Day One: Documenting Passion

cupcake face

I’m spending the week documenting my child’s interests. Check out yesterday’s post for more information.

Day one

  • Going on stroller rides. My otherwise stroller-hating child has been interested in this since we arrived at the Grandparents’ house.  Here, she’s not only patient with the activity, but she will actually climb into the stroller on her own accord and ASK for a ride. What’s going on with this?
  • Imaginative play with a mini dollhouse. Putting the animals and fairies to bed, feeding them, having them climb ladders, etc.  A great sign, since I recently purchased a dollhouse for her that’s waiting for a remodel and fresh paint in my garage.  It looks like this could be a hit when we reveal it in a few weeks.
  • Reading books: She chooses Going on an airplane and Peg Leg Peke. We’ve been traveling for the past 2 weeks, and I think the first book plays to her fascination with airplane travel and all that’s involved with it.  Up until 2 days ago we’ve also been reading Big Girls Use the Potty, which I think was a hit for similar reasons, but she seems to have tired of it and is enjoying a fresh story. Peg Leg Peke is pretty hilarious.
  • Play-Baking with grandma (cracking eggs is really fun!), playing with egg timers, mixing, setting up meals for teddy and bunny
  • Cupcakes — eating them and pretending to bake them
  • Selling things. Finding objects (i.e. napkin rings) and selling them to family members for “two dollars.” She appears to enjoy the game of exchanging objects for money, and vice versa.
  • Organizing things — putting objects in their places, sorting
  • Cleaning — an ongoing joy of hers. She’s a tidy kid, and likes everything in its place.
  • Throwing a sticky velcro ball to Grandma who was holding a reverse velcro Kadima-like paddle. She loved how the ball would get away from them and roll into the bushes and “brambles.” This activity lasted a good 45 minutes, and could have kept going were it not for lunch.  She actually cried when we tried to pry her away.

Documenting Passion

marshmallows

“Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.”

– Samuel Johnson

When I was nine I wanted to learn how to ice-skate — probably not the first thing my parents would have guessed I’d show interest in given my warm-winter Southern California roots — but once I got going, my focus zeroed in on mastering how to reverse directions, skate backwards, and spin. So, I worked hard one summer and practiced my turns over and over again until spinning forward to back became as easy as walking down the street.  And while I’m no elite figure skater, I still adore hitting the rink every winter.

In contrast, I come from a waterlogged family and was a great swimmer as a child.  My good-natured and very generous scuba-loving father saw my talent and signed me up for scuba lessons at the ripe ol’ age of 11 — not my idea — and although I gave it a half-hearted shot, I hated wearing the gear, was bogged down by lessons that lacked spontaneity, and feared the deep-water drills to lift weights from the bottom of the pool.  I still squirm at the claustrophobic thought of donning a wetsuit, weights, BC, and tank.   Lucky for my dad — who still dives every weekend — my little brother and sister followed very closely in his underwater footsteps.

My sister: Now a master diver who’s also working toward her ship captain license

Are you jotting mental notes of your own set of contrasting experiences that circle around following your passions vs. being coaxed into something you demonstrated talent in? While we have the capacity to help children enjoy adult-generated ideas and experiences such as hiking, reading, opera, scuba, or monster trucks, we should also be aware of overcommitting children to activities that aren’t of intrinsic interest.

According to Mitch Resnick, director of MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten (a learning research lab for children), a child’s future success lies in focussing on personal interests and then working hard at getting better at them. It’s important to keep in mind that just because a child is GOOD at something, it does not mean that he or she ENJOYS doing it (think about those piano lessons you took as a kid…or is it just me?).  I was actually a pretty great high school calculus student, but once I got to college the only thing that motivated me to attend my 8 am math requirement was a scooter ride with a cute boy.  Once the pre-rec was out of the way, the boy disappeared and the remainder of my education was 100% social science.  And then, surprise, surprise, as I focused exclusively on my passions: art and design, I connected with my future husband in the Film and Theater department.  It’s funny how these things can happen.

But, this is a story about passion, not romance.  Getting back on track…

In order to learn something new, both children and adults need to be excited about what they’re doing.  Think about how much more information you absorb if you’re invested in a topic or experience.  In an iVillage parenting article on creativity,Resnick says,

“We want people to grow up with a love of learning, where they’re excited about trying new things. If you’re pushing them to work in a regimented way on things they don’t really care about, that’s going to steal that away to the point where they come to see learning as a chore.”

So the question I have is this: How do we determine what our kids are really excited about? They may show an interest in something, but interests can shift as quickly as the weather.

Here’s a thought…

As a graduate student, I was introduced to the idea of documentation in learning environments. While observing children participate in their everyday activities, I would make notes of their behavior, discoveries, interests, questions, and interactions in order to better understand what learning looks like. Following the observation stage, notes would be transcribed and then synthesized for emerging themes and threads of continuity.  Documentation is great because it removes you from making assumptions based on prior understandings and asks you to look objectively at what’s in front of you.

And here’s the plan…

Each day over the course of one week I plan to document my daughter’s passions, asking one simple question:  What does she gravitate toward? After documenting her interests for the week, I’ll synthesize the “data” and follow up with activities that support her interests.

And I’d like to invite you to join me! For one week, pay attention to what your child or children are truly interested in and make some notes.  And then the following week, do at least one thing to support those passions that emerge.  And if you can, keep me posted in the comment section (below) on how it goes.