Living on schedule

When he arrived on the beach, Evan believed he might have left home forever. He was afraid to acknowledge enjoying anything, because his parents might think he didn’t want to go back. He was quick to point out, whatever pleasure someone might express, it had its equal or better counterpart up North. Even as the months wore on and his fears subsided, then later when he really became comfortable, he never gave up ending every appreciation with, ‘it’s just as fun back home, too.’

I brought my children away because I wanted them to have nothing to do. The life of a working class child in the US is one of relentless activity. From morning until night, day after day, a series of assignments and appointments occupies seemingly every moment. I wanted my kids to wake up day after day, interminably, to nothing but free time. I wanted them to know what could be found there.

Noah found guanabanas and armadillos and stories written in the sky. Evan found he was unhappy without knowing what he was going to do next. He began scheduling his days beforehand, trying to fill them up in advance. He filled them with reading and writing and trips to the beach. But mostly he filled them with music.

When Evan turned five, I asked if he would like to learn the piano. He replied ‘yes’, and I inducted him into my Ten Year Musical Mastery program. Simply, he was required to practice classical piano six days a week for ten years. He hated it for the first five, then began playing on his own. When he arrived at the hot beach, he was a competent intermediate pianist. He would announce in the morning, “I’ll read my book for an hour. Then I’ll do my math. After lunch I’ll go to the beach. Then I can play for three hours until dinner.” And that is what he would do.

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