Interest-led learning (& living) career planning

We don't ask our kids "what do you want to be when you grow up?" We don't ask them questions that we ourselves can't answer.

We ask them what are you inspired to do today?

Actually, for the most part we don't have to ask, it's obvious. And then we bring in resources and tools to help them build skills and knowledge around those inspirations and interests

We ask, how can you help other people with those skills? Where is this knowledge, this expertise needed in society?

We can't know what the jobs of the future will look like. People's basic needs stay the same but society is constantly evolving and changing and so we don't fixate on a job title or career path; we focus on building skills, knowledge, and experience in an environment of flexibility and adaptability. 

As our kids get into their late middle school and high school years we talk about ways of meeting needs and earning money using those skills, knowledge, and experience. 

We don't just talk about it, we actually find ways for them to earn money while gaining the skills and knowledge. Because they've have lots of time to practice (and play) they are actually pretty good at some of the things they enjoy doing. Good enough to sell the stuff they make and to get paid for their services. 

We talk about different post-secondary schooling options that support the acquisition of these skills and knowledge. Right now our high schooler has no post-secondary plans percolating.

At fourteen, she already has income earning skills and knowledge. She can support her teenage financial needs by doing programming-related technical projects as well as design and graphic work for us. She's been learning these skills for years now and shows a strong interest and aptitude for both. If she decides to pursue either in post-secondary studies she's well on her way. Or she may become an academic who studies medieval Japan. Who's to say?

She studies subjects that interest her and learns skills doing real work. Real projects. Real life learning. 

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

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  • Nana

    Nana on March 4, 2014, 3:02 p.m.

    Just saying - if studying IN Japan is in her sites, this Nana plans to come see her.

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    • renee

      renee on March 4, 2014, 3:06 p.m.

      Mom,

      We've had some fun family discussions about if Japan, the country, is in Celine's future. I think it might be. In which case, maybe you can be the chaperone (smile). By that age, she won't need a chaperone but I think she would love to travel there with you. We've talked to friends here about exchange programs and working programs in Japan. We already have some connections :)

      reply

  • Rana

    Rana on March 4, 2014, 3:26 p.m.

    Renee, I've missed commenting here, I've been busy growing a baby!   I love what you wrote about asking questions in a different way.  It's not what do you want to be when you grow up, but what are you inspired to do today?  That's the idea we have, explore the talents our children have and let them grow and expand on how they can help others and possibly make a living that way.   Our goal for our family is the ministry work and we (my husband and I) want to help our kids use their  talents to suppliment that goal.  What you are sharing is helping me as a guide to doing this with our kids.   And really that question isn't just for the kids. you inspire me to ask myself: What am I inspired to do today?  Thank you!!!

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    • renee

      renee on March 4, 2014, 3:46 p.m.

      Rana,

      there is a strong spiritual element to inspired living, in fact for us, the Spirit is the source of inspriation. We breathe in the Spirit  and trust the way we are wired,the things that interest us and make us tick, have been designed by God and can be used for his glory. And for us that is the core of our life mission, our work and ministry; to be inspired by the Spirit, glorifying God with our life and work. 

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  • Nana

    Nana on March 4, 2014, 3:31 p.m.

    Yes indeed. My belief system speaks "what do I want to do today?" (which can extrapolate to another 20+years of todays). If God so wills.... also part of my beliefs.

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  • Sandi

    Sandi on March 4, 2014, 3:49 p.m.

    The first two sentences.....yes! I am slowly catching this. My almost 14 yr old sounds similar. She has taught herself code. She actually has worked hard in an internship and been hired at 13 to be a web assistant and editor/writer for someone. All this has happened because she has had time and resources just like you said. Now before you think I am some stellar parent, she has been left to herself a lot at last few years as we work through some intense things with another child. It wasn't my intention but the result has convinced me to make many changes in the directions you mention here. 

     

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    • renee

      renee on March 4, 2014, 6:46 p.m.

      I don't think we need to be stellar parents :) just mostly there and when we're not able to be, like for situations you desribe, a bit of benign neglect in an otherwise loving and stable home life can open doors we might not have seen at first glance.

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      • sarah @ little bus on the prairie

        sarah @ little bus on the prairie on March 9, 2014, 3:48 a.m.

        I absolutely loved what you said here about "benign neglect" - what a perfect way to describe how parents can't always cater to every opportunity a child has and sometimes that opens the door for other people to come alongside our children on their life journey or for dreams to be realized in unexpected ways... I really appreciate you putting that so into words so succinctly.

        Or maybe I read too much into it, ha!

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  • erin

    erin on March 4, 2014, 4:04 p.m.

    Wonderfully put, Renee! I especially find my almost 16 year old is constantly being asked this question by others – it seems the thing to ask at that age I guess. Right now, he's loving following his interests and is getting lots of learning opportunities and experience doing so! It does get tiring trying to explain it to others though – yes, he spends his days doing things he loves, yes, he is actually learning it just looks different than the way your child in highschool is learning, no, I'm not worried about his future (thank you for that round about way of saying you think I'm not doing a good job as a homeschooling parent). Sigh.

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    • renee

      renee on March 4, 2014, 6:51 p.m.

      You made me chuckle with this. It's really hard for some folks to wrap their minds around interest led learning, I'm guessing this is because their own lives are probably not lived according to their own desires and designs. And if you've never experienced choosing our own path I think it's really hard to identify and understand how those that do can be successful doing so. It's really about fear of the unknown vs. imagining all the possibilities.

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  • Sarah

    Sarah on March 5, 2014, 2:41 a.m.

    I wish I had more time to comment (hopefully later!) because this is such an interesting discussion (and my mom is working on a workshop for high school seniors on this very topic right now... it also made me think about this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/opinion/sunday/friedman-how-to-get-a-job-at-google.html?_r=0) but I just wanted to quickly say that if Céline does get serious about Japanese history (or even just traveling to Japan) our family freind (the son of our next door neighbors) is doing a PhD on some aspect of Japanese history (I wish I remembered what) and is there now working on it. He also loves backpacking... he was telling me about how a lot of Japanese people he has met are really into trekking but not the gear, so they can sometimes be underprepared (sneakers in snow) and that that is how he has met a lot of his friends. Good luck to Céline, whatever she does!

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  • Sharon

    Sharon on March 5, 2014, 1:15 p.m.

    Oh my goodness, I love this post and it all makes perfect sense to me. However its freaked me out a bit because I feel my children have missed out big time and it panics me. Both go to school and the emphasis for my 11 year old is SATS testing before he goes to secondary school in September. The big thing in uk schools at the present, courtesy of the government is firmly, testing in maths and english. Because he's not keen (who would be I suppose) we keep trying to reinforce the importance of doing well at school in order for him to afford his real passion in later life (motocrossing). I so wish I could have my time again, knowing now what I have learnt, I would have definately homeschooled my children. I think I need to completely rethink our handling of how we encourage them, I feel the education they have received,(obviously there are lots of good things), totally has taken out the joy, spontaniety and self motivation to learn. Gosh I really have to get my head around this!!!

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  • Tracy

    Tracy on March 5, 2014, 3:42 p.m.

    Thank you for this post and want to encourage you to continue writing more of them for my sake.  My children are in a really great small charter school that has the kind of teachers that trust themselves to not have to teach to a standardized test.  It has been a blessing to have this place as my husband and I build our business.  After middle school, I have thought about homeschooling my kids and these kinds of thoughts and questions challenge my paradigm so I can banish the fear and make the shift.  I so appreciate your depth of thought and weaving of your faith into life purpose. 

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    • renee

      renee on March 5, 2014, 4:55 p.m.

      Tracy, I will continue to keep writing them. For my sake and yours. This kind of living & learning is my passion. And it is my passion to inspire and encourage other families likewise. 

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  • JenP

    JenP on March 5, 2014, 7:32 p.m.

    This is such a great way to think about our kids' futures- and even our own! Especially because if you think about it, how many adults are doing what they said they wanted to do "when they grow up"? My guess is not many. My husband was a Classics major in college, because it was fascinating for him to study. When he graduated he floundered for a few months, then decided to start a business in the area he had always tinkered around with in his spare time- computers! Eleven years later, he is happy and successful and completely self-educated in his field.

    One thing we talk about a lot is "what would a career in this field look like?" Or simply point out all the possible jobs that could come from an interest in chemistry. It's not to pressure them into choosing a career, they are still quite young for that. But just to open their eyes at a young age to all the possibilities out there for how to earn a living. We especially like to point out the jobs that are a little more nontraditional and offer lots of flexibility! :)

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  • Wendy

    Wendy on March 6, 2014, 4:55 a.m.

    My 13 yo daughter does a lot of comic book art and is interested to know what kinds of drawing materials your daughter uses. She has trouble once she gets her drawings done and wants to add color. She isn't happy with how the coloring effects the finished product. She has tried markers, colored pencils, watercolors. Maybe we just aren't using the right brand. Or maybe it's the paper she uses. Also, did she learn just on her own or did she find any specific books or resources helpful? Jesse has started working through these lessons: http://www.alienthink.com/inventiontocompletehumanbeing.blogspot.html, and she is really enjoying them. The drawing on this page is great! We were impressed :)

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  • Sara

    Sara on March 6, 2014, 10:51 a.m.

    Yes, and I think it's a bit strange too that society pressures us to conflate what one wants to do professionally with what one wants to be.  Especially if you are intelligent and/or good at school, there's a lot of pressure from teachers and the whole culture to achieve your intellectual potential by "becoming" something, and that something had better not be mothering/homemaking.  

     

    There's an emphasis on personal achievement - not service, but accomplishment - and a very strong suggestion that anything other than a certain kind of personal achievement -intellectual, professional, out in the world, etc. - is a waste.

     

    It took me a bit of time to get over that, and it's one reason I'm really happy to be homeschooling our kids.  I'm happy for them to use their intelligence and interests in whatever way they choose, but the emphasis as you suggest on "what good things can you do with this knowledge/skill?" and the lack of condemnation for anything other than a traditional college/grad school/professional track is not only a nicer way to raise a kid but also a more realistic way.

     

    That's not to say that we're not committed, at this point, to requiring the acquisition of some particular skills (my kids are 8 and younger) - we're doing traditional math and a traditional writing program, mainly because I think they'll need to have these skills ready when they start to choose, later in their teen years, what kind of direction they want to head.

     

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    • renee

      renee on March 6, 2014, 1:25 p.m.

      Sara, for what it's worth math, reading, and writing are "non-negotiables" in our home in terms of required study. Sometimes that looks likes lessons and practice times for those skills and other times it just flows out of what we're doing, but having a strong foundation in those is necessary regardless of whatever academic or professional track you take. But higher level math that only serves the purpose of getting you into college/university to then to study sciences or math is not required in our home, because by that point the child, who is now a young adult/teen, has a lot of say in whether they want to take the college entry science/math education route. 

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      • Sara

        Sara on March 7, 2014, 3:36 a.m.

        Right, that makes a lot of sense.  I know I took rather a lot of math in high school specifically for college aspirations, but I remember exactly none of it.  If I'd wanted to be an engineer, though... :)

         

        The three Rs seem like basic skills to me, other content areas are pretty much all up to the kids.  For some reason right now it's Ancient Greek, drawing, and astronomy.  

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  • Stephanie Stevens

    Stephanie Stevens on March 9, 2014, 2:23 a.m.

    I loved this post, especially the opening lines.  It gives me some direction about how to approach my children.  I have a middle schooler so I am giving a lot of thought and prayer to the next few years of her education.  I have a question though.  How would you approach a child who has a lot of interests but tends to be super (did i say super) disorganized, easily distracted, scattered, and very very easily overwhelmed? 

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    • renee

      renee on March 9, 2014, 2:49 a.m.

      Stephanie, I'm guessing I would provide the structure and support (through schedule, tools, etc.) she/he needed, while teaching her/him those skills so they could eventually manage their own schedules and systems. The answer isn't necessarily to impose your structure or way of doing things on apparently "structure-less" children (aside from the things that you are firm with structuring, like healthy meals, exercise, etc.) but to figure out how to work with the child's natural way of doing things while teaching them the skills they need to survive in the real world - getting places on time etc. 

      I'm not sure if that's exactly what you're asking but I think the best approach is always to view the child through a "what are your strengths" lens and then bring in the support and structures needed to boost the weaknesses. My children are all different in this regard also. Personality testing (and the tools that then accompany those results) and strengths finding type exercises might be helpful also. 

       

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  • Stephanie Stevens

    Stephanie Stevens on March 9, 2014, 3:06 a.m.

    I love that positive approach.  It's so easy sometimes to see the child through the lens of the weakness because it impacts the way they approach absolutely everything!  This gives me a new angle to try.  I also like what you said about not imposing my way, necessarily.  I'm pretty organized and focused by nature so it has been a puzzle that my way is not obvious to all my chidlren.  :)  I'm learning.  Thank you.

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  • Shelly

    Shelly on March 9, 2014, 5:53 p.m.

    Spot on again, Renee. Those were great pictures, by the way. Your kids are so talented. This is off-topic, but I haven't gotten your newsletter in two weeks. Are you still doing that? I miss getting your posts in my inbox!

    reply

    • renee

      renee on March 9, 2014, 10:50 p.m.

      Hi Shelly,

      I'm getting the blog ready for our hike and in doing that I'm switching to an email RSS format for my newsletters. They won't be delivered on the weekends instead new posts will come straight to your inbox. I hope to get that done this week, makingthe switch has been trickier than I anticipated.

      reply

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