I wanted my kids to be passionate learners. I bet you do too. What’s crazy? Our kids ARE passionate learners. Even the bored ones. Even the wandering nomads in your house telling you they can’t think of anything to do despite having just opened 32 presents designed for them!
Human beings are wired to learn. And we’re really really good at it. The trouble is: not all of what we see our kids learning seems important to us. For example:
- A child who wants to dig a hole in the side yard? “Stop. You’ll tear up the lawn.”
- A teen who wants to tie-dye her t-shirts? “Won’t it stain the table? Where will the shirt drip dry?”
- Some kids want to roll on the floor and see if their spines will crack.
- Others want to torment the dog to see how he’ll react.
- Or they nag you to see what you’ll do—they are learning to pull your levers as surely as they complain or whine.
Kids find things to do, things to care about, ideas to consider regardless of what we do for them. And the trouble is: we don’t often appreciate what it is that they really really really really want to do!
To learn is to grow and explore. To grow and explore, kids will be fascinated by stuff you find tedious, messy, expensive, and inconvenient. Even a “noble” interest like learning Chinese can seem more a bother than inspired. Have you ever rolled your eyes (internally of course) when your child says some version of, “I want to learn about the combustion engine”?
How? Why? Is this going to be a passing interest? What if I go all in and two days later she’s moved on to cooking Indonesian food?
We tend to push aside the curiosities that are not interesting to us and then insist on suggestions for activities that make us comfortable, that feel reasonable or convenient.
- Is it okay with you if a child simply cuts paper to shreds for hours? No meaningful outcome?
- Would you consider exploring how to own a pair of ferrets?
- Do you have space for oil paints and an easel?
- What do you do for a child who just wants to burn stuff?
- How about a five year old who wants to use your iPhone for a video? Would you trust him?
Passionate learning means getting outside of our adult comfort zone and into the child mind where possibilities lurk. These possibilities are bound to be difficult to do, expensive, time-consuming, messy, and tedious to you. They may require your research, your car, and your money, your risk.
You will gear up to put up with all the attendant mess only to find out that your child moved on far more quickly than you wanted her to. You’ll wonder why you indulged this learning experiment if she was only going to abandon it ten minutes later!
Yet all of it is learning—every bit!
The key to fostering passionate learning is giving up the need
to control the outcome—to measure and monitor a result.
Passion-driven learning is curiosity in action. Curiosity satisfied means the passion-driven moment is over! Some passions last years (decades). Others last moments.
Being willing to roll with the varieties of ways kids discover their world and find their place in it is what leads to passion in learning. Our job is to give up our need to be safe and comfortable and follow where they go.