Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A True Aussie Hero!!!

This week a 16 year old girl arrived home to a hero's welcome after sailing solo and unassisted around the world. She spent 210 days on a little pink boat doing something that most of us won't even dream of. This article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and was written by the principle of The Kings School, one of the most elite schools in Australia. This was his take on homeschooling and the benefits of it in the success of our children.

Family's perfect conditions for smooth sailing

Did you see the damage? Did you see the brown scabs on the side of Jessica Watson's yacht? The scars on Ella's Pink Lady tell the story of hardship more eloquently than any blog.

No one should doubt the courage of this 16-year-old girl who sailed solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world
Living with the possibility of catastrophe for that long would have crushed most people. This girl is tough - not so much physically as mentally.

Colliding with a 63,000-tonne cargo ship in sea trials a few weeks before setting sail around the world, contending with critics then and now, bobbing back up after being knocked flat four times in 12 hours by huge waves, surviving 210 days in a 10-metre yacht, coping with 75-knot winds and 12-metre seas - that's gritty stuff.

Reflecting on these challenges, Jessica told reporters that she had been pleased with her mental performance. This comment is interesting and suggests where most battles have to be fought - in the mind.

Now the adulation, the publicity, the fame. Jessica is being heralded as the embodiment of positive thinking. This claim has serious credentials to support it. While her positive message has made a big impression around the world, it is possible the message would have been even more potent if things had gone wrong.

What if Ella's Pink Lady had collided with an unknown object or met some other disaster just short of Jessica completing her trip?

Imagine the impact if, after such a disaster, Jessica was able to say: "I don't know what to feel at the moment - stepping off was hard because I've spent the past seven months doing everything to stay on board - I've shown people that it is sometimes not possible to reach your goals despite your very best efforts . . ."

To succeed sometimes requires mental toughness. To fail always requires mental toughness. It is not only success that defines us, it is our failures.

If Jessica's yacht had sunk a few days before completing her odyssey, and if she had still said ''Go out and live your dreams'', it might not have been a prime minister who wanted to be there to hear her say these words - it might only have been a depressed child struggling with their own failures - and it may have transformed them.

About 5 per cent of teenagers are currently experiencing depressive symptoms. Some 20 per cent of teenagers will experience depression to the extent that they require medication prior to reaching adulthood. Would they be more encouraged by heroic success or by heroic failure?

For those parents who wish to build resilience in their offspring, attention could be paid to two initiatives undertaken by Jessica's parents; home schooling and no television.

Lest an exodus of enrolments in schools and a collapse in the sale of flat-screen plasma TVs occur, some elaboration is needed.

What is suggested by these two parenting initiatives is that success in life is rarely available to the child who is allowed to squander significant time on the trivial, the shallow or the soporific.

In an age that witnesses ever higher aspirations in the young, but a lower inclination to work for them, it is as well to be reminded that achievement is seldom won without sacrifice. In Jessica's case, it is undeniable that her parents were a great help.

However, she had to train hard for her voyage and work jobs to help pay for its expenses. It's no good feeling sorry for yourself if you have not done the work to deserve success.

The home-schooling of Jessica hints at another timeless truth. Success in the life of a child is made more likely by a parent who remains actively engaged in their education.

So - well done Jessica. You have delighted a nation, but know that even if you had failed, a few would still have cheered you on your return. And well done Mr and Mrs Watson.

Dr Tim Hawkes is the headmaster of The King's School

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