Today I am so honored to share with you a guest post written by Christina Pilkington who publishes a wonderful blog focusing on interest led learning. Christina is an unschooling parent of twins and blogs about their life, learning together, attachement parenting and exploring the world. Her philosophies on education resonate with those of John Holt, John Taylor Gatto and Nancy Wallace. I regularly read her blog and I have been so inspired by her insight shared through her personal unschooling journey.
“So, the most important aspect of discipline isn’t discipline at all. It’s this: Find the love. Find what you love about what you do, and channel that each and every day.”
~from The Freelancer’s Survival Guide by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Finding Love on the Path to Greatness
by Christina Pilkington
I have to confess. I used to be a self-help book junkie. I particularly enjoyed reading books about setting goals and reaching your dreams. I always thought I’d find that elusive tip that would finally help me crack down, stop procrastinating and help me reach those impossible dreams I had set for myself.
The key is self-discipline, right? All I needed to do was to stick with my goal no matter what. I’d work hard every day, whether I liked it or not, in order to reach my dream. I’d persevere, I’d struggle, and in the end I’d find the joy I was looking for.
Except that rarely ever happened.
I focused so hard on making myself do something, to stick with writing a certain number of pages or writing a certain number of words; I was focused so much on what I should be doing instead of why I wanted to do it in the first place.
It’s a crazy thing, but sometimes when you love to do something, it may not feel much like love a lot of times. Marathon runners may love the feeling of completing a race but may not enjoy the actual day in and day out part of training. Musicians may live for the moment of playing in front of an audience at a concert, but the hours of playing scales and practicing may not bring that much joy at all.
As an unschooling mom, I’m all about helping my kids find the love and joy in learning. More than anything, I want them to discover the things that bring them joy and work towards reaching goals and dreams that help them fulfill their unique purpose in life.
And that’s really want we want for our kids, isn’t it? We want them to achieve great things. They don’t have to become president or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, but we want them to achieve those dreams and goals that make them feel alive and fulfilled.
But falling in love with something, whether it’s a dream to become a professional dancer, or to write a cookbook or find a new way to bring clean water to remote tribal people, and actually sticking with that dream are two entirely different things.
So what advice can we give our children or what can we do to help them when they get discouraged and frustrated, when that initial first love starts to fade in the face of hard work?
1. Find the love.
What is it that makes them love the thing they want to do? If it’s writing, do they love creating new worlds? Is it completing a new story and watching someone else read it? If they love designing games, what part of it do they love the most?
If they can hold onto what makes them feel the most alive when they do what they love, that will help get them get through the times when learning a new skill or perfecting a talent is just plain hard work.
2. Do something they enjoy at the same time they are doing something not so enjoyable, or give themselves a reward at the end of completing part of a task or project.
Some people only listen to their favorite music while they are running. I’ll allow myself to listen to a favorite podcast or audio only when I do certain chores around the house. Maybe they can have a favorite snack on hand to eat when they are finished, or work on a more fun aspect of the project afterwards. But the key is to let your children set up their own reward system and decide whether or not they find it helpful in motivating them through the tough spots.
3. Surround their world with interesting, new things.
Creativity is all about making unusual connections. When kids are in the middle of learning new skills or developing new talents, sometimes they need to walk away from what they’re doing and do something else entirely different for awhile. They need to see the thing they love doing from a new perspective.
Invite your kids to go someplace with you that you’ve never been to before. Go to a thrift store and find something unusual to bring home. Eat a new piece of fruit. Listen to a type of music you’ve never listened to before.
This often happens with kids who are just learning how to read and get stuck along the way. They need to walk away from reading and go out and do something new and different. I’ve head of plenty of kids who have not picked up a book for six months to a year after getting so discouraged with learning how to read, and then, as if by magic, they can suddenly read with ease. Their brains needed that processing time and they needed to grow and be challenged in other ways.
The key to learning naturally is love.
Love, and desire, and interest, and joy have to be at the heart of everything you do. If it’s not there, then you won’t have the fuel you need to get through the tough hard work that it takes to arrive at the place of something truly spectacular.
Christina Pilkington lives and learns with her husband and six year old twins. She is the author of the website Interest-Led Learning. You can get a free copy of her e-book A Thrift Store Curriculum by signing up for her newsletter.