Passion is something that is cultivated. True passion arises after you’ve put in the long hours to really become a craftsman in your field and can then leverage this value to really have an impact, to gain autonomy and respect, and ultimately, to control your occupational destiny.
To paraphrase Steve Jobs’ famous Stanford Commencement address: You’ve got to find what you love, don’t settle.
Attending a Piano Guys concert this past summer.
I certainly have no idea where the interests of my children will lead them in the future. My role, as their parent, is to provide them with the tools (academic knowledge and skills) and resources (knowing how to find answers to their questions and the ability to work with others) they will need for success as an adult.
Our homeschooling style has evolved over the years; we go with the flow and our approach changes with the tides. At our core, however, is interest-based or child-led learning. Today, I share a simple five step approach to cultivating passions in children.
Interest-based, child-led learning emanates from within the child outward. As parents, we can be careful observers who translate what we see into additional resources that can feed the flame of passion within the child.
Our wisdom and experience as parents is absolutely needed. It is what we are exposing our children to within our home and outside those walls in the greater world or through the great, intellectual resources of computers and technology that can help our children stumble upon an intriguing interest. It is also taking what they become passionate about and feeding the flame from within outward.
Meeting the incredible pianist, Alpin Hong, after an evening performance.
5 Steps to Cultivating Passions
1. Gather Sparks of Curiosity
Allow the whims and interests of your children guide you. Those little sparks of interest can lead you to great places. Follow the bunny trail. Trust your intuition and use it to make small investments in things that are potentially interesting. Read different books, take on different activities, and don’t be afraid to meet different people.
2. Fan the Flames of Interest
Build upon the little sparks of interest and opportunities that come by your life. If your child reads a book about sailing and likes the subject, sign him up for a sailing class. If your child enjoys playing with Lego, consider buying iStop Motion and playing around with making your own animated short films together.
There have been many rabbit trails along our homeschool journey. Here are a few whose initial sparks have ignited flames:
Volunteering at a local retirement home, a weekly service he initiated on his own.
3. Cut Out Distractions
Cultivating whims and exploring new passions requires time. If their interests are genuine and worth exploring, it shouldn’t be too difficult to eliminate the non-essentials. Distractions such as television, excess internet usage, and video games only take a bit of conditioning to let go. Like many modern families, this is an area we are still working to balance, little by little.
When the kids are passionate about something, however, you will find they truly want to spend time honing their skill. Jeffrey, for example, is a very active boy of nearly 10 years. Like most boys his age, it is difficult to get him to sit still for very long. However, he spends hours watching videos of Alpin Hong or The Piano Guys on YouTube and then trying to emulate them himself. Inspired by The Piano Guys’ Charlie Brown Medley, he recently began volunteering to play the piano at a local retirement home.
While Geneva has had music lessons for several years (first in piano and now with violin), seeing The Piano Guys in concert sparked a desire to improve and invest more time in cultivating her own skills. Shortly after our return home, she expressed interest in auditioning for Youth Symphony. She worked hard with her instructor and was over-joyed to be selected for second chair.
Upon auditioning for Youth Symphony
4. Create Value
Down the road, if you or your child have a skill that creates social value and can fill human needs, you can also consider a process for gaining income. This certainly isn’t necessary for all interests and monetizing a passion takes skill, as any entrepreneur can tell you. Some passions are easy to translate. An interest in fly tying could allow you to design and sell your own flies. Other passions are more difficult.
My daughter loves hand tying her own flies for fly fishing and at Fish Camp last year received acclaim for a design of her own. She recently set up a booth at a local craft faire and sold her entire inventory!
Volunteering to tie flies at a local fly fishing workshop
The process of following whims, cultivating passions, turning them into valuable skills, and then finally earning revenue (if interested) is a lifelong pursuit. Just as you should not expect that all their passions will lead to a job they love, do not obsess over failed attempts or that their interests change as they grow.
The sensation of excitement about a particular idea is often a different sensation than the type of deep passion that drives people into a fulfilling career. Excitement comes and goes.
If you desire to allow your children’s whims and interests to guide their learning and wish to cultivate their passions, you may be interested in reading my earlier post, 7 Steps to Successful Project Based Learning.