As a writer and photographer, I’m all about creativity. Whether it’s writing, taking photos, drawing, painting, carving, sculpting, or writing code to make a video game, I think it’s all wonderful.
I have one child who has an artistic side, like me – sort of. He draws – I can’t draw a straight line if you put a ruler on both sides of my pencil. He is unbelievably talented, though, and I always encourage him to keep practicing, and trying new things with it. I also encourage him to consider a career in art, pointing out that there’s so much he could do with it.
My other child hasn’t quite found his niche yet. He’s good at photography, but it’s not something he’s really passionate about, at least not yet. He is passionate about playing computer games, and though I don’t quite see him having a career as a professional gamer, I don’t actively discourage him either. I do try to encourage him to go beyond just playing games. I try to help him find ways to learn about how, exactly, they’re created. I try to get him to think about how he might change a game, if it were up to him, and I’ve been subtly hinting that he might consider writing his own story for a game, and learning how to actually create a game once he’s written that story.
I think we all have dreams for our children, hopes for the things they might do one day – go to college, get married, have children, be famous or wealthy or happy or find a cure for cancer or AIDS or save the rain forest. This list could be, and often is, endless.
But as your kids grow, it’s important to make sure that you don’t let your dreams for them override their dreams for themselves. The beauty of homeschooling is the freedom, and time, to explore a variety of interests, and often in much more depth than they would in public school. Encourage that exploration, help them dive to that extra depth, and when they find something that they’re passionate about, encourage them to keep going. Even when it’s something that you don’t “get”, or that you don’t really see as having much a future, encourage them anyway.
Sometimes it can be really hard to encourage them when you feel like their interest is something that can’t go anywhere. That’s when you should take some time to do a little research – look into where that interest might lead to a future. Playing video games can lead to creating them. Taking random pieces of wood and building structures could lead to a future as an architect or an engineer. Constantly weeding your garden, or digging up elephant ear plants to replant them elsewhere in the yard might lead to a career as a horticulturist (ask me how I know this.). Recording your every move with a video camera might be a future filmmaker in the making – especially if he wants you to mash the potatoes in the living room because there’s better light there. Maybe he wants to dress up like a baby and walk around on stilts – there’s apparently a use for that in the circus or at a medieval fair.
Unschooling is a great homeschooling method that would allow for exploration like this, but even if you aren’t comfortable with unschooling, you should still find time for your kids to do their own thing, whatever that may be.
One more thing you can do to help encourage them? Indulge your own passions. Knitting, reading, writing, home decorating, working on cars, making bird feeders – whatever it is that you love to do, do it.
What if you don’t know what you love to do? What if you’ve spent so much time working, raising the kids, working on relationships, going to school, and whatever else, that you’ve forgotten or never taken the time to discover what you love? Now’s the time to find out! Set an example for your kids and show them what it looks like to seek out something to be passionate about. Show them what it looks like to dive in and see what you love, or what you definitely don’t love. Show them that it’s okay to try new things, and to set them aside if you discover that they really aren’t for you, and to cling to them and keep working at them if you find that you enjoy them.
Even if what you find you enjoy seems weird or a waste of time – that’s okay! If you have fun doing it, then who cares if it’s weird? And nothing is a waste of time if you enjoy it and get something out of it – even if that something is only pure pleasure.
Aside from my writing, which is now my career, I love nature photography. I also love reading. TV and movies are also something that I enjoy a lot. Some say TV is a time suck and ruins your brain, but it’s something I enjoy and that’s all that matters.
What are you passionate about? What do you want to explore in more depth? What about your kids? What are they passionate about, or want to explore?