Prisma is the world’s most engaging virtual school that combines a fun, real-world curriculum with powerful mentorship from experienced coaches and a supportive peer community.
Everyone knows those kids who, from a young age, have a North Star so bright, it seems to outshine anything in their world. The kindergartner with their career path plotted from a-to-z. The middle school biking prodigy with their eye on the prize. The high school student who has already built a thriving business and is plotting out the next.
But not all of children are so certain in their understanding of their own passions. Many leap from interest to interest, changing directions with the seasons. Others wander, wondering if they’ll uncover a natural talent that will translate into their life’s purpose. Others dutifully try each of the activities their parents choose for them, barely lodging excitement or complaint.
None of this is, in anyway, abnormal. Still, when it’s our child doing the wandering, it can be uncomfortable (or even nerve-wracking) to witness.
The good news is that children have an incredible internal sense of their likes and dislikes. Motored by curiosity, children will gravitate towards the kinds of things they love: as parents, the most important thing we can do is give them opportunities and then let them roll up their sleeves.
If you’re worried that your child needs more guidance as they get to know the things they love, here are some ways to get involved, without getting in their way.
Often we equate a child’s passion with a career: from a love of math to a job in finance; from a love of nature to a job in environmental science. If their current passions don’t seem to line up neatly with a job, that can set off alarm bells. Maybe your child loves baseball, but there’s no future for them in the Major League. Maybe they really enjoy their musical instrument, but you can’t envision them attending Julliard. Or maybe they’re passionate about something that doesn’t fit your idea of ‘passion’: collecting comic books, making stop motion Lego videos, or reading up on the latest fashion in high-end sneakers.
If we work too hard to connect the dots from extracurricular activities to a future career — and discount anything that doesn’t help advance that narrative — we overlook the true benefits of exploring their own interests. In addition to whatever skills and talents they discover by participating in organized sports, taking art classes, or coding a video game, they also have the chance to develop meaningful life skills that extend far beyond the boundaries of the experience itself.
Think of their passions as building blocks that help them develop problem-solving skills, self-confidence and self-esteem, so that they’ll be ready to dive deep when opportunity strikes. A child who loves baseball might be exploring their love of teamwork, leadership, self-care or hard work — all things that will serve them well, way beyond the championship game.
To foster this kind of mindset, remove pressure wherever possible: for academic subjects, we find that moving away from traditional grades and focusing on feedback makes failure part of the learning process; for extracurriculars, consider low-stakes activities, such as a weekly pickup soccer game rather than a formal, competitive league.
Kids who are too afraid of failure won't try new things, or will get frustrated when things are challenging at first, and both of those things make finding your passion more difficult. Let kids explore and — as strange as it may sound — be “bad” at things.
The bigger your child’s world, the more chances they’ll have to bump elbows with the thing they love. Help your child develop their creativity in general, by encouraging them to see new sights, try new foods, and look at the familiar things around them with new eyes. If a family trip to a new part of the world isn’t in the cards, try a local expedition to a museum, park or corner of town.
When it comes to sparking a child’s interest in something new, it can help to hear from professional, expert guests in cool fields: for every cycle theme at Prisma, we bring in guests to talk about how they found their passion. From a deep sea researcher to a Pulitzer prize winning journalist, to a musician who had been on the Voice, our expert guests share how they get to live that passion in their everyday work, helping ignite curiosity in our learners as they explore their own areas of interest.
Look for community talks, workshops, and opportunities to connect with local professional mentors. Virtual events, webinars or even video interviews on YouTube can be a great way to get started, allowing kids to browse a range of topics without leaving the house.
It takes a lot of time to develop a passion, with frequent blind alleys and unexpected bends in the road. Rather than rush in and steer their course, let kids fall down a rabbit hole of their own choosing, to deeply research something, practice a skill, or wrestle an ambitious topic, without any pressure around choosing the “right” thing.
This is a great place to start for kids who have a passion that doesn’t neatly align with an academic discipline or extracurricular activity. Let them start from whatever they do love, and then help them see how they can expand that interest in an interdisciplinary way: for example, a kid who...
When giving kids the freedom to explore, we recommend you bake in a little bit of structure — guardrails, to help them stay within some boundaries, however broad. Our self-directed journeys always start with a brainstorming phase, where learners are invited to choose from a wide variety of smaller, building-block activities (or design their own). As a result of those explorations, they’re better equipped to choose which path they want to pursue. While our coaches offer regular check-ins along the way, we find that our learners need plenty of unstructured time and space to choose their own adventure.
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