I read a post today on a blog called Project-based Homeschoooling (go there please, it’s awesome) about basically the advantages of not just encouraging, but actively supporting your child’s interests.
The second comment on the post touched a chord in me. As a teen, the person was essentially manipulated by a school counselor into going to a college not of their choosing.
I thought about the ton of conversations DH and I have had about things we’d do differently with our education/careers if not for the interference (sometimes well-meaning and sometimes not) of the adults in our lives.
For me, I’ve always loved writing and reading fiction. My mom took us to the library very regularly. But once it was time to pick colleges, I was steered toward not only staying where I lived to go to school, but going to the city’s community college.
Now, not to slam community colleges. They are great options for many people. But considering my interests (writing/journalism) it would have been better for me to go to a school that had a good reputation for that and was affordable for me.
Luckily I lived in a city that had one: Temple University. And guess what? I ended up finishing my BA there. Why didn’t I go there to begin with? I have no damn idea, other than a vague memory of being talked into doing something else.
DH had a similar experience. He was actually home schooled and once it was time for college, he really wanted to explore attending college in California or possibly Seattle (he lived about an hour or so from the Emerald City).
What happened? He got talked into going to a two-year art school in the small town he lived in. Again, not that this school wasn’t a good option. But he says he would have chosen differently if he had been given both the freedom and support to choose himself.
It’s all well and good to expose your children to many things and be generally positive about what they are into. But once you see they are truly passionate about something, actively support it. And when they get older, and begin to carve their own paths, don’t make them feel like you have a stake in whatever choices they make.
Not long ago, I saw the documentary Being Elmo. It is a biography about Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind Sesame Street character Elmo. What impressed me most about Kevin’s career was the relentless support he received from his parents early on. Not once did they ever make him feel ashamed for “being into” puppets and helped him seek out mentors for his interest. And look at him today.