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Passions vs Interests...

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

I had a discussion elsewhere about the importance of following one's passion and knowing your kids' passion and helping them develop it to become experts.  I kind of got stuck on the word passion because it seems rather very different than the word interest.  At least to me, passion implies a deep running, overwhelming desire, not your run of the mill avid interest. It says fervor, fire, ardor, zeal. It is like having a lover -- it almost connotes exclusivity, some sort of overarching-ness over one's life.

Neither of my kiddos have anything they are into in a single minded way. They go through changing phases of what interests them. Their father and I are very similar. My husband, for example, is a self taught engineer. He loves to build things and experiment. Currently, he is into stills (and makes a mean vodka/gin). Last year it was 3D printers. When I met him, it was computer programming (something he learned himself from scratch.) For the time being, I enjoy cooking. I love homeschooling my kids. Political/philosophical discussions get a rise out of me. I really like reading. But I don't consider any of these things as my "passion." I don't think my husband will be able to point towards something as his "passion." Neither would the kids. 

 

There seems to be a romantic notion attached to "following one's passion..." It is a refrain I hear over and now again and find it rings hollow to me because:

 

1, Not everyone has a passion....

 

2.  More importantly, not everyone can follow their passion.  

 

I find, by in large, in the unschooling community there is this expectation that unschooled kids will be stunningly different ... they will know their "passions" and know how to follow it.  They will be exceptional in pursuing their dreams.  They will somehow be significantly more able to conjure up their futures than their schooled/traditionally homeschooled peers.  In someways, this maybe true.  But I think it is a massive expectation that may set kids up for feeling inadequate and disappointment for being average.  

 

What do you guys think?  

post #2 of 11

:lurk 

 

I do deffo think there is a certain kind of parent who unschools, not for philosophical reasons but because they think it will produce mini-Einsteins. It always slightly irks me these lists we have floating around (Shakespeare was home educated! Plato was home educated! The Mitochondrial Eve was home educated!) because I don't unschool my kids to make them geniuses. I'm happy with very normal kids who have had a great childhood. 

post #3 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fillyjonk View Post
 

  I'm happy with very normal kids who have had a great childhood. 

:twothumbs

post #4 of 11

I have one kid who would probably meet the definition of "passionate" in a definitive and ongoing way, and I think it's a little bit scary -- not necessarily all it's cracked up to be. I wouldn't really wish it on any parent. After a few years of uncertainty d19 decided at age 13 that she really wanted to be a violinist, and has stayed true to that aim ever since. Balancing her life has always been a struggle; she actually went to school part-time or full-time for four years in large part because she knew she would otherwise do nothing but violin and not reach the level of knowledge and understanding in other areas that she felt she wanted for herself. Now she's in a college music performance program and doing very well. She's in a 2-week hiatus between exams at college now and is doing almost nothing but practicing. Or studying recordings, or editing sheet music. Her entire world is music. All her leisure pursuits revolve around it, all her social relationships, her entire identity. Which is all fine and good unless she gets injured, or suddenly has a crisis of conscience at age 34, or discovers she can't make a living doing this. Except for the first, these are unlikely events, but still, a parent worries about all eggs being in one basket. Not so much in terms of education as in terms of identity. 

 

I'm guilty of using the word 'passion' in a watered-down sense. I say that ds17 is passionate about computers and digital media. I say that dd10 is passionate about math. Their 'passions' are probably more of the "persistent strong interests" nature, with occasional "recurrent episodes of excitement and obsessiveness." As a parent I prefer the watered-down version of passion even if it's a semantic stretch. It leaves more room for other things.

 

I think the idea of encouraging each child to "discover their passion" implies something akin to the "one true love" school of thought, the idea that there's some sort of perfect destiny out there for each of us and if you do things right you'll trip over it one day and life will be a fairy tale. I think that avocations, like relationships, are more complicated and adaptable than that. We are likely to encounter all sorts of pursuits and relationships with excellent potential, and hopefully we'll find ways to allocate our interests and our love that make us happy and productive. That is all. 

 

miranda

post #5 of 11

This is a fascinating topic to me. I grew up with a parent who had work that he was extremely passionate about-- and I kind of assumed that I would also find a job that I loved as much as he loved his. But while I did well in all subjects and had lots of interests, I didn't have one over-riding passion. I changed my major in university all the time (science, to English, to anthropology, to philosophy...) and pretty much rolled a dice to choose a grad school. Spent ten years as a social worker, which I enjoyed but it wasn't until I was on mat leave and started writing fiction that I found an interest that was all-consuming--especially in the first five years or so-- enough to call a passion. (I've always been an obsessive reader, so in a way it wasn't a huge leap). 

 

My son, OTOH, has always had intense and all-consuming interests-- I think you could call them passions. Really, since he was about a year old and discovered tool catalogs. They change over time but the underlying thread is that they all involve analyzing systems and understanding how things work. At two, it was plumbing; now- at nine- it's computers and Minecraft. In between, there were steam engines, chemistry, electronics etc. I think being unschooled has given him more time to explore those interests (and less pressure to be "well-rounded") but the single-mindedness with which he approaches his interests seems to be an innate personality trait. I can be pretty intense about my interests but he takes that intensity to a whole other level. I hope that having more control over his learning will mean that he is more in touch with his strengths and interests, and perhaps less- hmm- directionless? ambivalent?-- than I was as a young adult,  rushing off to university just because I was done high school. Mostly, though, I don't think that far ahead-- I just want him to have a great childhood, right now, with lots of love and lots of space to be himself. 

 

I think you are absolutely right though, Emaye, about the need for caution. Supporting kids' interests (or passions) shouldn't come with a price tag of expectations that they do something extraordinary with those interests. Sure, lots of support and resources-- and the luxury of time-- to explore a topic or hobby may well mean that they develop  level of expertise or skill that is unusual for their age. A kid who draws or plays an instrument for hours every day is likely to get very good at it. This doesn't mean that they will stay interested in this forever, let alone that they will become the next Picasso or Mozart. Or, ahem, Marcus Persson. 

post #6 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fillyjonk View Post
 

 I'm happy with very normal kids who have had a great childhood. 

Me, too!

 

As a teenager, I puttered in many different things. I suppose many of them were crafts and you could have called crafting my passion. But I didn't really focus on "my passion" until I was entering adulthood. And I have had long periods when it wasn't accessible to me and I had to fall back on some other interests to not-quite-adequately fill the void.

 

As a parent, I'd be very happy if ds explored different things. It's a good time in life for the helter skelter approach. I'm happy with him being happy which is harder than one would think. Happiness doesn't come entirely easy for him. I'm happy he isn't growing up in the stressful environment that is school. Having a "passion" isn't really something I care if he has. Honestly, it can just make life more difficult and create unhappiness. On the flip side, it can also create great happiness and make things easy. An even keeled life versus ones full of highs and lows...

post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fillyjonk View Post
 I'm happy with very normal kids who have had a great childhood. 

 

Yes, exactly.  One of the biggest reasons we unschool is to give our kids the luxury of having time.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post
 

I think the idea of encouraging each child to "discover their passion" implies something akin to the "one true love" school of thought, the idea that there's some sort of perfect destiny out there for each of us and if you do things right you'll trip over it one day and life will be a fairy tale. I think that avocations, like relationships, are more complicated and adaptable than that. We are likely to encounter all sorts of pursuits and relationships with excellent potential, and hopefully we'll find ways to allocate our interests and our love that make us happy and productive. That is all. 

 

This.  

 

I go as far as to say that the pressure to be "special" or to find "your passion" is in many ways much worse and more insidious than pressure to academically succeed.  At least, with academic achievements the metrics are pretty clear and the path is well beaten, while finding "passion" and following it to some sort of blissful end is a quixotic pursuit for majority of people including privileged ones like our kids.  It sounds romantic and harmless but that kind of talk implies that if you don't have a "passion" or have not found it, there is something wrong and you are going to be a sad, unhappy person.  Yet, behind the idea there is really nothing solid to grasp on. I'd rather send my kids on a wild goose chase -- at least they'd know they are looking to catch geese!  

post #8 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post
 

I think the idea of encouraging each child to "discover their passion" implies something akin to the "one true love" school of thought, the idea that there's some sort of perfect destiny out there for each of us and if you do things right you'll trip over it one day and life will be a fairy tale. I think that avocations, like relationships, are more complicated and adaptable than that. We are likely to encounter all sorts of pursuits and relationships with excellent potential, and hopefully we'll find ways to allocate our interests and our love that make us happy and productive. That is all. 

 

miranda

 

Yes, I so agree with this. I think whether we call something a passion or a "persistent strong interest" is less important than how we think about it, how we support it, and what expectations we attach to it. My own interests and my son's do shift and change over time, and I think having a sense of personal identity that is too wrapped up in any one part of our lives does make one rather vulnerable. I like the comparison to the "one true love" idea- I've never been a believer in that either. 

 

What I do like about the word "passion" or "strong interest" is that at least both have a positive connotation. Often I hear parents describe their kids loves in negative terms-- addiction, obession etc- especially when those loves are not academic. That is, people are likely to talk about an interest in painting or a passion for piano, but when it comes to, say,  My Little Pony, Dungeons and Dragons, Pokemon or Minecraft, the language used often reflects a lack of respect for or valuing of those interests. 

post #9 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fillyjonk View Post

lurk.gif  

I do deffo think there is a certain kind of parent who unschools, not for philosophical reasons but because they think it will produce mini-Einsteins. It always slightly irks me these lists we have floating around (Shakespeare was home educated! Plato was home educated! The Mitochondrial Eve was home educated!) because I don't unschool my kids to make them geniuses. I'm happy with very normal kids who have had a great childhood. 

I need to say it: "The Mitochondrial Eve" would be a GREAT name for a band.


Onto the awesome subject at hand:

I have always had a passion, and a single-minded drive to pursue it.
I read at three, started writing at four, and went on to become a writer. I still read hundreds of books a year too.
The 'passion' is for storytelling, both making and consuming, and for writing in particular.
I used to think that having a passion was very special, in a positive way. I used to think that other people who didn't have a 'passion' were just blind to it, in denial, or sadly wanting. As teens, my best friend always envied me my passion and focus. She kept shopping around, hoping that she'd stumble onto her own passion.
But in my case, and in talking with other folks with similarly tunnel-visioned passions, there isn't a 'choice' about pursuing it. It's a compulsion.
There's definitely a mental health piece to it that can be very precarious at times.
I have a myriad of other interests and have pursued them with varying degrees of diligence and attention over the years, but none of them have the grip on me that writing does.
Perhaps there are different degrees of 'passion,' and at some point it overlaps and mingles with the definition of 'interest'?
Perhaps there are passions that find you, and passions that you find?
All this to say, I wouldn't wish my kind of 'passion' on anyone. I think there are many healthier ways to dig deep into an interest, without it consuming you or your thoughts.
My best friend is still a very well-rounded person. She can set down her sewing (recent and fervently pursued interest), or her baking (French, in particular), or her dog (she's becoming a very good trainer) or her travel plans (I think her 'passion' lies closest to this one but is still very tame) and get on with the routine and satisfying business of every day life.
I can't do that. Never have been able to.
What Miranda said about her daughter's singular pursuit truly resonated for me. Had I grown up and NOT found success as a writer, I would've had a deeply injuring crisis of the self and questioned my very identity as a person, which has forever been symbiotic with my writing. Even with the success I do have, I'm not content.
It's quite wretched at times.

When it comes to my children, I don't look for passions. I look for interests, and hope that that's what they remain, even while I happily encourage them to follow those interests at the exclusion of pretty much anything else. DD is on year three of a deep interest in insects-->viruses--->pathology, but I still wouldn't call it a passion. Yes, she's almost five and can tell me more about the Ebola virus than anyone else I know. And if she's twenty and doing her fourth internship at the Centre for Disease Control, then it would've likely moved along the scale of interest and into passion. But even then, I'd hope she'd be more like my best friend and could still have a well-rounded life free of the reoccurring angst and agitation that comes with thinking that one is not engaged enough with one's passion.

We do project-based homeschooling/unschooling, so that's the gist of our style by very definition. You're interested? Go for it!
But I also know that following an interest does not beget a passion. I follow deeply compelling interests often, and none of them have morphed into what I would call a passion. I know that if/when either of my kids get truly passionate about something, my focus will be to help them remain healthy while they jump down the rabbit hole.

Fascinating topic. Dear to my heart.
Thanks for the thought provoking discussion!
post #10 of 11
Well-written everyone. This is a fascinating discussion. I agree with starling&diesel largely because I completely relate as a passionate person. There is definitely a need for mental/emotional balance when one is passionate. I was not supported in my passions as a child, I had to carve time to be passionate in my earliest years because I wanted to be very good at school but I had a huge desire to create as well. When I became truly passionate, it was perhaps at the expense of my academic career, I didn't do as well or care as much about my grades when I had some deeper and more important to consume me.

The thing about someone who is passionate about something is that you can't stop them from being so. I believe my family wanted to suppress the habits I had and yet if I had been my own parent and in control of my life, I would have gone deeper into learning how to manage a passion/deep desire along with a balanced "other" life. Having something you're passionate about is akin to having an alternate world you live in. Being able to live in both worlds is the struggle.

My children are young and have not shown anything they are passionate about but they have lots of interests, of course, not even strong interests. I'm happy to know that if they do present passion for something in particular, I have luckily gone through quite the struggle and quite a bit of learning and studying to have the understanding and ability to help them maintain a balance alongside pursuit of their passion.

I think it's a great point to mention the terms obsession and addiction. I have heard parents use that and I've even been guilty of using it when describing myself.
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 

It has been really wonderful to read posts from those of you who have clear cut passions.  Very fascinating also because I am on the other side of this.  I will def. be mindful of my kids' interests and if there turns out to be a passion of sorts, I will help facilitate its pursuit.  

 

Thank you all for your input.  

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