In response to my article, “How Learning Happens Without School”, a reader/mom asked this:
“What about kids whose parents (like me) are not passionate about anything? I don’t expect of my kid too but I really want to give this kind of environment to her. I know you and your daughter are talented…”
The reader (am not mentioning her name) asked this in reaction to my writing that as part of providing a rich environment to my kids, I follow my own passions and keep my learning alive. Following my own ideas and interests may or may not serve as inspiration to them; I follow them anyway because that’s what feeds my own curiosity and creativity, and offers a rich environment to them and makes them see how much fun it is to dive yourself into your interests. Interest-based learning, anyone?!
Now, to answer the reader’s question:
You may not be passionate about anything, but you can be curious about something. Your curiosity will fuel your desire to learn something new. And, it may (or not) rub off on your children.
So, yes, you may not have passions. You may not be particularly talented at one or more things.
But, it’ll help if you’re open to learning yourself. You’ll make a rocking team if you kindle your curiosity – your natural state of learning. For, your children are inherently curious and will be curious about one thing or another. You just need to follow their cues.
And, feed THEIR curiosity, while feeding your own.
And, how exactly do you feed their curiosity and support their learning?
Here’s an example. Let’s say your son is interested in trains. This is what you can do, even though you know nothing about trains.
(What I’m listing below is from my perspective and current knowing. There can be tons of other things or newer things depending on your child’s personality, the place where you live, your circle of people connections.)
- First off, start off by getting ‘curious’ about trains. A lot will flow from there.
- Grab an opportunity to travel with him by train. Then, travel more often.
- Play family board games like ‘Ticket to Ride‘
- All of you visit a Railway museum
- Buy him a railway model kit or building set and have fun together making
- Organize a railway/locomotive quiz that the whole family can play
- Strew railway books/coffee table books all around the house that he can pick and read whenever his fancy strikes
- Read fiction based on railway stories. A classic is The Railway Children. I’m sure there are a hundred others.
- Watch movies based around trains and locomotives. Here’s a long list of train-based movies.
- How about railway and train craft and art in the form of collage, water colours, match-box train, lapbooks, cardboard box train, finger print train – all this you can do with him or facilitate.
- You can even suggest/guide him (depending on if he wants and how much) to put together an exhibition or a presentation of train for family/friends/neighbours.
- And then, of-course, discuss and debate – bring in related and connected ideas. Better still, YOU read about this subject if you have the motivation. This is the best way to feed his interest and passion.
One passion, dozens of connections!
Just one interest of his – trains – may lead to many related or unrelated topics and subjects. Trains may bring up Trans Siberian railway and that may inspire him to look up where Moscow is on the map. Moscow may lead to a discussion on Soviet and later Russian dominance in the Olympic games (Over 500 Olympic sports champions lived in the city by 2005). And, a mention about the Soviet era can lead you guys into various aspects of world history. Don’t be baffled, don’t feel pressured – you, as a parent, may not know all this before hand, but you’d be forming those connections as you learn along with him.
Is this not forming a rich environment? And, you weren’t really ‘passionate’ about trains to begin with. You were not ‘talented’ to make a wood model of train or to offer knowledgeable commentary on demand. All you did was go along with the flow. The richness of learning followed suit. Because, you were ‘interested’.
It’s amazing how much natural learning can flourish when families learn together and support each other on their journeys. A parent can play a key role or a side role in forming those learning connections – if you’re interested, genuinely listening, if you are attentive and are keen to learn with your child. Above all – if you want to have fun learning. And, not treat learning as a burden or a curriculum to tick off.
I normally say that when parents are interested, and are interesting, it’ll help build a rich learning environment.
So, let’s say you meet the first part – “when parents are interested”.
You’re attentive, you support their ideas, you’re genuinely enthusiastic about what they want to learn, you get them the tools, the books, you take them places, you have them meet people with diverse passions and skills. You learn with them.
Now, the second part – “when parents are interesting”.
By this I mean, when parents are curious, when they have their own interests and passions, when they are keen to learn something new. This does not mean that parents MUST be “talented”. Well, a certain talent of the parent can come in handy when the child shares the same interest. Let’s say, if my daughter is interested in writing, I can support her better because I feel I have a passion for it and ‘some’ talent (as a result of the passion?). So, if you and your child have the same passion, it won’t be long before you may become talented in that subject. And, that’s because the pace of your learning will be driven not only by your own interest but also due to the keen-ness to learn as you want to support your child. And, last but not least because you both are learning together as a dedicated team.
And yet, there’s a caveat to what I said above – about parent and child sharing same passion.
Often times, the passions of the parents may not coincide with the children’s. What happens then is interesting. What happens then goes into the making of either a true unschooling family or a poor, struggling version of it. Yes, take my word for it!
You see, my daughter, Pari, has passions that are very distinct from mine. I’ll give some examples (yes, they’re more than one). Infact most of her interests are tangentially different from mine!) I’m passionate about trees and leaves and earth and nature in general. She’s totally not the type. I’m passionate about gardening and growing my own vegetables in particular, while she’s not the sowing, planting, watering sorts. She’s not interested at the moment in gardening.
She’s very passionate about digital things – camera, mobile phones, apps, creating videos, editing them. She’s good at learning design softwares. I have a hard time with new technology – with smart phones and gadgets and picking up the nuances. I actually dislike texting on smart phones and feel better off with email communication.
Even when it comes to food, I love Indian food whereas she drools over Italian. She can eat Italian food day in and day out.
In the midst of totally different interests and passions, I try to support her learning by following her lead sometimes, by strewing her path (without attaching an expectation to it – however hard that may be!) with things that will make her learning more enriching, and by learning from her (she loves to *teach!) and with her. That train example I cited above is how I support her.
*I think teaching is the best way to learn.
Well, we do have some shared passions too.
Like art, craft, writing, photography. She feels inspired when I make art myself. She likes to take feedback or tips from me when working on her art or writing. She sometimes asks me to edit her articles. I often find her reading series of articles on my blog, and then sometimes she points out what struck her. It’s a shared passion. So is writing and photography. But, of-course, she has her own style and taste when it comes to all these – art or writing or photography. I offer suggestions or a different view and step back for her to think about it and take it or not. She’s actually fiercely independent about what she wants and how. And, often has strong opinions about things.
I’m saying all this because in the real world, it’s ideal and looks hunky dory if children have the same interests and passions as their parents.
But, if they don’t share similar interests (which often may be the case – as in my home), it boils down to we parents feeding their passions by taking interest in their interest, by making things available as they need, by exposing them to resources and people and environment that will fuel those interests of theirs. The train example above.
When their interests and passions are different from parents’, it doesn’t matter much what passion you have or whether or not you have any passion to be able to offer enriching environment. Feeding THEIR passions is fundamental to their natural learning. Exploring various ways to keep their flame alive and burning bright may become your own passion. Helping them be the learners that they are meant to be vital.
Supporting your child’s learning may become your passion.
And, believe me, in the middle of all this, it’s not humanly possible that you’ll not pick up a real interest or hobby or passion. You’re learning too, you’ll become curious too. You may find your own calling sooner than later. You’ll deschool yourself from all those years of schoolish conditioning that instilled in our heads that learning happens only when someone teaches us, sets up a curriculum for us and provides formal instruction. You’ll learn that learning happens when it comes from within you, for a purpose that’s meaningful to you. When you want to learn, you’ll seek out ways and means. And, that’s what your child will do too.
Am curious to know….
…..what other ways (other than the ones I listed) a parent can support a child who’s interested in trains (just an example to see what ways and tools and resources are out there to feed and support the natural curiosity of a child to learn.) Please feel free to share. Your sharing will open up my eyes and ears to more tools and ideas.
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