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Milestones: The Interested Child turns 100

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It’s been a week for even more milestones, and if you’ll allow me a moment of pride, I’ll share that the Independent Curriculum Group just took on its 75th Partner School (which makes a total of 78 Partners, with The Association of Boarding Schools, the Progressive Education Network, and the National Association of Independent Schools. This makes the ICG what I think must be one of the larger school bodies in the independent school world (although to be sure not all of our Partners are independent schools nor do we wish them to be). The sudden growth spurt is pretty exciting.

For me a more significant personal milestone is the publication of “Idea #100” on one of my other blogs, The Interested Child.

The Interested Child project began many years ago as a list of recommended summer activities for students that would complement the summer reading list at my school, but at some point priorities changed and the shortish list that I and a colleague had made became one of those “things that we used to do.” One of my own kids liked the idea after we had tried a few of the items on the school list and suggested that I expand the list myself and turn it into a book.

As a manuscript The Interested Child never received much interest from publishers. It can fit too squarely into the category of “ideas for polishing your kid’s résumé for college” that makes me kind of queasy, although I confess that I do make the point on the site’s backend that kids who have developed real interests generally do pretty well in school and can be attractive as college candidates (with a cagily overt illustration, for which I always mentally apologize). That said, I don’t have the stomach to cynically push this point anywhere near as hard as I might have. (I’ve tried to explain in this Interested Child post the delicate distinction I make between real interests and résumé-building “passions,” as in what your college applicant must demonstrate, according to all the advice you can buy.)  But a friend encouraged me to turn the manuscript into a blog to promote intellectual curiosity and acquired the domain name for me as an incentive; there’s even a modest little Twitter feed, @InterestedChild.

On the make-a-stronger-case-for-this-idea side there is, I think, a strong and sometimes even uncomfortable echo in The Interested Child of Tony Wagner’s Creating Innovators, which is at bottom a book that tells us that kids whose interests are supported and encouraged can do good things. Yet, I have been very aware that sometimes this support and encouragement are attached to economic privilege, and I wanted to readers to be able to follow the suggestions of The Interested Child on the cheap. (Okay, there are a handful of clearly categorized “Big Ideas Requiring Serious Planning and Resources.”)

Mostly I want The Interested Child to do for families what the original list was intended to do: to provide a menu of relatively inexpensive ideas for showing kids different sorts of activities that might be of interest, in the hope that one or two might really take root or inspire yet another interest. For our own kids, “Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper or magazine on an issue you care about” (Idea #13) was just a suggestion, but I think that both of them tried it. So was Idea #1, “Go to a restaurant featuring a kind of national or ethnic cuisine you’ve never tried. Whatever you do, don’t order a Coke.” We did this as a family, several times, and we always enjoyed ourselvesScreen Shot 2015-07-16 at 3.50.32 PM.

So clicking “Publish” on Idea #100 was kind of a big deal for me. The original manuscript stops after 111 categorized ideas, so perhaps I will slow down soon, but there is always something new. The Interested Child promotes a certain kind of experiential education, and I doubt I will really run out of experiences to imagine.

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