This post is in honor of Puttyfest, a world-wide celebration of Multipotentialism September 23 – 25, organized by Emilie and her tribe over at her website, Puttylike.com “A Home for Multipotentialites.”
If you’ve read my About page, you know I consider myself a Multipotentialite. Well, it turns out both my daughters are as well. Poor Hubby, not only is he overrun by estrogen on a daily basis, he’s also the lone Specialist.
However, I believe that learning this is such a big part of our lives has actually enriched our family.
First, An Explanation
If this is the first time you’ve run across the word Multipotentialite, here’s my basic description:
A Multipotentialite is someone who has no one true calling in life, but many interests and abilities.
There are other names for it: Scanner, Multi-Passionate, Renaissance Person, Jack of all trades, etc. But I prefer “Multipotentialite.” The thought of having multiple possible careers and/or life interests at my fingertips excites me. I get bored easily and this keeps me sane.
For a more in-depth answer, I suggest the following:
“Are You a Scanner?” an excerpt from the wonderful book by Barbara Sher, Refuse to Choose, which I highly recommend. She’s the author known for popularizing the term “Scanner” (not sure if she coined it as well).
“What is a Multipotentialite?” An excellent video by Emilie at her website, Puttylike.com.
A Multipotentialite Family
As a Mom, I feel it’s in my job description to keep the family running as smoothly as possible. Not an easy task for anyone these days, much less with three members prone to jump from interest to interest and the fourth scratching his head, confused by the chaos.
My husband is gifted with mechanical ability and has, in some capacity, done that work since the age of nine. The idea of Multipotentialism was a new and alien concept to him. Luckily, he has quite an open mind and through many discussions has learned it’s not an evil to be stomped out. Since I’m able to see both sides of this, I’m usually the family translator.
My oldest daughter has major interests in art and crafting, film, and writing. My youngest is interested in music, singing, and acting. And now that I look at that, each of those groupings are within overarching creative niches. However, both are straight-A students in all the usual subjects in school, including math and science, so their aptitudes are fairly wide.
Discovering this about myself later in life was a bit of an a-ha! moment. No wonder it was so easy for me to switch from fine art in high school to a degree in English Education to creating sales literature and productivity systems for a manufacturing company to being its office manager to bookkeeping for my uncle’s and then my husband’s businesses to my current career choice, writing. Not to mention my interests in science and history, cooking, gardening and all things Halloween.
Learning about the different types of Multipotentialites, their mindsets, and lifestyles has made me more sensitive to my family’s needs. In particular, I’ve played the role of advocate for my kids when it comes to navigating school.
Multipotentialites and School
*** The following information is based solely on my experience in the U.S. public school system and my specific school district. I’d welcome hearing how other districts, private schools or even other countries handle the following situations differently. Please feel free to comment.***
Schools, from my point of view, are the land of conformity. Differences make you stand out and feel either left out or targeted.
Elementary, middle, and high schools are good for Multipotentialites on one hand because there’s no stigma attached to trying new things and joining different extracurricular groups.
However, in 7th and 8th grade, they start testing for job aptitudes. Home Economics has now become Home and Careers. The school counselors like to say it “gets the kids thinking about the future” but, for some kids, it’s absolute torture.
My youngest had a meltdown because she felt such pressure to make a career decision right then and there – at the age of twelve! Now, she’s good at creating drama for herself, so I won’t blame all of it on the school, though I believe how the topic was approached wasn’t ideal.
For both of my kids, I did a lot of talking them down when it came time to take the basic tests schools like to give to figure out career choices. I had to explain that these weren’t straight-jackets and you weren’t expected to live by these decisions. By about 10th grade, though, counselors are seriously pushing, because in 11th grade, kids start filling out college applications.
High school is now becoming a place to “prepare kids for college,” whether they want to attend college or not. Both my daughters are college-bound but I wonder how the kids who want to go into trades or just have no interest or ability in school feel about this? Left out and unworthy, I expect. Which sucks, because I think this country is nearing a crisis in the trades, but that’s a topic for another day.
My school just recently added a bunch of Advanced Placement classes, basically college-level courses. If the child passes the final test, they can get actual college credits if their chosen college accepts the credits (some don’t, even within the same state). This is a good deal, since college classes cost more than the price of the high school AP test.
My point is that not only do you need to know what your child will study in college but what college(s) they want to attend so they can find out if these credits will transfer. Needless to say, it’s a vicious circle.
What’s a parent to do? How does one honor a child’s Multipotentialism in the face of such decisions?
In my eldest daughter’s case, with lots of tears, discussion, and hugs. As each college deadline neared, we talked some more. She originally had her heart set on a particular specialization. We visited the only university in the area that offered it, but the school was just too big and competitive for her personality and way too expensive. She was crushed. The way she viewed herself and her future fell apart. We actually had a full-scale crisis on our hands for a couple weeks.
I made a case for generalization and, gradually, she decided that was the way for her. She is now attending a smaller college, going for an English degree with a concentration in creative writing and a film studies minor. It’s broad enough to cover two of her strongest interests, yet able to satisfy potential Specialist bosses with a degree. So far, she’s very happy with her decision.
One down, one more to go. Yay!
Like any family, we’re a work in progress. I honestly think Multipotentialism has deepened our understanding of ourselves and each other, and brought us closer as a family.
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Do you want to join in the Puttyfest fun? Check out Emilie’s post to see what you can do to blog, tweet, and otherwise let the world know about Multipotentialism.