Child-led Projects / Unschooling

Don’t Squash Your Child’s Big Ideas

When one of my daughters was about 5 years old, she wanted to make a robot. Not a crafted robot out of a cardboard box, but a real robot made of metal and able to do real robot things like get her a glass of water when she wanted one.

Another of my girls wanted to have a job travelling the world and making wildlife documentaries like David Attenborough when she was only 7 years old.

They had big ideas. Big unrealistic, expensive, and unachievable ideas actually.

That’s the thing with unschooling. When the options are endless and they get to choose their own learning, they think big!

This happened many times. At first, I would try to tell them how they couldn’t do these things, or show them an alternative option that was realistic for children. This never went well. They did not want to hear it. They would tell me I was wrong and they could totally do it and feel angry at me for not letting them.

My oldest daughter, at 6 years old, making her first costume. She was up late in the night sewing a dinosaur costume for her sister’s birthday the next day. She designed and created it all herself, without a pattern (something that, to me) seemed unlikely to work at the time.

What I quickly realised was that our children don’t need us to explain to them why their big ideas won’t work. When you are in the midst of excitement of a new idea, you absolutely don’t want someone raining on your parade and bringing you down with all the practicalities. You want someone to get excited with you!

Maybe you’re thinking that you’re trying to save them from disappointment in the future when their ideas don’t work out? But, that is not something our children need to be rescued from. They can handle that feeling. What is more important is having a supportive parent who you can share your ideas with joyfully!

Our children are pretty clever. They are learning how the world works every day and they will figure out on their own what they can and cannot do.

Instead of reminding them of their limitations, just ask questions instead! Here’s some phrases that might help:

“That sounds so exciting! Tell me more!”
“I wonder how you will do that?!”
“I can’t wait to see how you do this.”
“How will you get started?”
“Tell me about your plan”
“I wonder if we can use things we already own”
“I love hearing your ideas”
“I would have never thought of this!”
“Hmm… we don’t have the money for this right now, I wonder if you can think of an alternative?”

Being supportive of your child’s big ideas doesn’t mean you’re being unrealistic. You’re just choosing to let them find the limitations themselves instead of killing their vibe before they even get started. You might be surprised at where this big idea takes them instead!

Miss 15 wearing her latest costume. All hand made by her. This interest has endured all these years. She still has huge ideas, and most importantly, the confidence to pull them off!


July 14, 2024 at 3:17 pm

Everytime I read one of your blogs, I get both happy for your children and envious because I never got to have such a childhood.
From an early age, I loved to draw. I even was able to draw things with 3 dimensions before other children my age.
Eventually, I began to draw comics. Not with the idea to publish them of course, I was about seven and was doing it for my own enjoyment.
But slowly, more and more, this passion was solubilized by others.
In art class, I asked the teacher when we could learn about how to draw comic style. She promised me soon…we never did that.
School really squeezes out the passion from children a lot of times!
My parents also discouraged me from doing something artistic like drawing comics or writing novels because that was so insecure as a job compared to something you could apply to.
Despite this, I have now started to write a script for a graphic novel story but my drawing skills have eroded for ten years now and I realize that, whenever I try to practice again, that I don’t have the confidence and the passion anymore to do it.
I wonder whether I eventually will or whether I’ll end up contacting an artist to draw the panels and pages for me. Something, which is not uncommon in the comic industry.

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