"Each child comes with his or her unique built-in, preloaded passions. Some kids are consumed by a desire to dance their hearts out. Others want nothing more than to concoct culinary delights. Some want to tell stories, spend time with animals, or sketch inventions. If we want our children to discover their passion and purpose, we must stay open to what they drift toward rather than pushing them in directions we prefer they follow but that do not call to them.
"Doing this requires plenty of unstructured time and exposure to a variety of people and experiences. The endless organized activities we impose on our kids, coupled with pounds of nightly homework and the constant pull of their digital lives, often leaves no time for the quiet in which they might hear the voice leading them to their path of exploration. Had I not had free time in high school, I might never have pursued my desire to learn Hindi. Packing a child's day from morning to night — and nowadays, weekends and summers — leaves them no time to wander, daydream, or explore the things that bring them alive.
"Raising a child to be who he is meant to be also requires a commitment to fostering his fascination with life. I love the line from the contract that Janell Burley Hofmann wrote when she gave her thirteen-year-old son an iPhone: 'Wonder without googling.' In today's world, children rarely puzzle over things; the answer to any question is just seconds away, via whatever device is handy. But one of the greatest skills we can help our children develop is the capacity to solve problems. This requires settling into the not-knowing space generated between curiosity and answers.
"Give your kids the opportunity to step outside traditional classroom walls and sniff out the things that interest them. These pursuits may not make sense at the time or even be long-lasting, but what a joy it is to follow the yearnings of the heart, as mysterious as they may be. When we do, all kinds of magic can happen.
"By infusing your life with meaning and a passion for learning, and by providing your children with real-life opportunities to do the same, you will help inoculate them against ennui, apathy, and malaise, infusing their spirits with the joy that comes from pursuing the things that stir their souls."