Loving Your Kids’ Loves

I learned early not to make so many suggestions. Unschooling is empowering only as long as it’s self-driven. Early days, I saw myself as their guide. You like cars? I’ll get you alllll the cars and the books on cars and a museum membership to see cars in person and a YouTube list of videos!

My tendency to offer up things I thought a kid might like was absorbed by that child as pressure. Ugh. I was trying so hard to be helpful. I thought it was my job! Even after I calmed down, it didn’t work for awhile because I’d previously been so over-involved.

Ages ago Wilder liked karate, for example, so I thought he might also be into watching martial arts movies. He wasn’t. Eventually he explained that his love for karate had to do with himself performing these moves, the strength he felt in his core. Nothing about the cool factor, kicking butt, or the competitive nature of karate as a sport. Which is what all the movies are about. Lesson learned, kid.

And he’s the child who’s able to discuss his feelings.

Now when I see the rabbit hole deepening, I stand back and observe. Nobody’s asking me for help, you see, and that’s the key point. My kids have no problem loudly demanding assistance as needed, so the lack of communication actually means that they’re wanting space to explore – that’s how I take it.

“What do you like about ______?” I’ll ask, and wait for the answer. Sometimes I need more of an angle to get some traction on their new love.

Rosetta is buried in the Warriors series, these books about wild cats that we’ve been reading together at bedtime for well over a year. I’ve invested, it feels, months of my life to them. At the library book sale last year, I nabbed their compendium of characters with an overview of the series’ mainstays and artwork of each alongside. This book has provided us with constant discussion, and fostered a re-birth of her art love, among many other things.

Rosetta draws and paints these cats, labelling them, (art, handwriting), recreates them in a Roblox game (technology) where she reads and types responses in typical Warrior speak (reading, semantics, writing), and reads about them on repeat (reading). Later, we got library books and learned all the official breeds and types of cats, creating a list and googling pictures of each, pairing each with the Warriors character we thought it might represent (science, biology, writing, research). We also made a naming wheel, as the cat characters get assigned names at different stages of life (spelling, writing). Rosetta asked to visit cat adoption centers and pet real cats, in hopes of taming a wild one someday (volunteerism). Daily, Rosetta plays imaginary games with stuffed cats, all of whom are named from the Warriors series (role play).

This fall my goal is a dive into Warriors fan fiction, something Rosetta doesn’t yet know exists but is well on her way to writing as she plays. It’s really exciting to watch her fall into something so deeply, to love it so well she knows and remembers all the moving parts. We’re 30 books in. There’s so much history to remember, and more than 1,000 (!!!) named characters.

Wilder’s love for knives is still ongoing. Five years in, he’s now trying to diversify his skillset by learning to forge. We’re not able to do this at home. We’ve tried to get two local knife makers to take him on, but there are legal and insurance issues because of his age. So he’s looking into a shop class this fall that covers forging as part of the curriculum. Luckily, while he waits, he’s got Minecraft.

I loved Wilder’s love for outdoor survival skills and curved our lives into a shape that maximized his time exploring forests, climbing rocks. Our interests here dovetailed neatly as I followed the Waldorf-y perspective of as much nature time as possible. Similarly, I valued Rosetta’s strong artistic bent and still keep a tackle box of simple art supplies in the car, equally handy for picnic blankets and long wait times.

But the rabbit holes I now try to foster aren’t ones I saw coming. Falling into a cat story that’s taken over alllllll the bedtime reading was more disappointing than I can say. You’d understand if you saw how many novels await bedside reading in the living room book tower while I spend another whole year on cats.

It’s tedious work sometimes, trying to gain a foothold, often sideways.

I play Minecraft occasionally, and the kids alternate between laughing hysterically at me and helping me. They can see my effort, and I only hope they appreciate it.

Cover photo ©Warrior cats, non-monetized, personal reuse.

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