Following Your Interests: The Hidden Harm

Following Your Interests: The Hidden Harm
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This whole following your interests thing has almost become a buzz phrase.

“Homeschooling is so great because it’s all about following your interests!”

And it’s true, as homeschooling families, we have time to follow our interests. Because we have such freedom and flexibility with our hours, we have the ability to pour ourselves into the things we love in a way that others can’t.

Which is an absolutely amazing thing.

But.

Following your interests is a great way to learn, so what's the harm in exploring what you love? Here's the *one* thing to watch out for.

Following your interests: it’s a good thing…right?

I could literally spend all day writing, reading, taking pictures, or working in my barn. Those are my interests.

Should I spend all day exploring them?

Right now, my sons—who are huge fans of the following your interests thing—could spend all day playing their guitars. They’re playing scales and learning songs and writing new ones and researching their favorite bands.

And that’s great. I’m so excited to see their excitement and passion for something.

They could also spend all day on their computers. Technology is their other major interest. If there is a new game or program they are particularly interested in creating, or a tricky video they’re trying to edit, the sun could be blotted out by a ship full of alien pirates and my sons would never know until their fingers froze to their keyboard.

They’re in the zone, doing their thing. Following their interests.

And that’s good, right? I mean, we’re always encouraged to let them follow their interests.

But is that what we should spend all day doing?

Is that what we should focus our entire life on? Following our interests?

Following your interests: where did everyone go?

Exploring what you are interested in, and spending the day doing what you love is happy and fulfilling and gorgeous.

And yet, ironically so, it has the potential to turn us into isolated little beings that fail to see what else is out there.

Sometimes, that what else is out there is our family.

You know what happens.

The kids are deeply involved in Something Kids Love and so Mom or Dad get involved in Something Parents Love.

The kids take a break from what kids love and see Mom and Dad are busy with what parents love so the kids move onto Something Else That Kids Love.

Mom and Dad see the kids are still busy and continue on in their Something Parents Love

And so on and so forth.

Not a terrible thing on the surface. Not at all. And not a terrible thing short term. It’s good for all family members to understand and respect that everyone has different interests.

But long term? When the above becomes the everyday normal?

Hmmm.

What happens when we end up as people in a family who share the same address but live such separate lives based in what each person wants to do that we don’t look any different than the families we were trying to distinguish ourselves from?

If I’m honest with you, I will admit we’ve occasionally been there. Done that. It’s ugly.

 

Following your interests: tunnel vision

I think this is one of the dirty secrets of homeschooling: having the time to adopt a sort of hyperfocus for our own interests means we sometimes forget that the deeper we dive into what we ourselves are interested in, the more our lives can become about me and less about us.

The deeper we dive into what we are interested in, the harder it is for us to see what else is out there.

The hidden harm in following your interests is when it becomes something that ultimately removes you from other people.

And I’m talking to both parents and kids here.

The hidden harm in following your interests is when it gives you tunnel vision, blinding you from opportunities to discover other things that might become an interest.

The hidden harm in following your interests is when a life you intended to bring your family closer together becomes a life where everyone is separate, all the time.

Following your interests is a great way to learn, so what's the harm in exploring what you love? Here's the *one* thing to watch out for.
Don’t forget to still hang out together. Family is the most fun.

How can we strew things about for our kids to possibly discover when they’re unwilling to look at anything but their current interest?

The ability to follow our interests can have such a positive, life enriching outcome. But only if we remember to keep balance between those things which we know we love and those things we have yet to discover.

Follow your interests, for goodness sake. But remember to come up for air.

Following your interests is a great way to learn, so what's the harm in exploring what you love? Here's the *one* thing to watch out for.

Tired of the sugarcoated version of homeschooling? Read my book The Homeschool Highway: How to Navigate Your Way Without Getting Carsick.

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5 thoughts on “Following Your Interests: The Hidden Harm”

  • I see that one of your labels is 'rough patch'. Ok, for us, we have a big house and spread out like those particles in Brownian Motion demonstrations. What brings me together with my sons is things like driving to work, breakfast, needing a chat about something, money discussions. These are all real queries, not a fantasy of family life pushed by a parent. Our family life is pretty flawed though, but it's what we have.

    Have faith that things like being needed to clear up some big mess, hair washing and blow drying at 11pm, needing tech help with a lap top, or a power cut or a death in the family will surely bring you all together perfectly and imperfectly, and will deepen things between you all.

    Your family life is not meant to impress other people. It is private. It is full of your joint memories, for you as a group, not for outsiders. They have to get what they can out of their own flawed, yet given family lives.

    I hope this helps.

  • I had a lesson about this fairly recently. Peeling myself away from my tunnel-vision interest (quick, like a BandAid) was hard and led to a challenging identity crisis, but in the end I'm SO much happier together with my family than I ever was when I was isolated in my own interests. I've also been able to do a few of those things that I've always wanted to do, but didn't have the time. And it turns out, they're all things my son enjoys as well. Bonus!

  • As the author of the website Interest-Led Learning, I'm obviously partial to…well, learning centering around your interests! But I completely understand where you're coming from. That's why, even though I firmly consider us unschoolers, I've had a discussion with my kids about us taking at least 3 hours of the day, each day, to do things together. Those three hours are still centered around our interests, but it's time I've set aside for us to be together. I've mainly done this for me. Because, like you, I can become so involved with my interests, that I don't look like I'm available for my kids. I want them to know that for at least three hours of the day they have my undivided attention, no matter what other pressing things are taking place in our lives. I want them to know they are a top priority. We look forward to those hours. We make fun plans and things we'd like to accomplish. We make goals for ourselves. Some days we spend a lot more than three hours doing things together. Those hours might take place in the morning or in the afternoon, or be spread out throughout the day, but I've been trying my best to make sure those are sacred hours for us. And our interests and passions have deepened and expanded so much for this time we've made this commitment to each other. Thanks so much for starting this discussion. It think it's an important one for homeschoolers to have. (This is Chris Pilkington, by the way! Don't know if it will show up when I post 🙂

  • I have absolutely 150% felt this in my own life. I’m SO much happier having cut myself free of my obsession…err…”interest”, and my family has benefited enormously from it. I actually remember their names now! 😉

  • As a Christian homeschooling mom I’ve been convicted of this too, because even though it’s nice to enjoy the blessing of managing our own time, I know that it pleases The Lord most when we give at least a portion of our time back to Him in fellowship and discipleship with our children and an important part of that is training our children to have hearts of service for others, which is not usually anyone’s natural primary interest! Thanks for the discussion! It’s an important one!

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