help but constantly compare oneself with others, which really doesn’t serve, in the long run.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Drat. I updated the link. Thanks for catching it. And, I like knowing that people are clicking those YouTube links. So much of YouTube feels part of lifelong learning to me. We use cello videos all the time — both for inspiration and also to figure out bowing patterns if I don’t know them.

      Also, sidenote. When I was talking with Lisa Nielsen about lifelong learning, she pointed out how valuable YouTube is in terms of making traditional school unnecessary. And she sent me this link, which made me want to homeschool my kids:


      • Mark W.
        Mark W. says:

        I think you’ll like this link ( ) on the future of eLearning as it reaffirms both your feeling and Lisa’s point about the value of YouTube (audio/visual) for lifelong learning. At the 8 minute mark on the video, the speaker explains how text is no longer an effective means of learning transfer in the audio/visual digital world of today. Text is efficient but not effective. Also at the 15′ 20″ mark, the speaker begins discussion on something she labels as iLearn where the student organizes and carries with them educational content from institution to institution and the learning platform is chosen and customized by the student instead of the instructor and institution. Also mentioned is text transcripts to go along with audio/visual content.

  23. Tatiana
    Tatiana says:

    I’m kinda stuck on the fact that your son is an EFJ. As an INTJ, I experience a lot of angst about being unwilling (or unable) socialize properly with a large group of people. I’d rather play with my ipod. Or look at pictures of Batman on Google images.

    Being an introvert has caused me a great deal of frustration – but I have read several books on the preference for extraverts. So I guess that’s why!

    I loved this post because now I struggle with learning on my own and going back to school. I realized that I miss talking to people about film and I want to learn more about it. Study it. Examine it. But there aren’t any meet-ups around me for film and it seems pretty extravagant to go to school just so that I can meet people. But a huge part of me loves institutionalized learning because I have a hard time creating structure for myself. It’s very easy for me to fall off track without a set schedule. And school provides structure.

    So I’m still debating on the best course of action for myself.

    great post! :D

  24. Melinda
    Melinda says:

    Penelope, this is one of the best posts you’ve ever written. I’m often tremendously uncomfortable with the things you reveal about your personal life (and how you reveal them) and sometimes I fear for your sanity. But post like this one are what keep me coming back. It is exactly the right mix for me of teaching me something, made real by your experience, and yet universal enough for all to benefit from. Congratulations.

  25. Jim C.
    Jim C. says:

    First, I have to say that I hate that use of the word “Asian.” Starting about 15 years ago, Political Correctness suddenly decreed that being “Asian” was all about epicanthic folds. Indians, Iranians, Arabs, Armenians, Israelis, Georgians, Turks? They were from Asia, but they weren’t “Asians” any more. (And yet, in Britain, “Asian” generally means someone from the Subcontinent — Indian or Pakistani. Oh well.)

    You make an interesting point about East Asians, though. It’s in their cultures. They are brought up to follow the rules. That makes for great mathematicians, engineers, and musicians, but it makes it hard to climb the ladder in an American company.
    Twenty years ago, in another life, I managed a group of scientists and technicians. One was Vietnamese. She is extremely intelligent and a great scientist, and yet she had trouble getting along with woman co-workers and had trouble getting promoted. It wasn’t her fault. She just wasn’t plugged into the illogical intricacies of female office politics in America. And she ate lunch with her husband (another brilliant scientist) every day, so she seldom socialized with other people at her level (except with him).
    I helped her as much as I could. (She was an absolute jewel of a chemist.) She still found a job at another company after a few years. I think it was a job where she didn’t have to socialize so much.

    • Amy Parmenter
      Amy Parmenter says:

      I don’t know where I read this, but apparently China and/or other Asian countries have been recruiting young Americans for work/business because they can think more creatively.

      Amy Parmenter
      The ParmFarm

    • PFJ
      PFJ says:

      Jim C is right about the “Asians” — that is, Chinese and Japanese and Koreans, are who I’m thinking about right now — the culture causes immense pressure.

      I remember having a Japanese girl, college age, as a summer guest. There was a group of them, all learning English. She was astounded and thrilled at the freedom in the U.S. And we compared sayings and aphorisms.

      In the U.S. we say, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

      In Japan they say, “The nail that sticks out gets pounded down.”

      And look at how the communities, and in fact citizens from the whole country of Japan, came together after that tremendous earthquake and tsunami. Very orderly, lots of aid arriving (except in the worst-hit places).

      Very different cultures indeed.

  26. Marsha Keeffer
    Marsha Keeffer says:

    Your blog posts have more depth and impact with the photos you’re adding – excellent.

    Two things I think are important for lifelong learning – a love of reading and a sense of curiosity. The writing career of the great children’s writer Milton Meltzer spanned queens, potatoes, witches and revolutionaries – a good example of curiosity.

    Learning an instrument = discipline, so I think your son is learning that as well.

    When he’s 80 he’ll still remember how his mom made the 4 hr. drive back and forth to take him to a gifted music professor – the lasting lesson is love.

  27. Kyna M.
    Kyna M. says:

    Thank you for the link to Myers-Briggs testing for kids. When my son (now 4) was 2, I decided he was undoubtedly an ENFP “champion.” Otherwise why would he be so full of praise and compliments – at that age? The test indicates ENP; I’m curious to see if my husband gets the same results. My son and I have a lot in common (I’m an INFJ), but I have much to learn from his natural expertise in optimism, persuasion and sociability. Would you say your son is in your network of experts?

  28. Eirini H
    Eirini H says:

    Penelope,I love your posts,your insights,your pictures,your attitude to life,your links,your honesty,your authenticity,everything about you.But summer is vacation time,a break from schooling of any kind.You know the analogy:if a cord is too highly strung,instead of producing beautiful music,it breaks.Of course,I am not entitled to tell any parent(not to mention a great parent like you)how to raise their kids,but in my humble opinion summer is supposed to be all about relaxing,playing and having as much time to yourself as possible when you are a kid.Learning is great,but not if it’s at the expense of depriving a kid of his summer.I have four sons too,I know what it’s like to worry about their future and all,but I do believe playing computer games to their hearts content in summer(when hey are not allowed this luxury during the school year)is a more appropriate way for them to spend their vacation than attending lessons.

    • thatgirl
      thatgirl says:

      i can hardly believe that encouraging learning in one’s child over the summer months, away from conventional school, comprises “robbing them of their summer”–particularly, as in this case, P’s son is concentrating said learning to his cello playing, not running off to a classroom/book learning environment. tell us how this is somehow damaging to him, please.

      by not adhering to the long-outdated agrarian calendar approach to schooling (save for those families who need their progeny to help on the farm!), we’re breaking children of the boom/bust pattern of learning most of us experienced, in that learning is a habit practiced throughout life, in a season-free approach. ask any teacher what time of the year is often most challenging, in terms of reaching students: it’s september–a time when children have to “unlearn” different sleeping, eating, and activity patterns in order to sit and pay attention in school. do you really think a summer full of video game playing helps your children? sounds like they’ll learn little more than a preference for dark, airconditioned spaces and physiological inactivity. that seems a complete waste of the time when children are at one of the most influential times of their lives, vis a vis learning.

  29. CS
    CS says:

    These cello camp pictures are too cute! I love your son’s gap-toothed grin. I also love the tall, skinny, serious-looking blonde kid sitting behind him who is wearing the short blue shorts and the knee high socks!

  30. Jason K
    Jason K says:

    I think about this topic every time I hear how the US lags behind in math and science education and the impact it will have in the future. It seems to me, entrepreneurial drive and lifelong learning are more critical to success than standardized test scores.

  31. Twister
    Twister says:

    I agree with an above poster, I think you look great with out makeup.

    Also, while we are judging things based on appearance, your kid is such a little cutie!

  32. Amy
    Amy says:

    I love posts that mention my hometown of Darlington. Odds are that the Farmer is a relative of mine.

  33. Brooke Farmer
    Brooke Farmer says:

    I loved the links to both the TED speech and the children’s Myers-Briggs. Thank you!

    Lifelong learning is one thing I dedicated myself to many years ago. Unlearning is harder for me because I’m bullheaded.

  34. Leonie
    Leonie says:

    the pictures of you and your son are wonderful. I love the connection between the two of you. Thank you for sharing.

  35. Denys Yeo
    Denys Yeo says:

    “how do we get this lifelong learning bug now?”; Many people reading this blog will already have it, and if not there is some good advice here on how to “catch” it.

  36. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I’m thinking the greatest impact and asset Generation Z will bring to the workplace will be the ability to easily and effectively work in a global environment. They are being raised in a world where every country is ever more interdependent on the other. And news and opinions of various situations is easily accessible and discussed on the Internet and other media sources … and they’re getting these multiple stories and perspectives from an early age. So one of the most important skills they will need to develop is critical thinking.
    Education programs in public schools are often criticized to a great extent. Homeschooling is many times offered as the answer. I wonder if it really has to be one or the other. Why not work to improve public education and provide some schooling to children at home also? That is to say, be a more involved parent in the education of a child rather than totally leave it to the public education system.
    A link of quotes on education I really liked after doing some of my own research after reading this blog post – .

  37. victoria
    victoria says:

    You’re not the only one peppering Asian stereotypes throughout. Growing up Asian in a predominantly Asian community (Silicon Valley), I’ve come across lots of Asians who assume their stereotypical upbringing coincided with all Asians.

    Unlike them, my Vietnamese dad was always jumping from one start-up to another, changing careers in totally unrelated fields at least a dozen times, prided himself on being a war protester, societal rule-breaker, and had plenty of loud swearing friends of all ethnicities. We played in the streets unsupervised as kids, never had tutoring or music lessons, and made our own decisions on what we wanted to do with our lives. We grew up to be creative adults with outspoken personalities, opinions, passion, and drive. Every culture has its non-conformists, some more than others.

    I befriended a lot of other Asian kids with similar hands-off parents. There are plenty out there, they just don’t get the kind of press coverage the Tiger Mom gets. It’s unfortunate the Tiger Mom hoopla has reinforced the Asian stereotype from the Tiger Mom herself, Asians who relate and think it applies to all Asians, and non-Asians who have witnessed her in action and make sweeping generalizations.

    • Jim C.
      Jim C. says:

      I should clarify that the scientist I mentioned was not an Asian-descended American who grew up in the United States. She and her husband both grew up in Vietnam and got their degrees in Japan before moving to this country.
      They had the full dose of Far-East culture and upbringing.

  38. lestamore
    lestamore says:

    I like reading this blog because of a few things. 1) It is obvious that you care about it and so I feel a sense of intimacy in that even though we are strangers, on a certain level, we do care about at least one part of each others lives… this blog. 2) Sometimes you seem so much less equipped to handle life than me,(you have so much to lose!) and sometimes you seem to do so much of a better job at it. This gives me hope that I will be ok after all. 3) You say such interesting relevant things about the world. You may be my hero a bit. Also, I am very pleased with my book, even though I have no career.

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