The Hobby Hierarchy

“My kid doesn’t have any hobbies or interests, all she likes to do is sit around playing video games/watching TV/doing nothing all day.” I hear this kind of thing a lot. Especially prefaced by “We could never unschool because…”. I also hear it coming from the kids themselves, “I could never unschool because I’d just sit around playing video games/watching TV/doing nothing all day.” On the other hand, have you every heard someone say, “My kids doesn’t have any hobbies or interests, all she likes to do is sit around doing math problems/reading/doing science experiments/writing stories/etc. all day.”? Maybe on occasion, but it doesn’t happen nearly as often. This is because of the hierarchy of hobbies. Hobbies that sound like school are at the top, then hobbies involving physical activity and then hobbies that are largely focused on looking at a screen. So what can we do to smash this hierarchy? Or even just convince ourselves that they are all valuable? I have some ideas, meant for playing around with. I’m mostly thinking right now about what a parent can do to feel less nervous about the things their child does with their time.

As a child who feels like their interests aren’t as valuable, I think it could be helpful to read this as well. Along with that a good question to ask yourself might be: How is this hobby or passion serving me? It could be useful to look at the three categories below and think about whether it fits into one of those.

I can think of three reasons that people choose to spend time on something. I think kids engage in the kind of hobbies we consider less valuable for exactly the same reasons. So it could be useful to recognize what those three things are and why they’re important (and also how to understand them better). I’m going to break down what those ways and some strategies for reframing your picture of the activity (or reframing it for a parent, friend, or someone else).

  1. Because the activity brings them the amount of challenge, growth, and/or interest that child desires at the moment. Engage with you kids with what they’re excited about. Talk to them about it, ask if you can watch them, try whatever they’re doing yourself. This is an especially important thing to try if you’re still skeptical about what they’re doing. You’ll be amazed, once you really try to learn from them, how much they’re learning from doing it. It might be a computer game that you completely can’t keep up with or even imaginative play that you just find you never have ideas for. Hopefully, this will help you realize how important and meaningful the things they do are.
  2. As a chance to relax and recharge. Recognize the need for downtime. Think about it within yourself. When you get home from a long day of work, often, all you want to do might be read or watch television or scroll through your Facebook feed. Remember that your kids after a long day (often school, but also maybe a homeschool group or social get-together) need that same relaxation time. They need time to chill with whatever helps them rest after an exhausting day. So let them.
  3. To connect with and understand other people. For most people, communicating with other people is an important part of their life. For some people, that might be through school or work. For other people, it might be online. Multiplayer video games can be a great way to connect with other players who live all over the world. I’ve also noticed in my own creative life that paying attention to people (whether as I walk down the street or in a vlog or television show) is an important step in better knowing how different people think. It’s important for me to do that because it makes me better equipped to write about other people. I can’t speak to whether that’s helpful in others’ lives, but I can imagine it could be. Just because you socialize in different ways than your kids doesn’t make their choices less valid.
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