May 18, 2010

why you should help your child follow their passions

Welcome to the May Teach/Learn Blogging Carnival, 'Kids and Learning.'

The Teach/Learn Blogging Carnival hosted by Science@home is for anyone, because we are all teachers and learners. This month our bloggers have come up with some wonderful suggestions for fun things to do with your kids, ways to help them learn and thoughts on what learning is. Please read to the end to find links to other blogs, you might find a wonderful new blog to follow.

My eldest son is currently obsessed with volcanoes and dinosaurs.  I do all I can to encourage his interest.  Why?  Volcanoes and dinosaurs motivate my child to learn.  When he is involved in thinking about this topic he will apply the most effort and is at his most curious and creative.   He will do what it takes to learn more about volcanoes and dinosaurs.  He might have to learn to read or write, he might have to memorize the names of a hundred dinosaurs, but this will not seem difficult or onerous to him because he really wants to know more about this topic.

I believe that helping your child to follow their interests is one of the biggest things that you can do to encourage learning.  The topic might not seem important to you but the thinking skills and motivation to learn that your child will get from doing things focused on their interest will be used in all areas of their life.

How can you help a child develop their interests?  What if you don’t know anything about the thing they are interested in?  You don’t need to know anything about what they are interested in, what you know as an adult is how to help them find out more.  You know how to research something or how to find a class or whatever is appropriate for the topic.  You are showing them how to learn more and you will learn with them.

What are some resources you can use to help a child develop their interests?  Well, I couldn’t possibly list them all, but you could start by looking for …
  • reading material – books, fiction and non-fiction, and websites
  • pictures
  • videos on YouTube, TV documentaries or movies
  • find an teacher (for example, if you child’s passion is music you might find someone to teach them an instrument) or find an expert to talk to them
  • go on a field trip (for example, a field trip to a museum is a great idea for my dinosaur-mad son)
  • look for activities you can do at home that increase your child’s knowledge of the topic (for example, science experiments).  The caution here is to make sure that your child finds them to be meaningful activities.
Offer the resources to your child and then let them decide what to do with those resources and in which direction to take their interest.

Isn’t this something teachers should do at school?  Why do I do it as a parent?  Yes, good teachers will use your child’s interests to help them learn.  But the reason I will continue to facilitate my child’s learning is because I believe the responsibility for helping my child learn rests with me.  I may decide to use the expertise of teachers, but the responsibility is still mine.

What are you child’s passions?  How do you help them to develop these interests?

Teach/Learn Blogging Carnival
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amandab said...

We've had our volcano and dinosaur stages in our house to, so they are definitely not just for boys!

A lot of Princess' earlier interests came from watching some of her favourite programs. She probably first saw dinosaurs on something like "Little Einsteins". From there we bought toys, read books and went to the museum (I love the play area at the Melbourne museum, it has books, a sandpit for finiding bones and dinosaur dress ups!) People were surprised that an 18 month old child knew words like "triceratops" and "hadrosaur" (correctly identifying one of her toys as being a hadrosaur when I got home from work one day), and it was all because we followed what she was interested in.

I remember reading something when I was looking at Steiner education that kids go through phases/fads in the playground (think hula hoops and marbles) which they go crazy for and then abandon, and that teaching should follow the same kind of principles so kids remain interested in what they are doing. I try to follow the same principles in all our ativities, following her cues when it's time to move on.

Looks like he had fun with his volcano! :)

Mel said...

We do this at our house: let the kids lead with their interests and present opportunities to learn more. I can't think of a better way to learn!

Deb said...

I love this! Especially because it's volcanoes and dinorsaurs lol.

I think there's so much emphasis on 'facts' when what we really should be learning is thinking and learning skills. And if you are focusing on them, it really doesn't matter what topic you're using, so long as it's interesting.

And I love your last point, both that teachers are specialists with expertise and that it's still our responsibility.

PlanningQueen said...

My preschooler's current obsession is dogs. He even had a dog birthday party! But seriously following his lead on his love of dogs has provided some excellent learning opportunities. We have watched a documentary on working dogs, we have listed to the audio book of 101 Dalmatians, we have read non fiction text on dogs to learn about the different breeds and he has taken more interest in caring for our own dog.

Having had boys previously who like volcanoes and dinosaurs, it was a nice change to talk about something different!

Miss Carly said...

Great post! I love following interests, it does so many great things for learning and development.

The Original SuperParent said...

Help! My son wants to take up hip hop and breakdancing. He's already forced me to show him how to do Michael Jackson's moonwalk. And then he practices it lots. Now my wife says his moonwalking is better than mine. Can you believe that? :-)

It's great to see them develop their own little personalities.

Thanks for the post.


Sarah said...

This is a great reminder to me as a teacher to motivate my students by tapping into their natural interests! (I wish more parents were as involved as you, though!) Thanks for sharing this great post!

pollyw said...

We have a budding Lego engineer here at our house. He is learning so much with those little blocks and it opens the door for talks about math, design, story name it.

He has a whole world going on in that room of his!

The Original SuperParent said...

I've just posted a follow up to my original post called a Child's Perspective on Support Needed for Sport which is a guest post written by 5th Degree Karate instructor Matt Klein about the support needed by children from their parents. Check it out. Cheers, Colin