The following is a guest post by Melissa Camara Wilkins.
Sometimes I look across the living room at the children, who are busily engaged in board games or a stack of Agatha Christies or a pile of rubber stamps that will mostly get stamped on the floor instead of the paper, and I wonder: what will their great passions in this life be? Some we already see developing, of course, but others are yet to be discovered.
Will they be deeply interested in spoken word poetry, or engrossed with the idea of sustainable farming? Maybe they’ll be passionate about app design, or become experts on Emperor Penguins.
We want each of our six kids to discover their own passionate interests, those particular areas that they believe are worth investigating, worth dedicating their time and energy to, and worth sharing with others.
In fact, helping find and engage with those deeper interests is one of the main focuses of our family’s homeschooling lifestyle.
If you take a summer break, this can be a great time to encourage your kids to find their passions or to delve deeper into what they already love, too.
- Kids are all different, and so it makes sense that they’d each have unique interests, skills, and talents. We think pursuing those is a way of honoring who they were made to be.
- Spending time in service of something you love is fulfilling. We find that spending even a bit of time working on passion projects leaves us satisfied and at peace at the end of the day.
- And yes, those interests might eventually turn into an income stream for our kids, in one way or another—but even if their passionate interests just bring joy and meaning to their days, that’s a good enough reason to invest in them!
To pursue deeper interests, though, we first have to find them. Here are a few ways we help our kids discover new things to explore, in pursuit of the ones that will resonate with their individual personalities and talents.
I’m not even kidding.
Pinterest gets a bad rap as a place to fritter away your time, but it’s my favorite way to organize ideas for my kids to explore, whether in the form of podcasts, videos, books, or activities.
Science, history, literature, nature, geography, cooking, crafting: there are kids’ magazines that cover all kinds of topics, and they often introduce us to concepts we wouldn’t have thought to investigate on our own. Our older kids sometimes even find interesting tidbits in our college alumni magazines.
Set out a collection of books, tools, and supplies, to inspire kids toward self-directed exploration.
If it’s spring, I might set out a basket of birding guides and a pair of binoculars. If the weather is keeping us indoors, I might set out a magnifier along with our collection of fossilized rocks, and a field guide. Sometimes these new materials spark a child’s deeper interest or point us toward a new area they’d like to investigate.
Get out in nature
Interact with the natural world in a new way. Go hiking or nature walking or kayaking or spelunking. Visit a nature center. Talk with a park ranger. Take a guided tour.
Even if we don’t encounter anything new, just being out in the world lets our minds process whatever other stuff is bouncing around in there. We come home refreshed, with new connections and new perspectives.
Try visiting a new-to-you museum, concert, botanical garden, animal sanctuary, monument, farm, seasonal or cultural festival, or any local point of interest.
You don’t need an agenda, just explore what you find and see what interests each person in your family.
The power of good books
Once a kid has discovered something they want to know more about, the library is our next stop. Books on Renaissance paintings or steam engines or organic gardening or modernism or the history of the cello: check.
But the library is also a great place to find new ideas to explore. If one of our kids is between projects or interests, we might challenge them to find a biography that looks interesting, or to request a few books exploring one topic from different angles, or to choose books in a new-to-them genre.
I’m always amazed at the different things that pique each child’s interest! Where do you look for new things to explore? What passions do you see developing in your kids?
Recently my 4 yo son’s new passion came from a DVD (and I’m not even kidding 🙂 ) We were watching an Oceans documentary because of his love of, and subsequent projects involving sharks. There was a preview for Disney Nature’s African Cats and we rented it a few days later. (LOVE Amazon Prime!) he still loves sharks but oh man do we have a passion for big cats now, too. Since then he’s checked out tons of cat books from the library and visited the zoo to see lions, tigers and cheetahs. Now he’s making comparisons between animal species and is digging deeper and deeper into his broader interest of animals.
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Melissa Camara Wilkins
Educational videos — great suggestion! My kids haven’t seen any of the Disney Nature DVDs, I’ll have to see if our library has them. We’ve had good luck with some of the BBC nature series, though, and the DK Eyewitness DVDs.
And don’t you love how one interest sparks another and another and then another… on and on forever? 🙂
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Alyssa Marie Thys
Thanks for these great thoughts! Passion driven learning is the best kind of learning!
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