I am not going to link to this, because it involves the children. If you want to find it, you can go to Nicole’s Blessed Little Homestead page and find it.
It’s a video of one of the boys, holding the baby (because we all hold babies while trying to play a musical instrument), and plunking about on their badly, badly out-of-tune piano.
The boy is not “practicing.” He is plunking about.
I have a whole lot to say about this.
First, the child is not “talented.” Nobody could possibly tell by that little bit of messing about whether he is musically inclined or not.
Second, he is not an autodidact. He knows nothing. Absolutely nothing.
And that last paragraph just made me want to beat my head against the wall until it bleeds.
Wanna hear a piano? Just listen. In this recording, Nathan is not only playing the piano and doing the vocals. He is also playing the guitar, both lead and bass, and doing all the background vocals. The only tracks on that recording that are not Nathan are the drum tracks (he was a terrible drummer and knew it, so he didn’t even try).
He was not born knowing how to do any of that.
When he was about six years old, his father asked a music professor at our local community college for some advice about music lessons for Nate. The prof told him to wait until Nate was around eight, until we were sure that he not only could count well, but had some sense of basic rhythm, and had some basic math skills down (music is mathematical). And then to start him with piano lessons.
So we bought a piano. At the time, it was a huge expense for us and something we shopped for diligently. It was not new, but in good shape. And we had it properly tuned.
There is Nathan with his piano.
He never asked for lessons. We had no idea whether he had any talent or not. We just provided him with the opportunity to learn.
Our reasoning was that even if he didn’t have any inclination at all, just the rigor required to learn the basics would be good for him. He would have to learn a skill that is quite difficult, involving a lot of fine motor movement, and he would have to practice daily, regularly, to see any progress.
At the same time, he decided that he wanted to play Little League ball. So, we signed him up and I carted him to practice once a week as well.
So, he did one hard thing that he asked to do, play ball. He did another hard thing that he did not ask to do, play piano.
And he’s sitting there, looking cute enough to eat, holding that trophy with the dirty smudge on his ball pants, obviously a champion ball player. Right?
The trophy is real, but here’s the back story.
Nathan was the worst ball player in the history of the game. The worst. Terrible. He couldn’t run. He never could run. Even grown, we all laughed at Nathan running. He simply was not coordinated.
One of his friends once said that when Nate was conceived, all the coordination in his body went straight into his hands, with nothing left.
Anyway, he happened to have the world’s finest Little League coach. The man was simply phenomenal. He understood little boys. And he knew Nathan was terrible, but he tolerated him and didn’t laugh at him too much and made the experience pleasant.
One problem was that Nate didn’t understand the game at all. And he didn’t really care. So if you put this kid who didn’t care in the outfield (which is what you do with the really bad players), he would just stare at the sky or examine the grass and daydream the whole game away.
And he couldn’t hit the ball with the bat to save his life. It was painful to watch.
But, remember, all this time, while he was struggling with ball playing, he was also practicing piano. And there he was excelling. He took to it like he was born to it. I had to nag and fuss and remind him to practice at first, because it was hard and it didn’t sound great, but he gradually started to enjoy it because he slowly began to make sounds that were actually good.
He transferred the lessons he was learning about perseverance from piano to softball. He began to go outside with a ball and his mitt and throw the ball against the foundation of the basement (in the back of the house, it was a whole story), catch it when it bounced off, or chase it when he didn’t catch it, and do it again. I can still hear that ball hitting the house over and over again. Every day, for a hour or so.
He got his dad to help him with his batting. Again and again.
And now you want to read about how he improved his game dramatically and it was all because of the piano lessons.
Only he didn’t.
He was still pretty terrible. Not quite as bad as in the beginning, but basically awful. And we all knew it. Everyone on the team knew it.
The day came for the championship game of the season. [This sounds like some made-for-TV movie, but it’s true.] His team was up against some other team for the championship, and that was not thanks to Nathan at all. He had just sort of tagged along for the ride.
And it was down to the wire. The bottom of the ninth inning, the score tied with three boys on base, and two outs, and Nathan came up to bat.
I wanted to die right there in the stands. His dad wasn’t there that day (something that still brings him to tears if we talk about it) because he had to work and Nathan was so terrible at ball that it didn’t matter.
But I could hear the groans from the parents all around me. “Oh, no,” one father said. “There’s the game and the trophy, gone,” said another parent. My heart sank to my toes.
Nathan got up to bat.
To my complete shock, that kid hit a home run.
It was the most beautiful thing I ever saw, I think. The parents all around me went bananas. I had already gone into hysterics. And the coach, a great big bear of a man, ran out onto the field and picked Nate up and hugged him and then the team put him on their shoulders and carried him off the field.
It was the only game where Nathan knew who won when we got in the car.
To be very fair, his home run was due in large part to complete incompetency on the part of the outfielders on the other team (they had their own players of Nathan’s caliber), but nobody cared about that.
So what does this have to do with anything?
In neither case was Nathan an autodidact. Nicole loves that word, but it’s bullshit. In both ball playing and music, he had teachers. Like gardening, there is no reason to begin with nothing and have to build a foundation all over again. It’s quite possible to get instruction and skip the mistakes of others.
Back then, we had no idea that our son would become a career musician. Not a single clue. We knew for certain in a very short time that he was not going to be a professional ball player, though.
However, we gave him the opportunity to try things. Those are just two of the things. How in the world are you supposed to know what you’re good at if you never have the chance to even try stuff? How can you figure out that you are really good with the guitar if you only have a cheap piece of shit guitar from someplace like Walmart that won’t stay in tune no matter what you do and that is very hard to play (good musical instruments are far easier to play than cheap ones).
Yes, you will find the occasional story of the child prodigy who climbed onto Grandma’s piano stool and began composing sonatas, but that’s not the typical story. The more common story is one like Nate’s.
If we had waited for him to ask for music lessons, he’d have been sunk before he started. Skill at the piano involves fine muscles in the hands. You have to develop muscle memory. It doesn’t happen fast, and the learning time lengthens the older you get. Start piano lessons after you’re about 20 and you’re never going to progress like you will if you start when you’re young.
It was obvious, as I’ve said, that Nathan was not an athlete. He learned to swim (his dad taught him when he was very young) and he could stay afloat and get out of deep water and he had fun swimming, but he just wasn’t going to excel at it. He was never interested in basketball or track (I laugh thinking of Nathan even attempting to run track).
So he played ball for a couple of years and quit. The championship game that day was the high point of his short athletic career.
And if he’d been terrible at music, that’s what would have happened there as well. We wouldn’t have forced him to take lessons for a very long time if he’d showed no ability at all.
But of course, that’s not what happened.
The Naugler children are never going to even know if they have any ability at much of anything. Their art supplies are cheap pottery crap that you paint practically by number. Their piano might not even be salvageable, it’s so far out of key. I suspect any other musical instruments they have been exposed to are cheap. And they cannot get lessons at anything without asking specifically. And they don’t ask because they know perfectly well Nicole and Joe can’t afford lessons of any sort.
But you know what? They’d get that sort of exposure if they went to public school, at little to no cost to Joe and Nicole.
Are the Naugler children also looking for a promised land that they will never, ever find?No. Just no.
Originally, I put my comments about the love letter I got after posting this article in the comment section, but I’m going to move it up here. Lots of people don’t read comments, and I want to be sure this is seen.
You can see the original comment, which I approved, in the comment section below.
At first, I assumed that like the name and email address which are clearly fake, the IP address was probably a proxy, so I didn’t even bother to look it up. But when I did, I found this:
The IP address is Naugler-related, either Nicole, or Joe, or their eldest son, Jacob (whose name I am using because he inserted himself into all this with his parents’ blessing).
It really doesn’t matter which of the three it is.
If it’s one of the parents, well, fuck you back.
If it’s Jacob or one of the older children, here’s an example of “unschooling” at its best.
In addition, Nicole posted this a few hours later.
First, thank you, Nicole. The child was in fact “tinkering” on the piano. He was not playing it.
Second, I had and still do not have any idea that the kid is autistic. For one thing, you don’t vaccinate your kids, so how in the world could they be autistic? [Don’t go ballistic. That was a joke, and borrowed for all that.] Furthermore, how would you know such a thing? You don’t take them to doctors, they don’t go to school. Did the state come up with that when they were in foster care? If so, isn’t the state evil? How can you trust what they say?
Third, I have not ever and do not ever report you, Nicole, on Facebook for anything at all. I don’t interact with you ever. The only comments I have ever made (unless I am missing something) were directly to Joe in conversations where he was actively participating. I have posted a sample of that sort of thing from my own Facebook wall where he sought me out to start a fight.
So I didn’t report your Facebook page for anything. However, by posting about it and including me in your comments, you are, of course, implying that I did it.
Fourth, I was not “poking fun” at your child. I went to a bunch of trouble to shield your child. I did not link to the video. I blacked out all children’s names. I was criticizing you. You are the one who posts videos of your children on a Facebook page that has 45000 potential viewers (and puts them on YouTube at the same time). I’m not pimping out your children. You are. The only thing missing from all this is your kids sitting on the street corner holding tin cups.
Fuck you, Nicole. With all due respect.