Remember the movie Dirty Dancing? It’s one of my favorites. There’s a line in it that has often popped into my mind since having my twins. Near the beginning of the movie, Baby’s father says of her, “Our Baby here is going to save the world, ” after which Baby snidely remarks about her sister, “And Lisa’s going to decorate it.” Baby meant it as an insult, but I often think of this phrase when asked to describe my daughter, Faith – and it is the very opposite of an insult.
Faith entered this world with a sense of style. Since toddlerhood she’s displayed a propensity for aesthetics. I’ll never forget the hour she spent arranging my mother’s flowerpots at the tender age of two. She’s a snazzy dresser, and has an eye for arranging rooms, food on a dish, and hairdos. It’s not only a talent she has, but also a passion she possesses.
Let me share a story to illustrate. One day, we were passing a cemetery. “What’s that writing on the stones?” Faith wanted to know. I explained to her that the headstones contained important information about the person. Faith paused for a moment and then announced, “Mommy, on my headstone I want you to write ‘This is Faith. She was very fashionable.’ ”
A major ingredient of successful unschooling is paying attention to our children’s passions and giving our kids many varied opportunities to pursue them. So tonight, I introduced Faith to Extreme Makeover, Home Edition. She watched the first half in rapt silence. The second half was peppered with questions as she began to interact with what she was watching.
When the show ended, our conversation turned to Ty Pennington (really, is that any surprise?). Turns out, he discovered his passion at age ten. Labeled a “problem student”, he was a gifted designer, which his mother realized when he built himself an amazing tree house. Recognizing his passion and talent did wonders for his self-esteem. In an interview with Guideposts magazine Ty writes, “God had given me skills that didn’t show up on an SAT exam.” With his mother’s support, he was able to pursue his passion and develop those skills.
One of our greatest responsibilities as unschooling parents is to recognize our children’s passions and potential. Once we have, we can find creative ways to support our children as they explore them. The key is to provide plenty of opportunity, without becoming overly invested in it ourselves. We must be content to let our children delve as deeply as they want to. Sometimes that means just wading in the shallows until they find something else that captures their interest. Other times it may become the foundation for a lifelong passion.
So for now, Faith continues to decorate the world. She plans to bring an assortment of one-of-a-kind hats to the next unschooling conference. Which means that in the near future, we will be loading up on millinery supplies. Maybe someday, she’ll win a place on Extreme Home Makeover. Or maybe she’ll abandon hats and hairdos in favor of some other passion. That’s part of what keeps the unschooling life so interesting.
As for me, I’m just hoping she’ll keep her sense of style long enough to give my wardrobe an extreme makeover. It badly needs one.