The growing gap between rich and poor parenting

by MooshiMooshi

This article, on the widening gap in childrearing practices between the upper classes and the lower classes, seems right up Totebag territory. I couldn’t resist.

Most interesting to me was this passage.

Less-educated parents, and poorer and black and Latino parents are more likely to believe that there is no such thing as too much involvement in a child’s education. Parents who are white, wealthy or college-educated say too much involvement can be bad.

Interesting, because while parents may say they value either greater or lesser involvement, their behavior is the opposite. Upper class and upper middle class parents are very interventionist, bringing in tutors, therapists, special ed advocates at the first signs of any trouble – and hold the school administrator’s and teacher’s feet to the fire. Conversely, my college students, who are mainly from lower class circumstances, find the idea of parents knowing ANYTHING about their education to be strange. Many of them have non-English speaking parents from cultures that defer completely to the school authorities.

I do think, however, that the lip service we give to independence for our kids is a completely white, WASP-y ideal. My friends who are Hispanic or Asian largely do not share this ideal, and in fact, even my husband’s white-but-ethnic family does not share this ideal at all.

Here is the link. Total Totebag Fodder.

Class Differences in Child-Rearing Are on the Rise

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177 thoughts on “The growing gap between rich and poor parenting

  1. The article, and the underlying research, don’t do that great of a job at presenting their hypothesis. (As an aside, I’m getting annoyed at the habit of newspaper articles that have a headline claim one thing–the childrearing class gap is widening–but the author makes no attempt to show a widening, just a series of differences in survey responses without showing any trend.) Also, this type of reporter is content to simply try to let the embedded hyperlinks prove her point, without actually writing any evidence of what she is claiming.

    Digging briefly into the linked paper, you’ll find that some childrearing characteristics are diverging, while others are converging. One could just as easily draw the opposite conclusion.

    But this part was interesting:

    First, the income achievement gap (defined here as the average achievement difference between a child from a family at the 90th percentile of the family income distribution and a child from a family at the 10th percentile) is now nearly twice as large as the black-white achievement gap. Fifty years ago, in contrast, the black-white gap was one and a half to two times as large as the income gap.

  2. There is another Totebaggy article in the Times on the West Windsor schools in NJ, which are now majority Asian. White parents have pushed to reduce the competitiveness of the schools, which have eliminated midterms and finals and auditions for the orchestra in response.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/26/nyregion/reforms-to-ease-students-stress-divide-a-new-jersey-school-district.html

    My view:
    (1) If you want an no-audition orchestra, start one, but don’t eliminate the competitive program.
    (2) If you’re worried your kids can’t compete against the others for college admissions, work with the counsellors to make sure colleges recognize this is the Stuyvesant of New Jersey (and the students and parents, to manage their performance expectations).

    Of course, these reforms may succeed in their goal, which is driving Tiger parents out of the district.

  3. From the Pew link, more interesting than surveying parents about their worries about violence and teen pregnancy would be to look at the number of kids beaten up/pregnant by income or socioeconomic status.Worrying about guns is probably inversely linked to the probability of being accidentally shot.

    There are things that mothers of one child worry about that I, as a mother of 4, simply do not. I also question the accuracy of the data. If only 8% of parents with post-graduate degrees sometimes spank their children, we and our friends are anomalous. I rather suspect that the people taking the survey, like me, do not wish to share their actual parenting practices with complete strangers.

    When I was home with three little boys, especially when Mr WCE traveled, I thought that child psychologists and others who make childrearing recommendations or set norms for CPS should be obliged to do live-in internships where they help single parents who are managing at least 3 infants/toddlers/preschoolers. It would broaden their horizons…

  4. “Do all parents want the most success for their children? Absolutely,” she said. “

    Is that so? We’ve discussed before that many working, middle and upper middle class parents want to their children to experience the same level of success as their parents.

  5. Sky, I know of the challenges that my cousin faced with her disabled daughter who died last summer and know that many children have challenges that cannot be overcome.

    But when I read articles from The NY Times, I’m confused about what a “special needs” child is to some parents. In some cases, it seems like “special needs” is defined more by “whether a child has parents who can help them access occupational therapy for their in-the-range-of-statistically-normal weaknesses” than it is by the objective characteristics of the child.

    Locally, money is scarce enough that I agree that children classified with special needs have special needs.

  6. WCE – Re: corporal punishment, another problem is in the structure of the question and whom they’re asking. When they ask parents of middle- and high-schoolers, or of infants, one wouldn’t expect many to report “using spanking sometimes or frequently.” On the other hand:

    About 94 percent of parents of children ages three to four in the United States report having spanked their children in the previous year.

    So the numbers are all over the lot.

    http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=attitudes-toward-spanking

    And from a Washington Post article that came up on my search, we find:

    Millennials – the most recent generation to have been children – aren’t leading any attitudes change on the issue of spanking, in contrast to gay marriage and marijuana. If anything, they are slightly more supportive than their elders.

    Also, from the same article, Jews and New Englanders are the most likely to oppose it.

  7. The West Windsor article reminded me of a suggestion bounced around the Totebag for a while:

    The conundrum between being top of the class in a mediocre/middle range school, or middle to bottom of a class in a excellent/good school.

    The Asians seemingly want their kid to be the top of a top school, while the white parents almost want the top in a mid-range school. Or the whites want their top school to be more “everyone gets a trophy” while still being a top school district. I don’t see how that can be. Unless they have competitive extra curricular activities and intramural versions of the same activities. That doubles the money the school has to shell out for activities.

  8. WCE, I was thinking of a juvenile offender I dealt with once whose IQ was 67, due to fetal alcohol syndrome.

    Trying to get him to understand that he shouldn’t hit the other kids and take their bikes when he wanted a bike was really difficult. I have no idea whether he was representative of people in that range, but I thought parenting him must have been incredibly difficult.

  9. I saw that article about the gap between the Asian and white parents. Personally I am with the Asian parents. They may want their kids to actually learn the skills to suceed in college.

  10. We live in an Asian friendly Totebaggy area. Our son looks to be the 30th best violinist in his graduating high school class, even though he made the accelerated orchestra as a 7th grader and has 3 years of lessons. These numbers are similar for accelerated math, language arts etc. This big fish in a big pond dynamic is what we are ready to parent around.

  11. Ah, yes, Sky. My mom worked 1:1 with a similar student one summer for her graduate work as a reading specialist. My mom’s description is “She’s trouble” and a decade or so later, she was imprisoned for murdering her mother.

    Milo, good point on age of child regarding spanking.

    I don’t know if the person creating this chart did a good job on his statistics, but I think single parenthood is probably the dominant measurable variable in any analysis of child outcomes. Good research should control for single parenthood when looking at effects due to race or income.

    from on-the-relationship-between-school-suspensions-race-single-motherhood-and-more at the same blog.

    I agree with the article’s point on after-school program quality. The people who are available to work for minimum wage after school vary by community. I think some kids (one of mine in particular) need low ratios in preschool to develop good social skills. Preschools and after school programs that are fine for the average child are not fine for children in the most volatile decile. I could identify the “volatile” children in infant/toddler Sunday School, so it’s not solely parenting.

  12. They may want their kids to actually learn the skills to suceed in college.

    Is that the primary problem with your students? Or, is it more a lack of ability, motivation and interest in college?

  13. Sigh. I do like the big fish in a small pond theory for my kids, but OTOH if we go that route, it will mean reduced choice for activities, longer commute, etc.

  14. “30th best violinist in his graduating high school class,”

    Which leads to the questions… how many violinists are in the graduating class and how big is this class?

    And accelerated orchestra… is this like AP orchestra? Do they get college credits or fast track to Julliard? I know I sound incredulous, but I’m seriously asking. I never entertained the notion of an accelerated orchestra, or having enough students interested in orchestra to warrant a JV and Varsity team. First/second chair – yes. Just not enough students to divide the way “accelerated” implies.

  15. Where my Dad is from, I don’t know that anyone played the violin. The government sent out a string quartet as part of a National Endowment for the Humanities program and the quartet was shocked to have an audience of ~100 people come to the school gym in a town of 300 people. (A few people came from other towns.) As one audience member commented, “I’ve never heard of Beethoven, but we try to support whatever goes on in the community.”

  16. My DD did not want to do orchestra because she worried she would have to wear a dress for performance. But then she realized that all the Japanese kids do orchestra – that has been her preferred crowd for the last year or so. And she didn’t even have to wear a dress – a white blouse and black pants were fine.

  17. Rhett, the problem is that non-AP track kids largely come out of high school ill prepared for college. And remedial ed costs money. Yes, it could be motivation, and it could be terribly low standards. Most of the kids I deal with are not ready for college, even those from decent suburban districts and Catholic schools. I have access to their transcripts, and there is nothing that would tell you that they would not be ready. They are largely B students that took non-AP, but supposedly college track courses. Personally, I think a kid with a B average from high school should be able to at least write in some comprehensible way, and should have enough vocabulary to parse a textbook.

    Here is yet another related article.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/27/us/as-graduation-rates-rise-experts-fear-standards-have-fallen.html?hpw&rref=education&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well

  18. Personally, I think a kid with a B average from high school should be able to at least write in some comprehensible way, and should have enough vocabulary to parse a textbook.

    If not they should get an F and no diploma?

  19. and should have enough vocabulary to parse a textbook.

    How are their SAT scores? Do they indicate kids unlikely to succeed in college?

  20. My white parents put us in a school with more Asian demographics because they could not stand the “reduce stress, don’t give too much homework or challenge” mentality at the mostly-white suburban high school. At the freshman roundup for instance, they were discouraging 9th graders from taking biology and encouraging “computer skills” class instead. They also had a policy of offering AP classes but telling kids not to sit for the AP exams because it was “too much pressure.” The moment we left that meeting my parents announced I would not be attending that school. My parents also insisted on high-level violin, piano, and orchestra for their kids. So despite living in a smallish Midwestern city, our social circle was mostly Asian.

  21. “If not they should get an F and no diploma?”

    Correct.

    The best way to get out of the credential race, where secretaries need graduate degrees, would be to enforce standards at the lower level.

  22. Milo,

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to route them into a non-academic track at say 10 years old (like the German’s do) vs. forcing them through a HS curriculum where they can’t succeed?

  23. It’s going to be almost impossible to reverse the devaluation of the high school diploma, because no one wants to be the first to start enforcing standards and have a comparatively low graduation rate. Similar with college degrees, etc.

  24. I have several close friends from HS that are Asian. The reason is that a large portion of my HS was Asian kids from all over NYC. A standardized test like the SAT was required for admission. No essay. A few of my closest friends in my neighborhood are Indian. I met them through the PTA, and my immediate community.

    I find that I’m the exception among the adults. The kids mix, but the parents are split along old fashioned racial or religious backgrounds. My DH noticed this after a recent winter concert. It was so warm that at least 1/3 of the grade went to the local yogurt place. He noticed that even though the concert was noticeably filled with a diverse grade, the yogurt place was almost all white.

    The opposite stats were visible in the list of kids that were accepted into accelerated math. 6th grade is the first time that there is tracking, and it is only for math until 8th grade. In our grade, it was 75% Asian or Indian kids.

    The guy that cuts my hair is from Japan and his daughter is in a neighboring district. We’re friendly and we recently discussed why he thinks this happens because he sees it in his town too. He asked me what my daughter does on weekends. Her weekends are generally sports and friends. Hebrew school does not include any academic instruction. He said that his daughter is in school an additional 10 hours per week. This is one full day on the weekend and after school. He said that many of his neighbors are sending their kids to Japanese, Chinese or Indian schools too. For cultural enrichment AND academic.

    He arrived in US as a 20 year old. He owns his own business, and he loves what he does. He just thinks that too many American children spend a lot of time on sports vs academics.

  25. I have several close friends from HS that are Asian. The reason is that a large portion of my HS was Asian kids from all over NYC. A standardized test like the SAT was required for admission. No essay. A few of my closest friends in my neighborhood are Indian. I met them through the PTA, and my immediate community.

    I find that I’m the exception among the adults. The kids mix, but the parents are split along old fashioned racial or religious backgrounds. My DH noticed this after a recent winter concert. It was so warm that at least 1/3 of the grade went to the local yogurt place. He noticed that even though the concert was noticeably filled with a diverse grade, the yogurt place was almost all white.

    The opposite stats were visible in the list of kids that were accepted into accelerated math. 6th grade is the first time that there is tracking, and it is only for math until 8th grade. In our grade, it was 75% Asian or Indian kids.

    The guy that cuts my hair is from Japan and his daughter is in a neighboring district. We’re friendly and we recently discussed why he thinks this happens because he sees it in his town too. He asked me what my daughter does on weekends. Her weekends are generally sports and friends. Hebrew school does not include any academic instruction. He said that his daughter is in school an additional 10 hours per week. This is one full day on the weekend and after school. He said that many of his neighbors are sending their kids to Japanese, Chinese or Indian schools too. For cultural enrichment AND academic.

    He arrived in US as a 20 year old. He owns his own business, and he loves what he does. He just thinks that too many American children spend a lot of time on sports vs academics.

  26. He just thinks that too many American children spend a lot of time on sports vs academics.

    I tend to agree.

  27. This topic is very interesting to me as we contemplate a move in near future to another part of country from Midwest mostly for our kid. Besides school considerations, we need large city in a warm area- well, at least not as cold as towns around the Great Lakes, with good job prospects, and a good airport.
    Our kid is still young enough that we don’t know if the kid has ability to be in the top percentile anywhere. But, of course, as doting parents, we assume such abilities. DH wants a competitive school while I am hoping for a big fish small pond kind of scenario. From anecdotes from this blog, the competitiveness of kids at top schools sounds draining to me and I am not sure I want my kid to be that stressed out from a young age.

  28. Dell, the towns around the Great Lakes are actually more temperate than the towns in Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas and Nebraska, due to the moderating effects of the lakes. My brother lives near St Louis. It wouldn’t be my first choice due to demographics. I’d pick Minneapolis despite the weather, followed by Kansas City if I cared about weather. The need for a good airport rules out most places.

  29. I went to a very competitive high school and was a solid B student, took only one AP class, never took Calculus (gasp!), and was second to last of the 2nd violins. The largest minority group were Koreans and Indians. I don’t think I stood a chance to compete academically or musically against the top 20% of the class, and my parents didn’t push me to try any harder than I did. That being said, the district networked with colleges and had such a strong relationship with not just in-state schools (public & private), but also the Ivies, that I didn’t need to stress out about getting into college. An admissions counselor I met years after college told me that they knew that a C in Chemistry at one HS was worth an A at another HS. Granted, that was many years ago, but I wonder if at totebag HS that relationship with college admissions counselors still exists?

  30. On the original topic, the idea that Totebag parents pay lip service to independence but don’t actually practice it in daily life the same way as working class parents reminds me of the lip service paid to having a walkable community, with front porches, and natural gathering points. This is something I actually see more often in poorer neighborhoods, where instead of picture-perfect front porches it’s stoops, or just a chair set in the driveway or sidewalk or carport, but people are hanging out and greeting passers-by and stopping for a chat and a drink. In the better-off neighborhoods, even on weekends, there’s dog-walking and jogging mornings and evenings but who has the time to just sit out on the porch all day? We have extra-currics to get to, errands to run, appointments.

    I read a few years back about a study concluding that feminism is another area where lip service and actual actions differ across classes — the upper middle class guys talked a good game but didn’t step up to the plate when it came to actually doing chores, whereas the working class guys sounded like Archie Bunker about who wears the pants at home, but were in fact much more likely to pitch in on everything from cooking to dishes to childcare.

  31. HM, I find the feminism attitudes fascinating. Mr WCE and I planned to have primary and secondary careers, rather than equal ones. For a few couples, equality has worked out but for many couples, professional equality has come before family. On the bright side, though divorce might be more common for those couples, they are often great co-parents. At least a couple divorced families we know have bought houses so that their kids can bike between them.

  32. So income is becoming a more important determinant for children’s achievement levels compared to race, which is becoming less important? And single parenthood may be “the dominant measurable variable in any analysis of child outcomes”? I’m going to make the assumption that income and single parenthood are inversely related, so this all makes sense.

  33. “Wouldn’t it make more sense to route them into a non-academic track at say 10 years old (like the German’s do) vs. forcing them through a HS curriculum where they can’t succeed?”

    You must know that going that route would be politically impossible. It seems that the predominant focus of recent education reform has been to equalize outcomes between races. That being said, New York recently introduced a Pathways to Graduation option that gives more vocational-type options for graduating high school. But it’s interesting they seem to have cloaked it as offering a type of “STEM” education for some students, although it doesn’t seem to prepare students to major in serious computer science in college.

  34. Rio at 12:23, was the school you ultimately attended a private one, or did you move or have school choice of some kind?

  35. “it was 75% Asian or Indian kids”

    I’m guessing you are not referring to Indian as in Native American, so I’m curious as to why you separate Indian from Asian. Is Indian vs other Asian one of the lines along which the parents split?

  36. Rhode,
    We live in avery large district with lots of Asian students who take music and academics very seriously. My son is in chamber orchestra which meets after school and is a cut situation. I find it inspiration to be around people who make family and academics a priority.

  37. But 15 or 16? Sure.

    With rigorous standards they will have been failing on their college prep track for 5 or 6 years before we finally pull the plug?

  38. It would depend on the specifics. I think that, up until about 15 or 16, even the “college prep track” still consists primarily of the type of basic education that we’d want all* citizens to have.

    *”all” might be defined as the 80% nationally that currently graduates high school.

  39. Finn, I didn’t want to lump everyone together because I didn’t know the right way to describe without sweeping in a large part of the globe.

    Also, now that you asked me the question… I realized that the two groups don’t mix much socially in my town. The kids definitely are friends, but I can see through Facebook friends that there are separate parent friends.

  40. Milo,

    Then how would you grade them? Obviously, you wouldn’t want it to come as a surprise when they aren’t tracked toward college.

  41. Rhett – How do they do it in other countries? I would think it would be an easier pill to swallow at 14 vs. 10.

  42. DS1 goes to a large, urban high school. The AP and IB classes are very competitive. He was overwhelmed with the homework for his first two years, but has seemed to find his groove in his Junior year.

    I’ve opted out of the Tiger Mom rat race. Unfortunately, DS hasn’t. He is that kid taking summer classes so he can take more AP classes to boost his GPA. We don’t sign up for extra academics, except for SAT test prep.

  43. “He just thinks that too many American children spend a lot of time on sports vs academics.”

    I agree. Imagine what would happen if you could take the time, parental attention, and money that each family spends on travel sports team and apply it to academics.

  44. Houston, you’d have a lot more people with useless skills in partial differential equations?

    I don’t get the emphasis on higher academic skills. No one has ever asked me to use the academic skills I have. Then again, no one has asked me to use my very-limited athletic skills either. For the group outing last year, the Boy Scout leader organized a canoe trip down the Willamette River and my Chinese colleague fell in the water, apparently trying to get in or out of the canoe. Oops. Maybe canoeing is out for future team building events. He just retired and no one mentioned his memorable faux pas- telling the tech wearing a western shirt that she looked like a “call girl” instead of a “cow girl”.

  45. Imagine what would happen if you could take the time, parental attention, and money that each family spends on travel sports team and apply it to academics.

    What would happen? You hire someone to do job X because they can master skill Y in Z hours. If you push someone harder academically it doesn’t really impact the innate ability for which companies are hiring.

  46. I can’t remember the poster that used to chat with Rhett about what to do with a degree in dance or arts. I just read an article in the FT about a former ballet teacher that is now a visiting artist at the University of Chicago business school. he teaches Graduate students how creative thinking can be used as innovative thinking in the corporate world.

    There are many jobs and careers that so many of these high school students will not be aware of if they don’t receive a fair, and challenging education.

    The ability to create public “privates” in wealthy parts of NYC and other states will continue this cycle. Some lower income kids may benefit if they happen to be in one of these schools, but it will just benefit a slice of the population.

  47. 2:56 is Lauren. This anon thing on my phone is driving me nuts. Even though I use my login, I can’t stay logged in on my cell.

  48. I am split on the sports vs. academics thing. I think kids can learn a lot while playing sports. Individual or team. The EI skills are definitely part of sports. Also, they learn a lot of lessons about strategy, multi tasking and juggling.

  49. In my experience, the parents that are pushing for less academic pressure are perfectly fine with their kids playing 2-3 games a weekend and practicing their sport 2-3 times during the week. There is still stress in the kids’ lives–it’s just stress in a different subject.

    DS has a friend who is a cheerleader and was an honors/AP student. Balancing her sport and academics became too hard when she entered high school, so the parents encouraged her to drop her AP classes to make more time for cheerleading.

    I’m sure Rhett will say that this is the right decision because being a popular cheerleader will pay off in her future career–I’m sure she’ll be successful because she’s a smart, friendly person. I’d hire her in a second. However, this decision boggles my mind.

  50. “Houston, you’d have a lot more people with useless skills in partial differential equations?”

    I tend to agree, WCE. Most of what you learn is useless. DS had to memorize part of Canterbury Tales. Nice, classic text. I found myself thinking, “And this will be useful to you life how??”

  51. I’m sure Rhett will say that this is the right decision because being a popular cheerleader will pay off in her future career–I’m sure she’ll be successful because she’s a smart, friendly person. I’d hire her in a second.

    They why bother with the AP classes? The juice ain’t worth the squeeze.

  52. “I’ve opted out of the Tiger Mom rat race. Unfortunately, DS hasn’t.”

    I’m wondering why your characterize that as unfortunate. Many would consider that the ultimate success: a self-motivated kid who can compete with the kids with Tiger Moms. He’s much more likely to have success once he leaves the nest than kids who rely on external motivation.

    Opting out of being a Tiger Mom also allows you to have a different relationship with your DS, which many would find preferable.

  53. “I’m going to make the assumption that income and single parenthood are inversely related, so this all makes sense.”

    Especially if you consider disposable HH income. Having two adults to either bring in income or perform tasks that otherwise need to be outsourced (e.g., child care) makes for a higher HHI distribution among 2-parent than single parent HH.

  54. There are definitely kids in my son’s high school who are taking summer school classes and/or eschool classes to increase the number of APs. But the summer school class he hopes to take is for a different (but at least as popular) reason — to avoid taking Modern Hawaiian History at school. Partly because the teacher is not well regarded by the kids, and in his case also partly to, um, make room for an AP course — economics — he was interested in. (More for the sake of the subject than for the AP status. No one could say that the boy is excessively concerned about his GPA.)

    Houston, Chaucer did have a good eye for types. If nothing else, a close study of Canterbury Tales could help him learn to read people.

  55. Houston, the mail just came and I will admit that higher academic standards could also lead to fewer grammar/vocabulary errors in people’s Christmas letters.

  56. “Sigh. I do like the big fish in a small pond theory for my kids, but OTOH if we go that route, it will mean reduced choice for activities, longer commute, etc.”

    I was one of the larger fish in a small pond when through HS, or perhaps even through my BS.

    My kids are now in a much larger pond, and I’m glad for that. They have so many more opportunities than I did, IMO enough that whether or not the are large fish, those opportunities are worth the additional large fish.

    IMO, being in the large pond will also better prepare them for the almost inevitably larger pond that college will be.

    And as most college counselors would probably advise, be the big fish in the big pond. These are the some counselors that answer the question about getting an A in the easier class vs a B in the harder class with, take the harder class and get an A.

  57. The amount of parental investment in elementary level sports and dance here blows my mind.

    Example: family with three kids, income ~ $200k in very high CoL area, spending over $10k per year on a fourth grade travel team for a boy who is not likely to grow large enough to have good odds of playing at the college level (parents under 5’8″ and the kid plays something where height matters).

    Kid is missing 10+ days of school per year for tournaments, and teacher is unhappy because he is very bright but not keeping up with the homework.

    Same story could be told about several of DD’s second grade friends and dance or cheer or gymnastics.

    I think they get a lot of the exercise and EQ out of the rec department teams and classes, at 1% or less of the bother and expense. Am I missing something because I don’t care about sports?

  58. Sky,

    We finally drank the koolaid and one of the kids is on a travel team. If she didn’t join the team, she wouldn’t make the varsity team. All of her friends play the same sport. They are on the travel team and will be on the varsity team. We expect that since she made the travel team, she will make the varsity team (they have the same coach).

    Yes, it is insane, no she will not play in college. But…she is a kid for whom friends are extremely important. And without the travel team, with its incessant drama and expense, she would not play on the team that her crowd of besties from fifth grade on would be on. So, she is playing…

    And I will whine and vent here because a number of the parents of the kids who play DO believe their kids will play in college and that this travel team is just the best thing ever.

  59. “Our son looks to be the 30th best violinist in his graduating high school class, even though he made the accelerated orchestra as a 7th grader and has 3 years of lessons.”

    Is he graduating this year?

    3 years isn’t a lot of lessons. Most of the kids in the top orchestra at my kids’ school started lessons in 5th grade, when they could first take orchestra at school, or earlier. So by the time they’re seniors, most of them have been taking lessons for about 7 to 13 years.

  60. Murphy, my issue is that this boy is only in 4th grade, so there will be 8 more years of travel team after this.

    Our high school does not offer this sport at the varsity level, so if he sticks with it the way his parents expect, it’s always going to be the travel team. The sport has a high injury rate, too.

    It ain’t worth $90k.

  61. parents under 5’8″ and the kid plays something where height matters).

    That’s what the HGH is for.

    Just last week, the father of a young baseball player — a 14-year-old who was already 5 feet 6 inches tall — expected Desrosiers to prescribe recombinant growth hormone (rGH) to add height to his budding athlete.
    “He wanted to make his kid big, and he thinks he’s going to walk out with the shots,” said Desrosiers, director of pediatric endocrinology at Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando. “He was willing to pay more than $45,000 a year, and didn’t even bat an eyelash.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/growth-hormones-healthy-kids-increase/story?id=8571628

  62. “(parents under 5’8″ and the kid plays something where height matters”

    Jeremy Lin’s parents are both 5’6″.

  63. The Asians seemingly want their kid to be the top of a top school, while the white parents almost want the top in a mid-range school. Or the whites want their top school to be more “everyone gets a trophy” while still being a top school district. I don’t see how that can be. Unless they have competitive extra curricular activities and intramural versions of the same activities. That doubles the money the school has to shell out for activities.

    I think it’s the whites want a “top school” that isn’t competitive, so their kid can be at the top. That is, good teachers, AP classes, etc, but not filled with kids who all want to be valedictorian.

  64. Our high school does not offer this sport at the varsity level, so if he sticks with it the way his parents expect, it’s always going to be the travel team. The sport has a high injury rate, too.

    It ain’t worth $90k.

    How much does the kid enjoy it? And what are the other opportunities he would have to participate?

    I think they get a lot of the exercise and EQ out of the rec department teams and classes, at 1% or less of the bother and expense. Am I missing something because I don’t care about sports?

    Yes, you are missing something. Here’s the difference (generalizations obviously, specifics can vary) in baseball and softball, which I’m most familiar with:

    Rec: Practice twice a week for about 90 minutes each time, one or two games a week. At least a few kids on each team who don’t care that much and aren’t very good, taking up a lot of the coaches’ time. The coaches are usually dads or moms who aren’t always the best. There aren’t enough pitchers to go around so games become walk-athons very quickly. Kids get bored because they don’t get any pitches to hit and they don’t get to do much in the field.

    Travel: Practice 4 days a week for 2 hours. tournaments with 4 or 5 games on the weekends. All the kids want to be there. Top notch coaches who know what they are doing. Players who are highly motivated to improve. The games are like “real” baseball and softball because there are plenty of good pitchers who throw strikes, so hitters get a lot of pitches to hit, fielders get a lot of action.

    For kids who are really into a sport, there’s no comparison.

  65. I missed a lot of this since I took my kid to a silly kid movie this afternoon…

    Rhett seems to think the alternative to getting an underserved B average in college prep track classes is to instead fail ’em. I think there is a middle ground. Whatever happened to C’s and D’s? At least that would alert the colleges that this is someone who is not very proficient, while letting the student graduate.

    There is no possible way, politically, to force kids off the supposed college track and onto a vocational track. However, it should be possible to make vocational tracks more appealing. The big problem I am seeing, as we work with area high schools, is that the schools push even the kids in the vocational tracks to go to college. But those kids end up at CCs. Our issue is with the kids who have B averages, maybe 500-550 SAT scores on verbal and math, and still totally lack skills. When I see a kid with a 430 score on the verbal section, I am not surprised that he or she can’t write. But I see it from kids with a 550.

  66. Mooshi, a 430 on the pre-1996 SAT verbal is a 510 on the current SAT-V. An old 470 is a new 550. Are you thinking of what students were like when you were in school?

  67. “All the kids want to be there. Top notch coaches who know what they are doing. Players who are highly motivated to improve.”

    It’s not just sports. There are similar differences between the kids in the top youth symphony orchestras and many of those in school bands and orchestras.

    One of the big separators is how much the kids love the game, or the music. Many of the kids who love a sport will want to take it to the highest level they can, just as many who love their music want to take that to the highest level they can.

  68. Our issue is with the kids who have B averages, maybe 500-550 SAT scores on verbal and math, and still totally lack skills.

    Is that an accurate assessment? Or, is that a PhD academic not being able to quite grasp what “average” means?

  69. I am not against sports per se – my kids all do some level of sports teams. But what boggles my mind is that the parents who are whining that their kids are so stressed out over state tests and that higher standards are robbing their kids of their childhoods, those *same* parents are pushing their kids into travel soccer and travel hockey, which around here are both insanely competitive and stressful. Why is it that high stakes competition in sports is good, but high stakes competition in academics is not? The same mom down the street who was pressuring everyone to boycott the state tests because they were too stressful for the kids has got her daughter in travel soccer, all kinds of dance lessons, and now has her trying out for stage productions. I am so not getting it.

  70. “The big problem I am seeing, as we work with area high schools, is that the schools push even the kids in the vocational tracks to go to college. But those kids end up at CCs.”

    Our local CCs have programs for kids (and adults) in things like food service (many of the top local chefs trained at local CCs), auto mechanics, building trades, and drafting.

    I don’t see it as a bad thing that kids in vocational tracks end up at CCs.

  71. Rhett, I think being able to write a paragraph that can actually be parsed by someone else is not asking too much. I worked in industry – I know that is it usually considered to be a valuable skill. Certainly the employers on our industrial board are looking for that and far more. Communication skills and some level of quantitative skills are actually important to many employers.

  72. I worked in industry

    As a developer. Are your students mostly going to end up doing Tier 1 (maybe Tier 2) support at AcmeSoft?

  73. Mooshi, is it the parents pushing the kid into all those things or is it the kid wanting to do it all and the parent not wanting to say no, so instead wanting to reduce the academic load to make it easier for the kid to do the rest of the stuff?

    A good non-sports analogy for the difference between rec and travel sports is orchestra. Would you take a kid who has played violin since she was 5 and practices 2 hours a day and tell her that her only option is the middle school orchestra full of kids who are just starting and only practice a couple of times a week and are learning pieces that she mastered 4 years ago?

  74. Denver, is that the fourth grade travel team schedule for baseball? I guess I can picture doing that with a high schooler who really loves it, but not a fourth grader.

    And I wouldn’t support 10 hours a week of a high injury sport for a fourth grader no matter how much the kid loves it – the one I’m thinking of has already had a concussion or two and a broken bone from this.

    At least if he played the cello 10 hours a week he would stay out of the ER :)

  75. Rhett, come on. I think Mooshi is correct about ELA skills for an average American. I have an email that I received today from an employee at a very large retailer that is almost impossible to understand. I got my $18.99 refund so I won’t complain, but even customer service reps should be able to write a simple apology note.

    Also, many Americans may need to be able to write a simple note or persuasive letter at some point.

  76. While I see DD’s point, I think Mooshi’s point is that it is nuts that the kids have to go that far, at that young of an age, and deprioritize academics, in order to pursue sports at their level.

    I’ve known, and known of, many kids who fit DD’s description WRT music, although many of them started well before 5, and they don’t seem to have such competing demands between music and academics. For many, practicing is a break from academics.

    One difference I’ve seen is that at the HS levels, athletics become more time consuming, while I’ve heard from their parents that many of the outstanding musicians actually dial back the amount of time spent practicing due to academic demands.

    OTOH, I have heard some stories that youth symphony can be very demanding, and know of numerous kids who were excellent musicians, but dropped YS due to those demands.

  77. “At least if he played the cello 10 hours a week he would stay out of the ER :)”

    RSI (repetitive stress injury) is a concern for serious musicians who spend many hours practicing. I know a couple of violinists (degreed in violin performance) who have had to stop playing in order to recover from wrist injuries.

    DD once had a teacher tell her class to not practice so much that they became physically tired.

  78. Vocational tracks are not necessarily easier either. It takes a great deal of skill and intelligence to succeed in a vocation. Yes they may not be able to pass calculus but I’m betting many of the “smart” people here could not do the top vocational jobs.

    As Rhett states, most people are “average” and that is in both academics and sports. However, we all like to think that we and our children are super special and we are better than average. Totebaggers are in the poisition to throw money at this problem and try and move the needle for their kids to succeed, wealthy parents can support their children and their grandchildren if needed but there are others who are just SOL.

    Last year, I watched a documentary on dyslexia and one of the things that stuck me was the point that we now measure success by “reading/writing” which in the grand scheme of human evolution is a very new skill. I don’t think the issue is college versus vocation but that we have people who cannot succeed in either arena. How are these people going to have a “good” life? What do we need to do as a society to improve everyone’s lives? Because right now, it seems that the “haves” keep gettting the “have nots” keep losing and the politicians keep pointing fingers. But nothing really changes on a large scale.

  79. DD’s description of athletes reminds me of my brother, who was the winning All Star baseball pitcher for our town every year and then all-conference goalie and pitcher for soccer and baseball in high school. He had to keep his grades up in order to play. This brother, The King of the A-, is the one who left his biology final after completing enough of it to assure his A. He has been gainfully employed for over a decade now.

  80. @Denver Dad

    I totally agree.

    We are discussing whether or not to let our 8yo play on the “travel” team made up of rising 3rd & 4th graders this spring/summer. He desperately wants to – he loves playing and he knows that the other players will be at his level on the travel team. He got frustrated last year with the park league teams as some of the kids really did not know how to play at all & some didn’t really want to be there. We are on the fence due to the time commitment. The financial commitment is nowhere near what Sky is describing. It’s under $500 including equipment. No overnights as “travel” just means going to other city/inner ring suburban parks, not actually traveling long distances.

    And travel team commitment for the under-12 Little League and Rookie league is a bit less than you are describing – more like 3, 90 minute practices and 1-2 games on a weekend. And it’s only for 3-4 months/year here.

    I agree with Finn’s analogy too – if a kid really has a passion for something, they may want to take it as far as it will go, within reason. I have no illusions that my kid would even be able to play on a good HS team, but he is getting so much joy out of it now that it is worth it.

    We go “rec league” for other things that he is just doing to get some energy out & to play with friends.

  81. Finn said “One difference I’ve seen is that at the HS levels, athletics become more time consuming, while I’ve heard from their parents that many of the outstanding musicians actually dial back the amount of time spent practicing due to academic demands.”

    This is very true in our HS. My oldest spent huge amounts of time on HS cross country, but gave up orchestra. It is astounding to me the time commitment required for HS sports

  82. “Would you take a kid who has played violin since she was 5 and practices 2 hours a day and tell her that her only option is the middle school orchestra full of kids who are just starting and only practice a couple of times a week and are learning pieces that she mastered 4 years ago?”

    That is pretty much the only option in our district, which is why all 3 of my kids were put into the elementary orchestra at a grade level above their actual grade level – and that was still pretty basic for them. Even the kid who went to conservatory several days a week and practiced for hours a day was placed in that orchestra. No other options in school. The best kids also play all county, but that is only part of the year

  83. “If you want an no-audition orchestra, start one, but don’t eliminate the competitive program.”

    My kids’ school has 4 orchestra options. There are two orchestras that are selected by audition, one that is open to all interested students, and the 4th option is to not take orchestra.

    There’s also a 7th and 8th grade orchestra selected by audition, in addition to options for kids with no experience and for kids with limited experience.

  84. Mooshi, did you stop your kids’ private lessons once the joined the shool orchestra? And did the conservatory kid stop going to conservatory? Or did they keep working with their other teachers? I’m guessing the school orchestra wasn’t their only source of instruction and practice.

  85. Yes, they continued to take lessons. Part of the reason was that for a long time, they were working with a fiddle teacher, quite different from the orchestra. They do a summer fiddle group at one of the big music festivals, and my oldest just got asked to play in a local teen Irish jam group. Don’t know if he is going to do it or not

  86. I agree with Finn’s analogy too – if a kid really has a passion for something, they may want to take it as far as it will go, within reason. I have no illusions that my kid would even be able to play on a good HS team, but he is getting so much joy out of it now that it is worth it.

    Exactly. If the kid is the one who wants to do it, and the parents are willing to put the time and money into it, then more power to them.

    And I wouldn’t support 10 hours a week of a high injury sport for a fourth grader no matter how much the kid loves it – the one I’m thinking of has already had a concussion or two and a broken bone from this.

    Once concussions enter the equation, then it’s a whole different ballgame. What sport is it?

    And just curious, would you support a fourth grader spending 10 hours a week reading or doing an academic pursuit? Is it the 10 hours a week doing an activity that you don’t like, or the 10 hours a week doing an activity that you don’t feel is worthwhile that you don’t like?

  87. “all 3 of my kids were put into the elementary orchestra at a grade level above their actual grade level – and that was still pretty basic for them. Even the kid who went to conservatory several days a week and practiced for hours a day was placed in that orchestra.”

    My kids, and some of the other kids with experience, were put to work helping the newbies with their bow holds and fingering.

  88. Mooshi, that’s my point. Having them just do the shool orchestra would be the equivalent of having a really good baseball player just play in a rec league.

  89. I think my kids, as violinists go, are more rec league than travel team. The equivalent to travel team would be the kids, and they exist here, who go to the local conservatory and who play all-county. There is no pressure and no real competition in the kind of playing my kids do. And I am not against talented kids playing travel teams. My comment was more that many parents see academic pressure and competition as being inherently evil and wrong, while they see the same level of competition in sports as being a good thing.

  90. “Would you take a kid who has played violin since she was 5 and practices 2 hours a day…?”

    I would wonder why you had a kid practicing violin two hours daily since she was 5.

  91. My kids started at 5, but never were expected to practice like that (nor would they have). The expectation was 10 to 15 minutes a session, a few times a week. Even now, my 9 year old only puts in about 20 minutes in a session (and only if reminded a bunch of times) and her teacher is fine with that.

  92. Finn, it’s hockey.

    While I have no hard numbers, I once worked part time for a sports medicine practice. I saw many more injuries from hockey and football than stringed instruments.

    I object to the 10 hours per week doing what I consider a high risk activity at a very young age.

    While I would still consider $10k/year and 10 hours a week on a 10 year old’s golf a poor use of money and time, I wouldn’t have the same long term concerns about brain damage and permanent injuries as I do about tackle football, hockey, and rugby.

  93. Sky – agreed. We have friends who have all 3 boys in hockey, and the mom is a nurse! My mind boggles.

    My sense is that the time commitment required for the “good” sports teams ratchets up much more, much earlier than it used to, for unclear if any payoff.

    I was pretty bored in my school chorus in HS, but I didn’t lack for musical opportunities (even in my small town) with the addition of church choir and community theatre.

  94. Yeah, it’s unfortunate that starting a sport year-round at middle school age is considered “very late” and unless they’re extremely talented, they then have virtually no chance of playing varsity or in college. So much pressure to specialize too soon. I’m generally a huge proponent of competitive swimming, but the fact that almost everyone who ends up any good starts training 8+ hours a week by age 8 is annoying.

  95. “The equivalent to travel team would be the kids, and they exist here, who go to the local conservatory and who play all-county.”

    I’m thinking that many of the travel teams are somewhere below this. All-county and conservatory seem to be akin to all-star level teams, with travel teams in general, and their ilk, providing the pool from which those teams are chosen.

    At least that’s my perspective from my experiences with softball.

  96. “I would wonder why you had a kid practicing violin two hours daily since she was 5.”

    There must be thousands of kids every year entering college somewhere in this country majoring in violin performance. My guess is that most of them would not be there were they not practicing about two hours a day since around the age of 5.

    From what I’ve seen at my kids’ school, it’s extremely unusual for any of the top few stands in the school symphony to be occupied by anyone who hadn’t been playing since at least 5 or so. While many of them didn’t practice anywhere near two hours a day, not many of them are good enough to major in violin performance either.

  97. Not familiar with too many 5 year olds practicing 2 hours a day, but virtually all of the elite violinists I know started by age 2-3. Not a typo. Suzuki method encourages starting extremely young on little tiny cardboard violins. But in fairness, they don’t encourage young children to practice crazy amounts like that, though they do expect the entire family to *listen* to the violin music about an hour per day. They also encourage extremely intensive parental involvement (most would say hovering) by having parents attend lessons until the teen years, directly supervise all practice, etc.

  98. My brothers are conservatory-level violinists (though they’ve chosen other career paths) and that’s what I’ve observed through their circles, anyway.

  99. My kids did start in Suzuki, my oldest at 4, the other 2 at 5. It just wasn’t that intense. Yes, I supervised practice, but how are you going to get any kid under the age of say 8 or 9 to practice on their own? Like I said above, practice was 10 minutes at a time, maybe 3 or 4 times a week. Which was good, because I didn’t have time or patience for more. No one ever told us to listen to violin music as a family, either! (well, we do but only stuff we like). The reason we did it is because of the Suzuki focus on playing by ear. And I am glad because all 3 of my kids can play by ear, which means they can do fiddle jams. My youngest can play to some extent by ear on keyboards too, though she has never taken a lesson. My middle kid switched to doublebass this summer, with very little loss of skill, because he can play by ear. None of them are awesomely great, and none of them are going to be heading to music school, but they like playing and have fun. To me, that is like playing rec soccer (which two of them also do)

  100. There must be thousands of kids every year entering college somewhere in this country majoring in violin performance.

    Thank God, we might finally be able to fill those hundreds of thousands of vacant violinists positions.

  101. “starting extremely young on little tiny cardboard violins.”

    I’ve seen many 2 and 3 year olds on real, albeit very small, violins.

  102. “‘There must be thousands of kids every year entering college somewhere in this country majoring in violin performance.”

    Perhaps I should’ve added, to the disappointment of thousands of parents. I’ve heard a bunch of stories about parents who pushed their kids into violin, then were disappointed when those same kids fell in love with playing the violin and decided to pursue it in college.

  103. i wish they had all county for the kids that are masters of how to buy, sort and organize products from Bath and Body works.

  104. I’ve seen them start all the toddlers on cardboard and then switch them to 1/32 size real instruments in a few months or so after the child’s teacher believes they are ready.

  105. i wish they had all county for the kids that are masters of how to buy, sort and organize products from Bath and Body works.

    LOL. That’s called “merchandizing”, Lauren. Lots of opportunities there.

  106. RMS, great idea. We are watching the Broncos game on Monday night football. I’m cold just looking at the TV. don’t send that weather here.

  107. Honest question here: Why are so many totebaggy people so obsessed with violin? You never hear about high-striving people pushing their kids to take guitar or french horn or steel drums or something. It seems like if you want music proficiency to help your kid get into college, you’d want to encourage your kid to play something unusual. Tuba maybe? Or perhaps banjo?

  108. NoB, have you ever heard of a 3yo playing the tuba?

    I think it’s mostly based on physiology.

    A lot of totebaggy parents want their kids exposed to a lot of things when they’re young. Music is often one of those things, as many parents have read or heard that music helps kids do well in math. Violin, with the very small sizes available, lends itself well to that. By contrast, most 3yo kids don’t have the lung capacity to play tuba, or french horn. It is also difficult to play many wind instruments without front teeth.

    Violin also is good for developing the ear because of its lack of frets.

    For getting into college, or getting a scholarship, I would suggest trumpet, drums, tuba, or trombone. Those are the most important instruments for marching bands, and many colleges give scholarships to marching band members.

    It is not unusual for kids who started on violin to switch to other instruments later. I do know of one former student of my kids’ teacher who switched to tuba.

  109. “Why are so many totebaggy people so obsessed with violin? ”

    I forgot to add, it’s also a Tiger Mom thing.

  110. NoB, I also forgot to mention that some parents want their kids to play in the orchestra for the peer group. Playing banjo won’t help with that.

  111. @Finn – they could play the trombone just fine if you could get a 1/32nd version of it.

    If we just want musical literacy, why not miniature keyboards?

  112. We have a 1/32 violin, a 1/16, and a 1/8, and I find the smaller ones darn near impossible to keep in tune, to the point that I stopped giving DD lessons because it was excruciating. (We also have a piano, a “self-teaching” keyboard, and a guitar, none of which anyone can play. Yet.)

    I always thought that parents pushed strings because most heavy metal bands don’t include a viola.

  113. More Totebag Demerit points for me. When my kids were three, the only exposure to music that I gave them (other than my playing the radio at home and in the car) was the little “Music Together” classes that I used to sign them up for. (These were a casual mommy-and-me type thing.)

    Their first exposure to music performance was the recorder lessons that all the kids at their school get in third and fourth grade. Neither one of my kids shows any particular interest in, or aptitude for, music, so I can’t see trying to push them beyond that.

    My mother made me take piano lessons for seven years. I hated every minute of it. I don’t think the lessons helped me in any particular way. I haven’t played in about 35 years, and I don’t miss it. I think my miserable experience with the forced piano lessons has led me to feel strongly that if a kid isn’t super interested in pursuing a particular extracurricular activity, it makes no sense to try to force it upon him or her.

    I also just don’t have the energy to be a tiger mom.

  114. My kids play the violin because we own one that has been in the family since my great uncle. He played it as a kid, my grandmother learned on it, my mother learned on it, I had it, my sister, and then my kids.
    I actually switched as a kid from violin to guitar. My parents were fine with it. I played folk and classical guitar through my college student days. One day, as a grad student, I realized that while I liked playing classical guitar (the repertoire is interesting), I never listened to it. What did I listen to? Violin and fiddle music! So next time I went home, I grabbed a violin, and started playing oldtime fiddle.
    My DH plays the doublebass, and has for many years. He also played bass guitar in many punk bands back in the dya
    So that is why my kids play stringed instruments.

  115. My 7 year old plays the ukulele. At 4 for she begged for one, and for a few years she would fiddle with it until I finally gave into her constant begging for lessons. She will only practice a few times a week, maybe 10 minutes at a time, and some weeks I feel that i’m just throwing money out the window if the week’s private lesson was painful. But she wants to keep at it, and I’ve noticed that it has helped her understand patterns and some general math concepts. Plus I think she likes to stand out and tell people she plays the ukulele.

  116. NOB – I could have written the exact same thing. I had piano lessons for 7 years, have no musical inclination and am sad that so much time and money was wasted on the endeavor. There were many better things that could have brought me pleasure, personal growth and lifelong hobbies (books, art classes, language classes, and more.)

  117. Why are so many totebaggy people so obsessed with violin?

    The violin has no sex appeal. It’s pure scut work. No one does it because they want to. As a result, a child’s violin ability represents a conspicuous display of filial piety.

  118. @Rhett: I really laughed out loud.

    Maybe devotion to sports and other extracurricular activities is okay because success is more visible? It is reinforcing to have a kid who is the best at anything – even if they are the best of eight toddlers on a soccer team. Being in the top 10% in math doesn’t provide a lot of opportunity to share your offspring’s exploits with the world. Being a top 10% baseball player does.

    Two cousins played big highschool football – with the knee surgeries to prove it. They were frequently in the local paper. Neither were good enough to get scholarships for collage, despite their professional highlights reel (I think the academics were marginal and the injuries were already significant). Big brother is now in Algebra for the third attempt (one in high school, second and third at CC). I suppose there is an element of confirmation bias, but it made me even more disagreeable about high school sports.

  119. For those who regret piano, how long do you think is reasonable to enforce lessons? My family had a “two years of piano so you learn to read music rule” and I’m planning to enforce that with my crew. DS1 is no musician, but he started piano last summer and is now playing simple Christmas carols and other leveled piano music, so he has sufficient aptitude to eventually enjoy himself. Mr WCE and I decided on piano (my instrument) vs. violin (his instrument) mostly because we want our boys to read both bass and treble clef well (in case they want to be in choir in the future) and because I cared more and am more willing to support the daily practice. Plus, I found a piano teacher who will come to our house. (Has anyone ever noticed the laziness theme in my parenting? I’m sure you have…)

    My brother pitched for the Athletes in Action (summer church missions) baseball team in Central America for a couple summers during college. My Dad said if my brother had grown early (he grew late), he might have been good enough for a college scholarship, but having a full academic scholarship was better than an athletic scholarship, since his time wasn’t divided between mandatory practices and academics.

  120. I have realized that my high school was pretty unique – I grew up in a mid sized city 200-400k, with several large high schools. There was one Catholic school, small and without APs, and no other private schools. The public schools were diverse academically – there was no magnet, private, charter school that sequestered the high achieving kids. The downtown high school had the professors’ kids, the doctors’ kids, and all the poor kids who lived in the area. A reasonably high working totebag kid could be a big fish/big pond. My graduating class had 12 NMSF, about 2% – which means the class was pretty representative of the state as a whole (as 2% of a random group should be NMSF).

    @Dell – if I was going to move somewhere for the schools, I would look for cities that do not have a culture of private schooling kids.

  121. “Plus I think she likes to stand out and tell people she plays the ukulele.”

    Is it just me, or is there a recent growing interest in the ukulele? is it a hipster thing? Two people I know received them as Christmas presents.

    “i wish they had all county for the kids that are masters of how to buy, sort and organize products from Bath and Body works.”

    OMG, me too!

  122. “Maybe devotion to sports and other extracurricular activities is okay because success is more visible?… Being in the top 10% in math doesn’t provide a lot of opportunity to share your offspring’s exploits with the world. Being a top 10% baseball player does.”

    Yes, this is a factor. One of my kids was the worst player on a championship Little League team, yet he probably received more recognition from that than almost anything he did in his school years. Certainly more than NMF and other quiet accomplishments.

    We basically forced him to participate as his strengths were more academic than athletic. When his (and our) spirits were lagging because he was doing so poorly compared to the team superstars, the coach would tell us not to worry because 30 years from now our kid would be the one showing up at the class reunion in a chauffeured limousine. That coach was wonderful. I’m still keeping track of those boys, and so far it seems he may be right about the class reunion. Except since we tend totebaggy, the other kids will probably show up in leased Escalades and our kid will be in a Google driverless Prius.

  123. I have yet to read through all the comments but this weekend we were talking to a kid who was a big fish in a small pond. She went to one of the public high schools in a very “country” part of our area. She had no spectacular extra curriculars but just great academics at the high school where hardly anyone went on to college. She got a full ride (tuition and room/board) to the state flagship. Wants to be a doctor. So, as we have discussed she is in a good situation with no college debt. Her parents question any of us who opt for private schools for whatever reason. Any extra activities the kids have are whatever the school offers. They think spending anything extra is foolish.The biggest difference that her parents don’t see (that I do) is that they have a child who is very self motivated and extremely serious. Their second kid is also the same way. The combination of “country” school and smart/serious kids has worked out extremely well for them.
    Both the kids have somewhat quiet personalities so no sales douche jobs for them.
    I think the kid wants to stay in state for med school. I’ll be watching to see how things progress.

  124. On music – older kid practices as much as he is supposed to. He has come a long way since he first subjected us to the awful noise while playing during the first year. What he likes best about band is that he has a place to get know a bunch of kids and do a shared activity – nothing more. Reading music is probably good for him but I can’t be sure :-).

  125. Completing my comment on music – DD is taking a year of piano, just so that she meets the requirement in order to take certain band instruments. She made the best sound on the trumpet, doesn’t like clarinet or flute. Has yet to try French horn. Will be interesting to see what she picks at the end of this school year. Whatever it is, we will be subject to much sqawking next year.

  126. I haven’t read the article but with regards to ethnic students in competitive schools – when people first immigrate they want their kids to be successful and enter Totebaggy professions. But over time there is the recognition that 1. not every kid is cut out to be super competitive 2. kids still want to be successful but they don’t want every minute of the day to be scheduled 3. they hate their parents and the home atmosphere 4. parents get tired and don’t want to Tiger parent every minute of the day. 5. kids don’t have the aptitude for parental chosen professions. So, over time there is compromise.

  127. Louise – What about:

    6. The parents realize that they way, way-overestimated how difficult it actually is to establish oneself in a Totebaggy lifestyle. There are many ways to earn a comfortable $90k to $150k a year, and not all of them involve electrical engineering.

  128. Of course they’re happier. My husband’s niece, 22, waits tables occasionally til she gets enough money to drive to wherever her favorite bands are playing. She has a boyfriend and friends to travel with and has a great time. At 22 my stepson was sweating the GRE and applying to grad school. My stepson will have a more comfortable retirement, but was he happier than my niece at age 22? Unlikely.

  129. I wonder if it’s analogous to the surveys that show the childless are happier than parents of children.

  130. The non-Totebaggy kids may be “happier” because they are comfortable with their circumstances at age 22. The children of a plumber and a dental hygienist may not actually WANT to go to hipster coffee bars or train for a marathon or travel to Cuba or spend a minute more in school than necessary to get their certificate in cosmetology or HVAC repair. It takes less to make them happy, and if they have a job and their own apartment (and maybe even a baby) at age 22, they may have achieved most of their adult goals. The child of a cardiologist and an investment banker starts out with a pretty high bar on consumption/experiences, and the nature of most professional training requires competition and much deferred gratification. At age 22, they are still sweating exams and grad school applications or long hours as entry-level analysts. They are years away from the nice house filled with high-end stuff in a good neighborhood in which they grew up and the well-paying interesting profession to which they aspire.

    But at age 35, which group would be “happier?” I have no idea, but I also suspect that many Totebag kids would not be happy living in a modest home in a marginal neighborhood and working/living with people who don’t share their interests.

  131. “But at age 35, which group would be “happier?” I have no idea”

    I don’t think fancy or challenging careers have much impact on happiness. I think the HVAC repairman who can meet the financial needs of his family is just as likely to be happy at 35 as the investment banker, and possibly more likely, depending on who feels more stress or aggravation or uncertainty about his job.

  132. There are many ways to earn a comfortable $90k to $150k a year, and not all of them involve electrical engineering.

    Exactly. I think Scarlett may be under-weighting the number of folks who spend some part of their late teens and early 20s off the electrical engineering/grad school career path. I’d say 25% of the people I know who earn comfortable totebag incomes had some period of time off the professional track in the early years*.

    * Ski bum, roadie, bar tender, musician, etc.

  133. First, I thought the “happy” part was measured in childhood, not life-long. In which case: lots of freedom to run around and do what I want, vs. having every moment scripted and “enriched” with parentally-sanctioned activities? Duh.

    Second, happy to see that we have achieved non-Totebag on music. :-) My kids do NOT play the violin, because I had to. My mom had a violin, so the fact that I wanted to play cello or French horn or sax was irrelevant — violin it was. And even then, it was clear to me that *everyone* wanted to play the violin, and that I therefore had no chance of being competitive unless I worked a hell of a lot harder than I had any interest in doing. So DD got to choose what she wanted to play, and DS will as well.

    Although when I found out that DD was interested in the euphonium, and the school had free loaners, I, umm, gently nudged her in that direction — really, how many other euphonium players can there be, given that I had never even heard of it? And free to boot! And I like the multiple options, from band to orchestra to marching bands, etc. Now she has switched to tuba (her HS band had none). She was panicked at first, but seems to be enjoying it more and more — I think she has taken pride in being asked to take on that challenge and succeeding at a solo role, and it has puffed her up a bit and energized her. So now she doesn’t whine (much) when I tell her to practice, is actually interested in taking lessons, etc. Maybe it will go somewhere, most likely not. But on a $-per-unit-of-enjoyment basis, it’s a win.

  134. ” I think the HVAC repairman who can meet the financial needs of his family is just as likely to be happy at 35 as the investment banker, and possibly more likely, depending on who feels more stress or aggravation or uncertainty about his job.”

    Bingo. Also – being an HVAC repair person requires some technical school and formal apprenticeship. It requires people skills. It is competitive to get into those programs – you often have to know someone who knows someone. It’s not like you graduate from HS, and the next day you are in someone’s home roof fixing their furnace.

    I continue to be surprised by how anti-sports some people are on this blog. There are reasons to support your child’s interests and abilities in sports beyond wanting to brag about them or get them into a college program. Encouraging physical activity, being well-rounded, getting along with teammates/coaches, learning about success and failure, and just allowing them to HAVE FUN with something that they like that isn’t a future career/academic resume builder.

    And plenty of people brag about their kid’s math ability. See: this very blog.

  135. “I continue to be surprised by how anti-sports some people are on this blog.”

    Our kids are not athletic but have enjoyed doing their activities – sport, music, dance at a rec level. By the time they reach high school they will have been in them for a long time. I have observed that at first there is excitement, then they hit a bump when the newness wears off (lots of their peers quit at this stage) but after sticking around they do get better, make friends and continue on. So my philosphy is taking time to think of things that fit in teh family schedule, don’t involve mad rushing around, taking things slow and steady, instead of start out with great intensity and flaming out as quickly.

  136. I continue to be surprised by how anti-sports some people are on this blog.

    Ivy, my theory is that given the type of people here, a lot of them weren’t interested in sports and/or weren’t very good athletes growing up (I’m in the second group), and the same goes for a lot of the totebag kids, based on what people have posted. So it’s easy to have disdain for something that you don’t enjoy and only see the negatives associated with it and not the positives.

  137. Sports can be very important to some kids. My daughters played rec soccer from age 5 until they were freshman in high school. They loved it. The older one is a senior on the varsity team. The rec league team was a social lifeboat for both girls. They made friends that they have to this day, it was a respite from the pettiness of school, and no one on the team cared about what grade they were in or how they did in school.

    We had to drive half an hour each way three times a week for practices and 45 minutes each way every fall Saturday for ten years, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

    My son isn’t a soccer guy, but I think he found his sport this year. Last night, when I picked him up from practice, he chattered all the way home about the position he is going to play, how much he liked the team, how much fun he was having. So, DH and I will be driving again and splitting which games we go to.

  138. The uke may have hipster following, but for a child it is a perfect beginner instrument. It is a great size for little fingers, only four strings, and costs $25. If it gets dropped or dinged up, no big deal.

    I don’t think you can measure happiness between groups of people or classes. They 25 year old daycare teacher seems pretty happy having two young children, living with her mom, and going out to bars on the weekends. When I was 25 I was perfectly happy with a good salary, just bought my first home, spent evenings exploring restaurants, and going on weekend getaways.

  139. “Ivy, my theory is that given the type of people here, a lot of them weren’t interested in sports and/or weren’t very good athletes growing up (I’m in the second group), and the same goes for a lot of the totebag kids, based on what people have posted. So it’s easy to have disdain for something that you don’t enjoy and only see the negatives associated with it and not the positives.”

    I’ve noticed that DH and I are much more comfortable encouraging our kids to participate in activities that either we participated in or wished we had. I wasn’t an athlete, but DH was a very good one, he was recruited to play in college, but declined. Our daughters participated in the debate teams he participated in, etc. Two of the kids like to ride horses. However, we also have a kid who cannot fathom why anyone would have any interest in horses and another with a speech impediment.

    What do you guys do when a child has no interest/ability in something that was important to you, or expresses an interest in an activity that no one else has any knowledge, skills or interests in?

  140. “The rec league team was a social lifeboat for both girls. They made friends that they have to this day, it was a respite from the pettiness of school, and no one on the team cared about what grade they were in or how they did in school.”

    This was true for me when I was in junior high & HS. We didn’t have a varsity girls’ soccer team back then, so I played in a rec league, and it was a total respite from the social pressures at my school. A couple of the girls & I are still close friends over 20 years later. I have such fond memories of playing now even though I wasn’t a star at all.

    I am of extremely average athletic ability, but I have always loved playing sports. I think it was also good to have to work at something a lot harder than I had to work at school and still not be great at it. DS & DH are of above average athletic ability. It’s surprising to me to see how easily things come to them athletically.

  141. DS plays the trumpet. This fact has been greeted with great enthusiasm at several top tier colleges. Who knew.

    We’ve seen through friends the very ugly side of college sports recruiting and also the very ugly side of playing high level travel team sports with the idea of playing in college. Makes me glad DS plays the trumpet.

  142. I dunno, aren’t we sort of “awfulizing” the disdain for sports professed here? Even those who so profess have their kids on rec teams. I think the frustration is more about how much we seem to value — or maybe just *expect* — sports over most other accomplishments (measured by the time and $$ invested in it). See the comment about Japanese school, above, or about dropping other interests because sports required such a huge time commitment. It seems like if you spend the same amount of time and money and focus on music or academics or dance, you’re a tiger mom, but if you spend it on sports, you’re normal.

    Personally, I’m going to go with whatever grabs my kids. I continue to harbor a deep, abiding hope that one of my kids has a (so far well-hidden) sports gene that is just waiting to come out. My college SB team was a huge, huge impact on my life — never have I had to work so hard, for so long, to become even mediocre at something; but there is no sweeter feeling than watching the ball tail in at the last second for a called strike 3.

    I want my kids to have that feeling. It just doesn’t have to be in sports.

  143. “I don’t think you can measure happiness between groups of people or classes.”

    You can certainly measure all of the metrics that people generally associate with happiness, and can also measure the survey responses of people in different SE groups to capture some intangibles. Whether that equates to “happiness” is another matter.

    When DH went to Uganda a few years ago, he was amazed how to see how happy the children appeared to be, dressed in rags and playing in a field with a battered ball. It had always been a cliche, but seeing it in person was a profound experience.

  144. “What do you guys do when a child has no interest/ability in something that was important to you, or expresses an interest in an activity that no one else has any knowledge, skills or interests in?”

    Well, the former can be disappointing. DH loved playing Little League, but none of the boys continued past age 12. DH coached one of their teams, which was the primary reason that DS dropped out, because DH always drafted him to play the positions that no one else wanted, like catcher.

    When oldest DS started getting serious about competitive swimming, we had to ask around for advice on teams and coaches. But when we lived in DC, no matter how esoteric the activity, we could always find another parent to answer our questions. It’s a lot harder in a smaller or less Totebaggy community. I was just grateful that none of our kids really had the build to play football, and the only one who had some talent with a ball ended up with a broken leg playing football at recess in the fifth grade, so it was easy enough to say “no” to further involvement in that sport. Honestly, I don’t know what I would do with a son who was truly gifted as a football player but was too big/slow to play other team sports.

  145. It seems like if you spend the same amount of time and money and focus on music or academics or dance, you’re a tiger mom, but if you spend it on sports, you’re normal.

    I completely disagree with this statement. It’s not the time, money or focus that makes a tiger mom, it’s pushing the kid to do anything beyond their point of interest. It’s just that the tiger mom stereotype is an Asian mother pushing her kids in scholarly pursuits, but the “sports dad” stereotype is alive and well – the dad trying to relive his youth through his kids. But sports are perceived as “fun”, so the kid playing travel soccer is obviously doing it because he wants to, whereas academics is perceived as “not fun”, so the kid going to summer school and getting tutoring three days a week is clearly doing it because he’s being forced to by a tiger parent.

  146. Personally, I’m going to go with whatever grabs my kids. I continue to harbor a deep, abiding hope that one of my kids has a (so far well-hidden) sports gene that is just waiting to come out. My college SB team was a huge, huge impact on my life — never have I had to work so hard, for so long, to become even mediocre at something; but there is no sweeter feeling than watching the ball tail in at the last second for a called strike 3.

    I want my kids to have that feeling. It just doesn’t have to be in sports.

    My DD loves softball, but she doesn’t have a competitive bone in her body (and she’s also not naturally athletic). She’s very happy playing rec, which is fine. The problem is that there aren’t rec leagues past 14U and unless she really steps it up, she’s not going to be good enough to play in high school. I don’t care that she’s not a great player, but I care that she’s probably going to have to stop playing the sport she loves in two years.

  147. “I don’t care that she’s not a great player, but I care that she’s probably going to have to stop playing the sport she loves in two years.”

    ITA with that. I am worrying this year, because DD will have to be good enough to make the JV team, and I don’t think she is. I have been happy that she wants to throw some whenever the weather is nice; she has the build for it, and she wants to play The Position That No One Wants (catcher), so if she can get the throwing a little more accurate, I am hoping the coach will take her on as a project.

    But that’s also the reason we are encouraging our kids in things like softball and golf, where there are likely to be leagues and courses and such they can play their whole lives. Even if it’s not the same as the real thing (I do miss fast-pitch).

  148. “I don’t care that she’s not a great player, but I care that she’s probably going to have to stop playing the sport she loves in two years.”

    My middle daughter stopped playing her sport last year. She made the team, but didn’t get any playing time. The coach for another sport recruited her and she is doing well at that team. She isn’t a starter (according to the coach she is, but she sits on the bench at the start of the game), but she plays well over half the game. She is probably a better player at the sport she is doing now, but she loved the other one. It is sad, but sometimes life works out that way.

  149. @DenverDad – has she thought about being an ump/ref? She can still be involved in the sport and make money to boot.

  150. Denver Dad – once again I agree with you in all counts. I think the pushy sports parent/stage parent stereotype is just as alive and well as the Tiger Mom, and I don’t see it thought of positively either.

    And I do wonder/worry what will happen when my kid gets older & can’t pursue everything that he likes due to time commitments. I was lucky – my school was medium sized and not ultra competitive, so I got to be part of a couple of varsity sports teams (even though I was a bench player), rec league soccer, take advanced classes, actively participate in Art Club & Yearbook (even though I am not talented), and still have time for a PT job and friends. I’m not sure that DS will be able to do all those different things, but I guess we will see.

  151. DD, my DD is in a similar boat as your DD WRT softball, although I don’t think my DD every truly loved the game. She enjoyed club softball largely because she liked the other girls on the team, as well as the attitude of the clubs she played on, where the emphasis was on participation and having fun, as opposed to some of the other clubs, where the emphasis seemed to be more on winning and prepping the girls for the next level.

    She played on the intermediate team last year, and did not enjoy it much. She also had a chance to look ahead and see what you’re seeing for your DD, and that was a major part of her decision to quit now. She also wants to do some other things, e.g., last year, she missed most of the speech competitions because of softball, but she plans to do all of them this year.

  152. Ivy, it’s a different world then when we grew up. My nephew ran cross country his first two years in HS and really liked it and was pretty good at it. Then the coach required all the cross country runners to also do indoor and outdoor track, which he didn’t want to do, so he had to drop off the team.

  153. “‘DS plays the trumpet. This fact has been greeted with great enthusiasm at several top tier colleges. Who knew.”

    Is it for their marching band, wind ensemble, or symphony? My guess is marching band, since trumpet is one of the most important instruments, and you need many of them for a good marching band.

    And LfB, as I mentioned earlier, tuba is also a very important instrument for marching band, and it’s typically harder to find enough good tuba (actually Sousaphone) players for a good marching band than trumpet players. So playing the tuba could help her get into a good college, or help pay for her college.

    And speaking from experience, marching band in college is a lot of fun.

  154. “If we just want musical literacy, why not miniature keyboards?”

    My guess is that more kids get piano/keyboard lessons the lessons on any other instruments.

  155. Finn–not for marching band–more for pep and jazz bands. One music director commented that it seems that trumpet players want to go to schools with good marching band programs, so it’s harder to attract them to schools that just have pep bands. DS has never marched, so he doesn’t care.
    And wrt the comment on xc and track, that’s one reason a lot of kids don’t want to run in college–coaches demand you do both sports, so you never get an offseason. You compete and travel all year long.

  156. “Then the coach required all the cross country runners to also do indoor and outdoor track, which he didn’t want to do, so he had to drop off the team.”

    The coach wouldn’t let him back on cross country even if his times would be top 7? When the metric is so simple and objective, that seems like a personal grudge on the part of the coach, over which he’s willing to hurt his own team.

  157. When DS was a college swimmer, there was no off-season, even though the actual college competitive season ended in February. I know that the football team trains year-round, but don’t know whether other Division I college sports have any meaningful downtime. Most of those kids were playing at a pretty high level in high school, and are presumably accustomed to year-round training.

    When DS struggled with his 5 am practice during high school, I told him that he should have chosen golf, a sport that is impossible to play in the dark.

  158. I also pointed out to all of the kids that, unlike baseball/tennis/soccer/BB, in golf, the ball waits for you. But given the cost of nurturing a young golfer, I’m glad that they didn’t latch onto it.

  159. “My graduating class had 12 NMSF, about 2% – which means the class was pretty representative of the state as a whole (as 2% of a random group should be NMSF).”

    Your class probably had more than your share of NMSF. About 1% of eligible students become NMSF.

  160. The coach wouldn’t let him back on cross country even if his times would be top 7? When the metric is so simple and objective, that seems like a personal grudge on the part of the coach, over which he’s willing to hurt his own team.

    I don’t think it was personal, it was that the coach wanted to oversee their training year-round.

  161. When DS struggled with his 5 am practice during high school, I told him that he should have chosen golf, a sport that is impossible to play in the dark.

    Driving ranges have lights. Most golf practice occurs at the range and the practice greens, very little of it is actually on a course.

  162. “I don’t think it was personal, it was that the coach wanted to oversee their training year-round.”

    Be that as it may, if he has a runner who wants to run cross country and can run faster than one of his current top 7 runners, it would be pretty stupid to turn him away because he doesn’t get to oversee his training for the rest of the year.

  163. Be that as it may, if he has a runner who wants to run cross country and can run faster than one of his current top 7 runners, it would be pretty stupid to turn him away because he doesn’t get to oversee his training for the rest of the year.

    I agree. At the same time, if it’s a team rule, it’s no different than enforcing any other team rule. Coaches suspend or drop players for violating team rules all the time. I agree with you that this is an unreasonable one.

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