Setting Your Child Up For Success – Reflections From The Path

A couple months ago, I happened across a newspaper section I had been so touched by that I saved it. It was from June 2002.

The story featured a Hispanic middle-income family from New Mexico who had 5 children, 3 sons and 2 daughters, all of whom graduated with honors from Harvard. They are the family of Ray and Rosario Chavez.

I found it so  fascinating for a number of reasons, starting with:  their parents both came from pretty simple beginnings. Their mother was the daughter of immigrants and did not even speak English until she went to school, and then became a court transcriber. Their father was a technical illustrator. Both parents were just high school graduates, but had a strong commitment to the belief that education could make life better and made it a priority for all their kids. They did this by always only having one car (their father biked 5 miles to work for a couple years to help make it happen), eating a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, getting loans, scholarships and after-school jobs, as well as doing things like their mother taking $10,000 from her retirement account to buy a Steinway baby grand piano. They also refinanced their home six times to help pay for prep school and college for all their children.

In the article they also shared some of their suggestions for helping to keep your kids focused on the value of learning:

1- Restrict television (I would update this to add cell phone, game systems and computer usage that is non-educational). They had two exceptions at that time, 6o Minutes and Star Trek. They also created an environment at home that cultivated learning, such as getting the piano, teaching all of their children to read before they started school, buying books and encyclopedias with any extra money they had, and spending time with their children teaching, tutoring, encouraging and coaching them.

2- Playing classical music and reading to them. They played the classics in their home when their children were toddlers and each child learned to play at least one instrument (they also had violins and classical guitars). They also read to them until the children began reading to themselves.

3- Give your kids a head start. This was done through teaching them math, geography and music (via books and a borrowed computer from their dad’s work), taking them to the head of their class when they did start school and then they stayed there.

4- You have to be willing to sacrifice. They had a strong commitment to getting their kids into the best schools and would do it by paying whatever costs were not covered by scholarships. They had read about other parents whose kids were accepted to good schools but were told by their parents that they could not go, because they could not afford it. The Chavezes simply decided what was important to them and adjusted accordingly, which may mean things like no spiffy cars, fancy vacations and the latest gadgets.

I would also add that it is important to be on the lookout for what your child’s interests, gifts and talents are and supporting them. If it is drawing, get them supplies, get them in classes, take them to art shows, introduce them to artists, etc. If it is music, buy them an instrument or two, put them in classes that they enjoy, take them to concerts they are interested in, take them to local shows, introduce them to musicians, etc. If they like to build things, get them the materials and guidance to do that, help them or introduce them to someone who can. And no matter what their interests and abilities are, encourage them and love them along the way.

(This post was based upon the original article in Parade Magazine, “An American Success Story”, by Michael Ryan, June 30, 2002. I was unable to find it available online to refer to but found a couple other places that include parts of the article here and here.)

Wishing you the best in your parenting adventure and creating a happy, healthy child and family.

Blessings to you and thank you for all the loving parenting you do; it makes a better world, one Sweetie at a time.

Hug attached,

Koolma  : )

 Do you have any other nuggets of wisdom that you have used or witnessed that help to cultivate a happy, healthy child and person?  Have you read or run across any books, blogs or articles that have really great suggestions as well?

We’d love to hear from you, so please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section so we can help each other; remember, we are all in this together!

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