Anyone whose children have attended WACK, whether for private tuition or our activity sessions, will know that I speak quite openly about the benefits of subconscious learning for children. I often promote children completing tasks for the sheer joy of them, blissfully unaware of their educational benefits, so that they may exist in a magical world of discovery and awe, not one where they have already been told what they should learn and discover today.
Whether the target driven approach of many schools today is successful in nurturing confident and self-assured young people is regularly debated. For some children, targets and progress charts illustrate nothing but achievement, success and so-called intelligence. But my experience of working individually with children has shown that, for many, being so acutely aware of whether they have ‘failed’ against some external view of what ‘should’ be achievable does nothing but cultivate self-critical, demotivated, downhearted, and in some cases very unhappy, young beings. As a result, I have persistently championed approaches that measure nothing but individual successes and whether that child is ready for the next step. It’s because of this belief that my activity sessions are designed to build confidence, develop practical skills, build friendships and teamwork, and, above all, wholeheartedly celebrate all the fabulously unique individuals who attend.
But this weekend, whilst I joined the other fans of Formula 1 in celebrating another British win (and secretly mourned Vettel’s snatched third place!) I considered the importance of providing children with such varied experiences in a new light. Whilst Hamilton taking to the podium is something the British public have become accustomed to, not so many think about the long journey it takes to get there, something that was highlighted in a documentary piece on Max Verstappen’s rise to his current seat at Toro Rosso during qualifying on Saturday and something that, if you’re a formula 1 fan like I am, you can now appreciate in Alonso’s very own museum of cars.
It got me thinking. So many of these started out in competitive karting, but what would have become of them if nobody had shown these drivers a go-kart? What if they, as young boys, had never had the chance to try it? Would go-karting, driving and, most importantly, competitive racing ever have been on their radar?
If most of these drivers’ journeys and ultimate success began at such a young age, it sheds new light on what we should be seeking for our children. Before I’m mistaken, I am not suggesting that we should all be paying for toddler ballet lessons or forcing our children to play the piano for two hours a night against their will just in case they have a chance at being the next Jools Holland. But every successful person, whether sportsperson, artist, actor or intellect, started their journey on the day they found their passion. Whilst I always maintain that school education is vital, perhaps our focus on targets should be shifted slightly. Instead our main ambition as adults, parents and educators should be to give our children such varied experiences that they all find their one true passion in life. Whatever that may be and to whatever level they pursue it, we should aim to support children in falling in love with something that makes them get up each day driven to improve, motivated to develop as a person and fulfilled in all they do.
To clarify, I am not suggesting that fame is the measure of success either, however in the current age we are regularly led to believe that the famous are a cut above the rest of us. Young people are persistently fed the concept of fame being reserved only for the inherently talented, for those children who were born with the vocal capacity of a gospel singer or able to execute a ‘bend it like Beckham’ moment before they barely had the vocabulary to explain what football is. And it is this that I question. I am almost certain that you will all agree that the famous are not the only talented individuals on this planet and yet I bet we have all, at times, fallen victim of doubting our successes simply because we aren’t one of those who ‘made it’. But perhaps there is another explanation. Perhaps the famous and so-defined ‘successful’ individuals our nation idolises are simply the lucky ones, the ones who found their passions at a young age and were fortunate enough for their life experiences to align with that growing talent. Perhaps this is all a game of luck and chance. If that is the case, then giving our children a breadth of experience can only increase their chances of finding that talent and meeting whatever criteria they set themselves as markers for success. Should we achieve that, hard work is all that stands in their way; no longer will they be stunted by society’s distorted impression of who is worthy and who is not.
Whether your child was part of WACK building go-karts, whether they’re booked onto our forthcoming music quiz or whether they joined us in Burnham Thorpe for glass blowing, all of our children walk away with another experience under their belt; another piece of the world explored. This isn’t about finding the next Lewis Hamilton or attempting to catapult our next generation to fame and fortune, but if WACK can play a part in introducing each child to their future passion then our contribution might be just as important as the first person who showed Lewis a go-kart.