“My child just isn’t into [fill in the blank]. What can I do about it?” This is something that teachers are approached with frequently. First, we must accept that we cannot make children passionate about anything. We know that true passion doesn’t work that way. It’s also given that our uniqueness is to be celebrated, and that we all have different affinities. But that doesn’t mean we have to throw in the towel and assume that our children’s minds are going to remain closed to a certain discipline or pursuit forever.
The summer months are long and many parents would love to see their kids learning something new while school’s out. If you’re looking for new and expanded horizons, below are two tips that can help to inspire a passion for even more learning.
Provide Freedom and Keep an Open Mind
One of my most favorite disciplines to teach is, without doubt, writing. This is the time when we send our students off and say, “Now you get to choose what you’re about to spend the next thirty minutes on. No strings attached.” As teachers, we don’t judge content, but rather support our students in developing their craft. Writing isn’t about a topic, but about a method of relaying the author’s thinking. For most students, this invitation to attend to something that matters personally to them unlocks that elusive “intrinsic motivation” that many parents wonder about.
If you’d like your child to be motivated to keep learning over the summer, keep an open mind about that learning and the hidden skills embedded in any process of discovery. Your daughter’s obsession with a pop band could lead her to discover the philanthropic efforts of the group members that, in turn, inspires her to do some good in the world. Please consider starting with the question: “If you could learn more about anything at all, what would it be?” Don’t judge the answer, and watch that passion grow.
If you’re looking to inspire a passion about something, try sharing your own genuine passion about that something with your child. Important: do not fake an interest, they will read right through you! In the classroom, our shared read-alouds are our best “tools” for inspiring reluctant readers. Suddenly everyone’s in on the action, predicting a character’s next move, laughing at the amusing parts, wondering why the author ended the chapter in a certain way. Even for those who continue to claim that reading is boring. Added bonus? When adults take the time to “think aloud” for children, we are helping our kids to become more thoughtful as well.
What would you love your child to open his or her mind to? If it’s baking, pull your child into the kitchen with you as you tackle a new recipe. If it’s running, crack open your favorite app and gab with your child about the progress you’re making and how it makes you feel. If it’s reading, please start reading a book together (right now!) as a family.
Enjoy, wonder about, and be inspired by your own passion. Then, look out! That passion may become suddenly contagious and your child will be enjoying it alongside of you.