Day 9: How Their Budding Interests Can Bloom No Matter How You Do School

31 days final big button

Yesterday we stopped at the public library on the way home from school. I’ve got one child who consumes books like an Olympic athlete consumes calories. I’ve got another kid who’s an extremely selective, reluctant reader and will only read when it’s 100% engaging. Not everything reads like Harry Potter, I try to explain. But it falls on deaf ears. A third child is suddenly obsessed with all things Titanic. And because this child is also a reluctant reader, I try hard to fuel the awesomeness of books.

We get home and I pile on the sofa with the Titanic mini-expert and we learn all sorts of things, from the animals aboard to the fact that it had a swimming pool. I’m not an information book kind of mom but I’ve got this child who eats it up and his interests matter. I don’t know how his knack for details will play itself out in real life but I know that his uniqueness matters. As his mom, I want to nurture what’s already there.

This was one of the reasons we homeschooled. I’m passionate about people’s passions. I’m fascinated by the ways our personalities and gifts intersect with the world around us. I used to lead college freshmen through these very issues. I chose reading assignments, discussion prompts, and personality inventories that helped these not-quite-adult / not-still-kids gather information about how they’re wired. I loved guiding them down the path of self-discovery and opportunity.

And I longed to do the same for my own kids. Homeschooling, with its flexibility, endless options, and time for really specific interests, seemed like the perfect way to do that. Our oldest son always finished his work quickly and then played golf for hours in the backyard. Our daughter made art and jewelry and wrote plays. The littlest one emptied the contents of the bathroom drawers into the toilets. It was a lovely, messy, drippy season of togetherness and discovery.

Once they began public school, I worried that our days would be too scripted. I feared that because we wouldn’t have as much flexibility and free time, their interests would fizzle out. As it turned out I had nothing to fear. Though our days look different, their interests are alive and well. We simply cultivate them a bit differently these days.

golf

Cultivation happens in all sorts of real and normal ways. You don’t have to manufacture it. You simply have to allow room for it. For example, the public library is still one of our favorite stops. We’re steeped in books just as much now as when we homeschooled. All three kids love athletics but we don’t let them overtake our schedule. Summer has proven to be a fine time to try things out and let interests float up to the service. Our daughter found her “sport” through public school and can’t imagine life without cheer stunts and pom-poms. When not playing rec league basketball or flag football, our boys love turning our home into an America Ninja Warrior course, building with Legos, and memorizing raps. {I never said we were high culture.} Novels and books about outer space are strewn across the living room.

But don’t think too highly of us. There’s plenty of Minecraft and Clash of Clans going on around here too. And in all of these real and simple endeavors, I learn more about who they are. And who they’re not.

Yes, life is full and our schedule is much more mandated. But that doesn’t mean it’s entirely scripted. No matter how we school, we can choose to say yes to margin and family and no to lesser things that fill up our calendars but diminish our creative space.

If he always wants to help in the kitchen, let him cook and watch the Food Network. If she’s always making up songs, grab a notebook and maybe some music lessons. If he rushes through math so he can get to backyard golf every single day, take him to the Par 3 on Saturday mornings. For the love, leave room in your days for discovery and noticing. This is where the magic happens.

While some school options may specifically cater to certain gifts and abilities, your child’s passions are there and waiting to be noticed no matter how you school. Start paying attention and share with them you what you discover. From the easy way he makes others feel welcome to the fashion magic she can create out of the everyday clothes in her closet — let their gifts be your guide.

It’s easy for the regular kid to feel like they’ve got nothing to offer in an American culture that seems to specialize in kids who specialize. Our children need to see the beauty and possibility that’s within each one of them, not for the sake of self-esteem, but to remind them that they are God’s workmanship, created to do good works and to step out into the world in uniquely personal ways. 

As parents, we get to help them navigate these years with the vision and confidence they’re still growing into.

It’s a pretty sweet gig.

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What have been some of your kids’ most surprising passions?

For all the posts in this 31-day series, go here. And to read the other posts I’ve written on topic of schooling, you can go here and find them all in one place.

I’m linking up with The Nester and her tribe of 31 Dayers.

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