This is the second portion of a two-part post exploring the creative education of Isabella Taylor, a 10-year old poet, artist, and fashion designer. In this installment, Isabella’s parents, Sherri and Cesar Taylor, talk about raising and educating their daughter. To read my interview with Isabella, click here. To learn more about Isabella in her own words, check out her blog and her fashion design website. And now, with further adieu, welcome Sherri and Cesar!
Isabella has intense interests and talents. Can you talk a little about this?
Isabella had expressed an interest in painting from a very early age. She has always been fascinated with color and pattern. When she was only three she began to paint. Over the years, we have tried to provide her with opportunities to explore her desire to create things. She expressed an interest to design clothing and we signed her up for a sewing camp. We have been providing opportunities in her areas of interest.
Why do you homeschool? What are the advantages and disadvantages, particular to Isabella’s needs?
We decided to homeschool Isabella to meet her educational needs and allow time for her creative endeavors. It has always been our opinion that school is about learning and learning is fun, but somewhere along the way it became apparent this was not happening. She began to lose interest in reading and not enjoy school. We found the best way for us to provide a more captivating education was to homeschool her. This way we could provide higher academic content in a shorter time period freeing up her schedule to pursue her creative interests.
Early on we read Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness by Edward Hallowell which had a profound effect on us. We learned that adult happiness is a skill learned during childhood. By homeschooling, we are trying to provide more opportunities for this discovery process that will keep her in a state of “flow.”
The advantages of homeschooling for us are numerous. The disadvantage of homeschooling is that it is very resource intensive for us as a family. Her education is more than a full time job for us, although a very rewarding one!
I know you travel a lot – all over the world. How do these experiences add to Isabella’s education?
Learning experientially is clearly more effective for Isabella. Beyond learning about history, we believe learning about cultures on a first-hand basis teaches you that your reality or circumstances are only microcosm of a larger universe. She has learned that there are other ways and other people with other points of view.
Your daughter is talented in many avenues. How have you known what opportunities to offer Isabella? In other words, how have you known what talents to nurture?
Early on our philosophy was to expose her to a wide variety of activities. She chose some and abandoned others. Isabella let us know what her interests were and she pursued them in depth. Harp lessons lasted 3 months, yet piano and violin lessons continue today. Painting, designing clothes and writing poetry are her real passions. She has a real deep burning need to make things, and we try to nurture this.
Isabella has been featured in art shows, she has published many of her writings in professional publications, and she is now preparing to release a fashion line. These are all very “adult” activities. Can you talk about the benefits of providing these types of opportunities?
These activities progressed into serious endeavors, as she became more proficient in them. We don’t think of them as adult activities, we simply try to instill in her that she can do anything and everything she sets her mind to.
Talk about your various roles as parent/teacher/mentor/manager.
The parents in us are the ones that have to get her up and make sure she goes to bed on time. She doesn’t need much nagging. We are not so much teachers but tutors. We find ourselves helping her with understanding material that is she is studying. We mentor her in life skills such as honesty, dedication and pursuing her dreams. We don’t think of ourselves as managers, but we try to make sure her well- being is protected.
Talk about your use of technology and social media, etc. in Isabella’s education.
Isabella uses a variety of educational technology – online courses, blogging, and facebook. Social media has provided educational experiences for her through comments received from other artists and poets. She is able to get insight into her work and continue to progress that way. Through her online classes she has been able to connect with like minded kids as well. There is such a wealth of material out there.
You are raising and educating a child with extraordinary gifts; what have you learned in your experiences that could useful to all kids, no matter their interests or abilities?
Yes, Isabella is gifted. We have believed in her and supported her, and we try to instill in her that same belief in herself. Sadly, we feel that this is not the case for all children. This belief and support is far more important than innate talent or educational opportunities.
What would you like to see change about the public school system? And, what would the public school system have to look like in order for children like Isabella to have their needs met there?
Isabella has not been part of the public school system but we have – and the public school system worked for us, just as homeschooling is working for Isabella. I think it is a matter of personal preference. However, it is our opinion that public education should focus on retention of outstanding teachers and incentives for such individuals should be made possible. Testing should be de-emphasized. Gifted children can be easily lost in systems where they are not identified. Their needs are different. They may be misconstrued as underachievers if they are bored. We would love to see more emphasis on learning and less on testing. We also feel that class size is an issue in today’s public schools.