I have two boys, ages 9 and 6. One look at the posters on their bedroom walls and you can tell they're huge soccer fans. Manchester United fans to be exact. But, they're not just sports fans. My boys are budding travel enthusiasts and secretly wish Hagrid would show up on their doorstep and whisk them off to Hogwarts. As they've grown up, so have their tastes, interests and passions. And, my husband and I have enjoyed watching the evolution and helping them cultivate each new interest as best we can. But, I have to tell you, I was completely caught off guard by one of their recent interests - the High School Musical movies.
The first, Disney-produced High School Musical movie came out in January 2006 - when our oldest son was just 5 months old. The third and last of the hit movies was screened in theaters in 2008. But, thanks to the cold and snow that's come to Chicago this winter, our sons recently discovered the movies.
I admit I was a bit hesitant when my husband originally suggested we sit down and watch the first High School Musical movie together. But, to my surprise, our sons both agreed to give it a try - and were hooked in no time.
The High School Musical story begins one fateful New Year's Eve when Troy Bolton, a high school basketball star played by Zac Efron, is called up to sing a karaoke duet with Gabriella Montez, a book-smart, "academically gifted" student, played by Vanessa Hudgens, at a "kids" party at their ski resort. During their impromptu duet, Troy indulges his hidden passion and talent for singing. And, thanks to the influence of Gabriella, who coincidently ends up transferring to Troy's school, he soon comes to accept his talent and gain the confidence necessary to further pursue his passion - even if it differs what his teammates and dad expect of him.
I know that some of these bigger life lessons may be a bit too much for our young sons to understand at this point, but I appreciate that they're being exposed to them now. It's given us a reason to talk about pursuing your dreams - no matter what they are or what other people think about it.
After watching all three movies several times, Troy Bolton has become a clean-cut hero our boys emulate - basketball and dance moves and all. And, I know the lessons we've begun to discuss are ones we'll likely revisit for many years to come as they take away new ones from the movie as they watch them over the next few years.
Here are the top 6 lessons kids can learn from watching the High School Musical movies:
1. It's okay to pursue your dreams - no matter what anyone else thinks about them.
This lesson takes the top spot - hands down. If I wanted my sons to walk away with one lesson from the three movies, this would be it. I want them to be able to feel comfortable with, and confident in, doing anything they want to in life - as long as it makes them happy. I wholeheartedly clapped when Troy shared his college selection at the end of the third movie. (You'll have to watch it the movie to get the full story...)
2. A diverse group of friends is the norm.
It's so refreshing to look at a cast of characters and see diversity among their smiling faces. While the group of East Side High School friends who "star" in the movie could have been even more diverse, I applaud Disney for making an effort to show a mix of ethnicities among the group - even back in 2006 - and have them join together to sing that "they're all in this together." I can only hope that, with each passing year, kids won't notice a thing when they see everyone's faces, because to them, it will be completely normal and totally reflective of their own social circles.
3. Don't classify people into groups and then write them off.
In some ways, I think it's human nature for us to gravitate towards people who share similar backgrounds and interests. And, truth be told, I think it's just plain easier and more comfortable, too. But, if we only interacted with people just like us, our lives wouldn't be as varied and full - and that goes for kids, too. I'm glad Disney made a point of mixing the "jocks," "the brains" and "the drama club" kids together, and made it okay for the basketball team captain to be smitten with the academic decathlon team captain, too.
4. You shouldn't choose your classes, schools or interests just based on what your friends want to do.
Even as a parent, I find it easy to choose to enroll our sons in programs just so they can be with their friends. But, as I've learned over the years, our kids excel in the programs we select based solely on their interests, skills and passions - not anyone else's. And, I do hope that now that our sons have an active say in their extracurricular activities, they'll choose the ones that they want to do - regardless of anything or anyone else. In the movies, it's okay for an young actor to get out on the baseball diamond, a basketball player to be in a musical, and more!
5. Always keep an open mind and try everything once.
I'll admit that our sons tend to quickly say "no" to trying to something new. I mean, they're kids after all. But, my husband and I are always quick to tell them they can say "no" - as long as they at least try it once. At different points in the High School Musical movies, members of the basketball team try acting and members of the drama club try playing sports. And, while they don't just up and join the other team or club, they gain a new appreciation of the sport, the art and their friends. What more could you ask for?
6. Don't take things too seriously - just have fun. These movies are about a high-performing group of high school students who face a lot of pressures - championship basketball games, decathlon competitions, and high school musicals (of course). But, even with minutes left before the buzzer sounds for one of Troy's biggest games of his high school basketball career, it's refreshing to hear his basketball coach-dad put it all in perspective. In a locker room pep talk, he reaffirms the importance of having fun over just chalking up another win.
Now that we've had a chance to watch all three High School Musical movies together, our conversations aren't over. It's just begun - thanks to the periodic requests to watch the movies yet again. But, each time my sons ask to see one of the High School Musical movies - or listen to the soundtracks - I can't help but say yes. I still relish the opportunity for them to be entertained, while being exposed to important life lessons, too.
Are your kids fans of the High School Musical movies? If so, what do they like about the movies? What other things do you think they can stand to learn from them? Do you like any other movies with similar lessons and/or role models? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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