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Talent Search: How A.N.T. Farm Encouraged my Son to Discover His Hidden Talent

Our middle child, Grey, is six years old and fascinated with the concept of identity. His current passion is finding his talent, thanks to an episode of Disney Channel’s A.N.T. Farm. For this, I am forever grateful.

A.N.T. Farm follows pre-teen musical prodigy Chyna Parks as she enters the Advanced Natural Talent program at Webster High School and befriends her fellow 11-year-old A.N.T.s.

A.N.T. Farm

The A.N.T. program is a high school gifted program for middle schoolers, designed to develop their advanced natural talents. Which is awesome, as I’m a huge fan of this new generation of shows for kids that celebrate intelligence over smart mouth antics. (Hang on, let me go shoo some kids off my front lawn with my old lady stick and yell “In my day…!” a few times.)

In the second episode of season 2, “InfANT,” the ANTs are left with a baby anticipated to be a prodigy and tasked with discovering the baby’s talent. The episode aired last summer and caught Grey’s imagination. The next six months began a hunt to discover his own hidden talents.

Out of nowhere, he would snap out of thought and ask, “What do you think my talent is?” He experimented with instruments, art, and sports. “Could this be a talent?” followed nearly everything he did, however random.

My favorite suspected talent he considered? His empathy. For weeks, he made a concerted effort to decipher how people around him were feeling and anticipate their needs. “Is there anything you need help with?” “Can I get you anything?” “I can tell you are tired, do you want to snuggle for a while?” Oh, my heart. It was spectacular.

For the record, my vote is absolutely for his talent emanating from empathy. But he wasn’t satisfied.

While watching an ad for Walt Disney World’s new Art of Animation resort, he asked some questions about animators. We always make a point of watching the bonus DVD features of how feature animation is made and love the quick “How To Draw [fill in your favorite character]” shorts during commercial breaks on our favorite kid networks, so he lit up when I began explaining more in depth animation as a career.

Animation as a talentMixed Media Master

School had resumed again and I began finding him curled up on the couch in the afternoons watching “how to draw” videos on YouTube. My printer paper tray would constantly be open, as he would sneak pieces of paper out and practice along with the videos.

I smiled as I found “how to draw puppes” in the search bar of our YouTube app. How to draw puppies. He’s six and brilliant and hilarious and curious and my heart melts.

Grey’s older brother is in the gifted program and I’m not sure Grey will make it. We don’t call it a gifted program, neither does the school, but Grey hears Quinn talk about it and knows what it means. If he doesn’t make it into the program, he’ll think about it at least fleetingly each week when the kids leave class and head for their day in the lab.

The majority of kids are not in gifted programs, I get it. Nor should they be. Quinn misses the equivalent of a full day of school each Thursday, requiring him to work double time all day Friday during his regular classes to make up what he missed while in their lab. It’s a decent amount of pressure. The fact that our school even has a gifted program is a privilege. Nevertheless.

I want him to want to be in the gifted program but simultaneously don’t want to make a big deal out of it. In the same breath, we want his brother to realize what a solid opportunity the program is and are careful not to inadvertently underplay it while trying not to overstate it.

Sigh. Parenting. Am I right?

So where did we land? What talent has he decided to explore? Animation!

This Christmas, his entire wish list was art supplies. How-to doodle workbooks, paint sets, modeling clay, markers, colored pencils, and sketch pads galore. So many sketch pads.

With his hilarious sense of humor and open spirit, he is taking after A.N.T. Farm’s multi-media genius Fletcher more every day. Browsing videos Grey has been shooting around the house on our old Flip camera, I found several clips prefaced with “Welcome to GreyAndIrisAtTheHouse.com” and closed with an extreme closeup of himself saying, “Subscribe!”

Oh my.

This is why I’m grateful for A.N.T. Farm. Every week, this goofy group of kids inspire my son to discover and value his talents. They make him mindful and aware of his potential. Above all else, the show has somehow instilled in him the belief that he has control over developing his talent. Gifted program or not, that is priceless.

Speaking of priceless goofy, don’t rule out his musical talent just yet.
Click the little speaker button on the video below and enjoy “I Got a Magical Girlfriend” by Grey:

Lyrics? “I got a magical girlfriend. I toot. I fart. She doesn’t smell a thing! (nailed it!)”

I totally encourage him. So tell me: How do you encourage your kids to find their talent?

• • •

Read more of Megan’s writing at VelveteenMind.com
Follow her artful goofing on twitter and Facebook

More of Megan on Threadbare Theory:

14 Tips for Raising Crush-Worthy Boys
Disney Hangover: How to Cure Post-Vacation Blues

Why I Love Good Luck Charlie

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