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[Book Excerpt] Delight Directed Learning

This is a chapter from my book, Delight Directed Learning: Guide Your Homeschooler Toward Passionate Learning. You can purchase a copy in print or Kindle version on Amazon.

How Can I Figure Out My Child's Passion?

For many parents, trying to figure out what their teenager is interested in can be an exercise in frustration. Many teens only seem to be passionate about video games or social media! But every child has a special interest, gift, ability, or passion; it simply takes time to figure it out.

The 2004 Pixar film The Incredibles has much to teach us concerning raising our children, specifically, how to nurture and develop the "super" abilities that lie dormant within each of them. That's right, each of them. I firmly believe each of our children is a budding superhero waiting to be discovered and developed. Their abilities and passions are likely not as dramatic as our fictional friends, but that does not diminish the potential of each of our kids to change the world in their own way.

In this film, a couple of former superheroes, Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, get married. Because of a class-action lawsuit against all superheroes, they are forced deep undercover using the alter–egos, Bob and Helen Parr. The movie explores how this true power couple deals with suppressing their superpowers to live a "normal" life.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this film is how Bob and Helen deal with their children, two of whom have nascent superpowers. Their aptly named son, Dash, has super-speed. His older sister, Violet, has the ability to become invisible and cast force fields. The baby of the family, Jack Jack, has not displayed any super-powers, and the family is slowly accepting the possibility that he is not super at all.

Jack Jack's Story

Baby Jack Jack is a mystery. His parents must realize he has to be "special." He has the right DNA, yet he displays no superpowers. There is absolutely nothing his mom and dad can do to force superpowers into him. All they can do is wait and watch. This is one of our primary roles as homeschooling parents. Gifts are discovered, not created. We need to be students of our students to discover the secrets that lie deep within.

Eventually, Jack Jack's superpowers are hilariously revealed to an unsuspecting babysitter. Similarly, you may be surprised by the gifts your children display. Even the most normal kids often reveal themselves as "super" in one or more areas of their lives. In our family, our kids' gifts revealed themselves in areas we would never have imagined.

Kevin's Story

Our oldest son exhibited a sudden and profound talent in chess at fourteen years old. Chess was something we taught our kids when they were five and seven. We taught them in the loosest sense of the word, simply how the pieces move and no more. This lesson lay dormant in my eldest for years. For his fourteenth birthday, Kevin requested a chess book. I looked at him as if he had requested Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. I was clueless as to where this desire came from. None of our ancestors played chess and we had not played nor spoken of it for years.

On his birthday, he received many presents, but only one made it back to his room that day, Play Winning Chess by Yasser Seirawan. Kevin emerged from his room about two weeks later and proclaimed, "I'm ready to play in a tournament." Before acceding to this, my husband told Kevin he would have to beat his dad first. I detected the slightest trace of a smile on his face as Kevin quickly ripped Matt's position apart and stomped enthusiastically on his king. After that, we were quite willing to let him pick on someone more his intellectual size, so off to a chess tournament we went.

The tournament director looked at my husband with disdain. He was convinced my husband was one of those parents who pushed his children too hard to hide his own shortcomings. However, a few minutes of interrogation convinced him that chess was probably the least likely place my husband would choose to bolster his self-esteem. Matt was utterly lost. Kevin, however, felt right at home. He ripped through a series of adult opponents with enthusiasm normally reserved for a box of Krispy Kremes. He left his first tournament with a provisional rating that placed him among the elite of Washington State high school chess players, almost all of whom had professional coaches and had competed for years.

We spent the next four years feeding our son chess books and driving him to tournaments. He completed his high school chess career by finishing second in state, not bad for a late starting, self-taught chess player with no documented chess DNA.

Alex's Story

A couple of years after my eldest's surprise birthday request, my youngest son did, in fact, ask me for Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. Again, we never saw it coming. My husband and I both hated economics. I failed economics in college. Both of us were nonplussed at this request. The Wealth of Nations was followed by Democracy in America and various other ancient tomes on political economics and philosophy. We learned not to ask too many "why" questions, and simply forked over the books. We figured it was a good investment.

That is exactly the way it turned out. For reasons known only to God, my youngest son had caught fire for economics. This led to amazing opportunities for him, with scholarships, fellowships, and meaningful employment, none of which would have been possible if we had attempted to force his passion into areas where we, his parents, felt more comfortable.

Such is the nature of children and superheroes. Who they are and what they become may not be what you think. It may not even be in the realm of imagination. In fact, with Kevin and Alex, the only way it made any sense at all was in retrospect. Kevin had always been quiet and analytical as a child, so looking back now, chess seems a somewhat logical source of his enchantment. Alex was always our little academic, so philosophy made some sense in hindsight. However, we still scratch our heads over his interest in economics.

The Message

Be students of your students. Observe their passions. Don't be too skeptical or try to force them to love what you love. They are individuals and will spend their lives striving to become who God intended. You play a critical role in shaping and guiding, but not in defining or forcing. Some of your children may exhibit "superpowers" in chess, math, economics, and philosophy. Others will flex their muscles in sports, writing, dance, or music. I have encountered children who demonstrate leadership in areas as diverse as acting, mycology, and fiddling. The first step in raising your own superheroes is to discover where their superpowers reside. It will require your most focused attention and will frequently demand that most elusive of all superpowers, patience.

You can do it. The world needs them, and your superheroes are counting on you!

Delight Directed Learning is one of my Coffee Break Books. What are Coffee Break Books? These are books designed for YOU - a busy homeschool parent feeling frustrated by something, and needing information NOW - all put together in an easy-to-read, short, simple format. Coffee Break Books are perfect for overwhelmed, sleep-deprived moms with a baby on their hip. Simple, large font makes them easy to read even when distracted or pulled in a million directions. They are designed to help parents tackle just ONE issue of homeschooling during just ONE coffee break! Each book combines a practical and friendly approach with detailed, easy-to-digest information. Never overwhelming, always accessible and manageable, each book in the series will give you the tools you need to tackle the tasks of homeschooling high school, one warm sip at a time.

Learn more about Delight Directed Learning in my video review below!

This is a chapter from my book, Delight Directed Learning: Guide Your Homeschooler Toward Passionate Learning. You can purchase a copy in print or Kindle version on Amazon.

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Sunday, 04 December 2022

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