How to Inspire Kids to Learn on Their Own

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Last week I wrote about interest-led learning and how having free time gives your children opportunities to discover joy in things that inspire them. Taryn asked me to expand on this with tips for helping children tap into personal interests. I'm certainly not an expert, but I'll gladly share more of my experience:

Your Children Need Resources

Time is, by far, the most important resource for creativity. And, with homeschooling, our children can have that in spades.

Tools come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. Your child may need a set of paints or chisels or pruning sheers or a code compiler. In my case, it was a video camera and some editing software which were, 15 years ago, much harder to procure. I know this can be difficult if you have child like my little brother who jumped from interest to interest. Since we're all on limited budgets, I highly recommend you give your children tools as gifts, not toys. And as online creativity continues to increase, more and more free tools are available. You can find tutorials and classes for just about anything, and free alternatives for many expensive programs. It may, very soon, be worth the money to get the "real deal," but if your children are still exploring all the options available to them, Gimp is a worthy entry to Photoshop, and Blender is an excellent foundation for Maya.

Trust that your kids can succeed. No, they probably won't compose the next world-class symphony at age 4. But if they discover a deep love for music, there's no telling where God will use that gift. My parents let me explore the worlds I was interested in and gave me occasional bits of encouragement. They didn't prod or pry. They simply kept and eye out for things I was passionate about and did their best to give me opportunities to try it out. That paid off. By the time I graduated high school, I had recorded audio dramas, made a couple computer games, recorded a CD with my band, shot a feature length film, built a website, taught myself image editing, and could discuss a wide range of hot topics should a debate arise. Was I any good at any of those things? By no means! But I had a foundation that let me soar in the years to come. My parent's mostly silent support was a huge resource I could draw upon as I started out exploring my interests.

Your Children Need Role Models

One of my uncles helped me write my first Visual Basic computer program. A local repair man helped me build a go-kart from bicycle wheels and a lawnmower's handle bars. My dad helped me craft pinewood derby cars. A friend at church showed me how to work the soundboard for youth group. But I also had fictional role-models, such as Mr. Whittaker from Adventures in Odyssey. Many Sonlight titles introduced me to historical inspiration as well, with people like the Wright Brothers, Robert Fulton, George Washington Carver, and Noah Blake.

My younger sister was inspired by some singer somewhere to pick up the guitar and teach herself a few chords. Of course, we had to have a guitar to do that.

So... give your children a few resources and role models and then encourage them to follow their interests and learn on their own.

How have you inspired your kids to pursue their interests?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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