The Joy of Following Your Kids’ Passions

Last month my 13-year-old decided to teach herself to play the guitar. We borrowed one from a friend, got a book from the library and downloaded an app. While she plucked at the strings and groaned over her mistakes, her brother and sister hovered nearby. One turned to me, “I want to play the guitar, too!”

Last summer we cycled to a neighboring town and on the spur of the moment stopped at a new street food pizza stand. As we waited for our pizza, my 10-year-old daughter engaged the owner in conversation. My daughter likes to cook, too, and when the pizza guy found a kindred spirit, he launched into an animated serenade on how to make the perfect pizza sauce. As soon as we got home, my daughter dumped her helmet in the hallway (no comment) and set to work making us some more pizza. It was so good her sister decided to make pizza the next day. We ate pizza for three days in a row.

Until three years ago, I saw bugs and insects as annoyances that bite or sting, get in my food, or eat my garden crops. I thought the correct treatment for such a pest is a good squish with a tissue or a shoe. But my son changed all of that. His love of caterpillars and moths, as well as all other insects, was so infectious and convincing that I began to see their strange beauty too. My ideas completely changed. I found out that, in my arrogance, I’d been squishing some of the most important and fascinating creatures on this planet.

When I first started home educating my children, I really wanted them to have time to follow their own interests. It became clear that my children’s interests weren’t always the ones I’d choose for them. When you get to the end of my resume, the “hobbies” category decidedly does not include insects and makeup. But these are my children’s great loves.

When you get to the end of my resume, the “hobbies” category decidedly does not include insects and makeup. But these are my children’s great loves.

Their enthusiasm is infectious. They have good ideas. They love their subjects, and they convince me that, yeah, I do want to put that caterpillar in a jar and watch it eat. And actually, yes, I was thinking that I’d like a makeover today, now that I come to think of it. And while I’m at it, perhaps I should learn the guitar, too.

We often hear about the benefits of home education for children, but what about those of us who guide them? Since homeschooling my children, I’ve become somewhat of a mini-expert in Lepidoptera, ancient history, Greek myths, applying mascara, and wolf conservation. I could probably win an episode of Jeopardy! if that show was even on anymore, and if I could find the time to apply. As it is, I’m too busy learning about things I didn’t even realize I was interested in to find out about Jeopardy! But let’s put it this way. If I did, my makeup would be stellar.