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Considering Passion and Career Choices

I had no interest in gardening when I was young; now, as part of my current role and service, gardening has become a passion.

We homeschooling moms are our teens’ guidance counsellors.  I find that a bit nerve wracking, and I’m sure you do, too.  Helping our teens plan their future is so important but is so full of unknowns.  Now, there are some good, balanced resources out there (see my reviews below for a few of them).  There are also many books and other resources that focus on the prime importance of passion and personality in career choices. In this article I will consider some problems with the idea that passion should be the determining factor in career choice, and in another one I will consider the value of personality tests.

Myth 1: Follow your passion

‘Follow your passion,’ is both helpful and harmful advice.  Yes, it is good advice for teens to do something they are excited about, but…

  • How will they know what they are most excited about when they have tried hardly anything—and, by definition, most young people have very little experience? How will they be sure?
  • Later on, what happens when they are no longer excited about it, when the going gets tough, or they fail an exam or can’t get a job interview, or they discover that the passion is not all they thought it would be?
  • It seems that reality does not actually support the widely-accepted value of following your passion.

The slogan ‘follow your passion’ obviously needs explanation; as it stands it is too simplistic. For this reason, it is good to know the origin of this career advice and to compare it to views held throughout history.  This is done in a thoughtful article by Cal Newport, which can be summed up in its conclusion:

 The belief that the world owes you the perfect role for your special unique personality is myopically self-focused and ill-suited to hard times. The alternative notion that the world needs you to offer all that you can is comparably liberating.

Learning the slogan’s historical context is not enough, though.  As Christians, we need to remember that the Bible says we exist to praise, love, glorify and serve God and those around us; the world does not exist for us.  Cal Newport, though not writing from a Christian point of view, is right in saying that ‘the world needs you to offer all that you can’.

From a biblical perspective, career decisions should include the concepts of roles and of service as well as the idea of individual differences and gifts. In other words, when considering careers, a teen needs to consider service and roles as well as passion and personality. And then it turns out that serving a greater goal with dedication often leads to enjoyment of work, something that self-centered ‘passion’ or ‘following your bliss’ often doesn’t. People thrive when they are convinced that their work is important.  Furthermore, embracing one’s roles in career decisions can significantly enhance everyday happiness while resenting one’s roles or struggling against them can cause grief.

Thus it is good to be passionate about one’s career and study choice, but it should be a passion that moves beyond the self and out toward service, not an entitled, ‘follow your bliss’ search for self-fulfillment.

Now, all this is difficult to apply and requires wisdom.  Making wise career decisions involves prayer, time, energy, knowledge of the world, self-knowledge, and input from others as well as courage and persistence.  Teens will need encouragement to give the process the time and energy it deserves.

Even with the guidance of a good career curriculum, making a choice can be agonizingly difficult, but ultimately a teen does need to choose. As Kevin de Young wisely suggests in Just Do Something, live close to the Lord and then just choose anything you want.  This sounds flippant and simplistic but de Young points out that living close to the Lord will adjust one’s goals and expectations so that one is biblically able to just go ahead and ‘do something’.  Not perfectly, of course, but trustingly.

If your teens need to adjust their career goals later, that is not a problem; after all, human plans often need to be adjusted (James 4:13-15, Proverbs 16:9).  This is both perfectly normal and perfectly fine and is not a sign of having made a sinful choice though it may or may not indicate short-sightedness.  Most commonly it is a sign that, as usual, God’s plans are more complicated than ours. And, remember, God can and does use all for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). There’s more on all of this in de Young’s book (see my review) but I just want to add this: do not be afraid but move on in faith.

Still stuck?  Don’t let your teens search frantically for a passion, but instead have them consider these questions and more:

  • How did God make you and what advantages did he give you? (Note that ‘advantages’ could also include hardships which have been suffered through).
  • What sorts of activities give you joy?
  • What needs do you see in the world?
  • Is there a way to combine them?
  • Could you serve by doing something about these needs?
  • What do those around you say?
  • Consider the central ideas of Christianity, that our calling is to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

And above all, remind your teens be diligent, now and in the future, at whatever tasks God gives them to do.  Not only is that how they can show love to him; it is also how he is training them for what comes next.  Practically speaking, then, teens should put a great deal of effort into their schoolwork for God’s sake.

In conclusion, it is foolish to base a career choice only on a self-centered passion or, as we will see in a future article, on the basis of a personality test.  It is much wiser to base these choices on interests and aptitudes combined with an attitude of obedient service and love to God and others. This is something we should teach our teens in our role as homeschool guidance counsellor and our role as parents.

Relevant resources:

Disclosure: I am not compensated for mentioning or recommending these resources. 

Review: Traditional Cooking Challenges

from the Fermenting Challenge

Do you want to learn to cook the traditional way, adding nutritional value to your food with newfound skills? It’s something I’ve always been interested in. In fact, years ago I posted about medieval cookery and we actually own the Laura Ingalls Wilder cookbook.  We also made yoghurt, bone broth, and ‘friendship cake’, a type of sourdough.  But as the years passed, we were overwhelmed with homeschooling and illness and some of these ‘extras’ disappeared from our lives. Life happens.

A few years ago I discovered Wardee’s Traditional Cooking School.  Wardee teaches so many exciting traditional skills and offer so many recipes and so much advice.  The school was and is awesome, but at times I got overwhelmed and, unable to decide on the next project, did nothing.

Then, last summer, I joined a 28 day Traditional Cooking Challenge.  Each weekday had a video or two, a written lesson, and hands-on homework, and the weekends were for catching up.  With this sort of handholding I actually learned much more than just from the courses.  I really think the access to an online discussion group also helped—when I had a question, I could check in with others who were doing the same projects as well as with Traditional Cooking School staff.  I enjoyed that challenge so much that I did a Fermenting Challenge not much later, and a few months ago I did a Sourdough Challenge.  Because learning, videos and homework were assigned day by day and were very organized and encouraging, I was able to learn and do far more than I had imagined possible.  It was fun, too, and there were prizes and a graduation ceremony at the end.  Wardee and the other hosts are such enthusiastic and encouraging women.

I especially love that the Traditional Cooking School is unabashedly Christian, unlike many traditional foods resources.  As Joel Salatin writes in The Pigness of Pigs, Christians, as stewards of God’s creation, should be at the forefront of stewardship of both the earth and our bodies.

If you are at all interested in traditional cooking, you may find these Traditional Cooking School challenges a great way to get started.

Here is more information about each challenge:

The Traditional Cooking Challenge (28 days) covers a bit of most things in the Traditional Cooking School:  Cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, salad dressing (one of the best we’ve ever tasted), soaked  nuts, beans, sprouting, chicken stock, soaked flour muffins that have become our standard, and even extra-nutritious, extra-delicious larabars, and more.

I didn’t do everything in the 14 day Fermenting Challenge, but I learned so much.  As you can see in the photo, I fermented ketchup, salsa, ginger carrot sticks, switchel, and two kinds of pickles, and they were all yummy.  In fact, the ketchup was the best I ever tasted and it was fun to be enjoying a super-healthy version of something that is very unhealthy in its commercial form. Although it wasn’t necessary, I also made the effort to get airlocks (the funny things on top of the jars), which help keep bad bacteria out of ferments.  And I just loved having them fermenting on my counter like this—the colors were so vibrant that this is still one of my favorite photos of last summer.

This spring, when our world started shutting down, I took out the gluten-free sourdough started I’d ambitiously purchased earlier* (and then stored in the freezer) and signed up for the 14 day Sourdough Challenge. That was a life-changer and we now regularly eat sourdough gluten-free English muffins and bread, with the occasional cake and pizza.  I’m continuing to learn and soon I’m hoping to figure out how to make a sourdough gluten-free focaccia bread.   (*Note that if you are not gluten free you can easily make your own starter according to the instructions in the Challenge, but apparently gluten-free starter is a whole lot more finicky.)

After that I signed up for a 14 day Cultured Dairy Challenge, but between the garden and an increased homeschooling load, I went nowhere with it.  It’s still available for me to do on my own whenever I can fit it in—likely in November when the garden is empty and the pantry and freezers are full again.  It will involve making yoghurt, sour cream, various kinds of cheeses, and a probiotic ice cream.

After all this learning, what sticks? Well, there is something cultured, fermented, or soured almost every day.  Sometimes it’s kefir or salad dressing with fermented ingredients; cheese is rarer.  We have sourdough almost every day.   When our cucumbers are ready, I’m planning to make cheese to have enough whey to ferment them rather than pickle them with vinegar.  Although that sounds like a lot of work, there is creativity, deliciousness, and health all along the way.  I find that being immersed in a traditional cooking mindset also leads to subtler changes that impact our health, tiny things that will add up, from using sea salt to minimizing commercial vegetable oils, from sometimes using our cast iron pan instead of a no-stick one to eating organic as much as possible—which currently means we have a big garden.

If your homeschooled teens want a project to go with their history studies or would like an entire Foods and Nutrition Credit, they can use a few of these challenges as a primary resource—but even if they don’t want to formally study traditional cooking, they will learn a lot just enjoying the results of your new skills.

There does not seem to be a challenge going on currently, but if you wish to learn more it’s a good idea to check out Wardee’s podcast, blog, and newsletter.  There’s so much you can learn from her for free and it’s a good way to decide if traditional cooking is for you. If it seems promising, I recommend starting with her intro series of five free videos.   You should also sign up for the free 30 day trial of the Traditional Cooking School some day when you can devote lots of time to exploring and learning or when a challenge is running, since challenges are included in the membership.

Is a Traditional Cooking School challenge a worthwhile investment for you?  If you wish to improve your family’s health and kitchen skills, I think it is. You will learn various new skills and try healthy new foods while Wardee and her team hold your hand; you can print out the daily lessons to refer back to later; and you will improve your family’s health one step at a time.  On the other hand, if you have no time and no way to free up any, I suggest waiting until a better season—but do check out her blog and podcast occasionally because better health saves a lot of time in the long run.

I have reviewed these Traditional Cooking School courses in the past:

Disclosure:  I have received a free membership to Traditional Cooking School in order to review several of their resources.

Other Priorities

Several times over the past few months I tried to write a blog post and it just wouldn’t work.  For a long time I couldn’t figure out why and then it hit me:  I’ve been busy with other priorities.

Here are some of them.

When homeschooled teens take advanced courses, sometimes mom needs to scramble.  I have had an intense but wonderful spring relearning calculus and intro physics after 35 years.  It’s funny what sticks after such a long time, and what has disappeared from memory.  It’s also amazing to watch a young person learn these fascinating subjects.

We have also been digging into the world of food science and as a gardener/traditional food person I am astonished.  Apparently it’s a good thing that “food scientists have made great strides in expanding the food supply. They have developed thousands of new food products and many food processing methods.”  In any case, we’ve invested in the textbook, it teaches a lot of useful things, and I’m making a study guide, modeled on those that come with Apologia’s high school science texts, for my daughter who functions best with that.

And here are some more things that have been keeping us busy.

Yes, we have a cherry crop for the first time ever! This is especially amazing because cherries don’t really grow in our area.  Our sun-warmed cherries, despite the usual ‘extra protein’ hazards of organic foods, are a tremendous treat.  The rest of the garden, too, is growing well—except for the peppers and some of the tomatoes—and it is now mostly covered with straw mulch to keep the water in and the weeds down.  In other words, there’s less watering and weeding to do, which makes me very happy.

So, work is slowing down and I am planning to blog regularly again.  It’s been so long!  I have a handful of reviews planned, along with some articles about homeschooling teens, and maybe even a monthly round up of interesting links.

Finally, here are a few books currently on my reading pile.  It’s so exciting to have time to read and review again!  I plan to write about several of these books in the next few months.

Dear friends, it’s good to be back, and I hope to be connecting with you at your online ‘homes’ as well as in the comments.

Review: Civics in Action

Civics in Action

It can be difficult to find helpful civics textbooks for the homeschool.  Of course, some families don’t need a textbook because they are so involved in politics; that used to be us.  Other families can make do with a short Christian resources such as Christian Citizenship Guide.  Although we used that book, we also wanted a more thorough overview, and for one teen we ended up using Civics in Action: In Your Communities Across Canada and Globally.

This very colorful, action-oriented text covers

  1. Becoming Engaged in your Communities
  2. Community Involvement and Municipal Government
  3. Your Rights and Responsibilities
  4. Government Roles and Structures
  5. The Political Process
  6. Civics and Citizenship in Global Communities
  7. Global Action

Civics in Action is full of information.  Much of it is highlighted, and much is presented in charts, tables, timelines, and illustrations.  The book is very colorful and while this could be distracting to some, it is undoubtedly helpful for others.  There are many stories, interviews, and examples.  Although the book is laid out well, there is so much going on visually that it can be difficult to see the structure and follow the flow of thought.

Civics in Action promotes action in its teaching, projects, and examples.  Many of the illustrations are of young people volunteering, making a political impact, or demonstrating in one way or another.  In a three-part “Guide to Action”, the book shows students how to get involved:

  1. Get inspired,
  2. Get informed
  3. Get involved
  4. Get connected
  5. Get moving
  6. Have a lasting impact

This textbook aims to teach students to become informed and to think wisely about impacts of both actions and ideas.  For example, “Determining the Impact of an Issue” teaches students to consider what impact an issue may have on a wide range of issues in fields of economic, environmental, social, cultural, health and safety, research and development, and technological growth. Students are encouraged to consider both short-term and long-term effects as well as possible ethical implications. If our governments considered each of the sub-points listed for each field, our society would be much better off. (p 169)

Another helpful page discusses media bias:

  • By omission
  • By story selection
  • By tone
  • By selection of sources
  • By placement
  • By choice of words

These examples of bias can be used to evaluate the text itself.  It omits right-to-life issues such as abortion and euthanasia.  Its examples showcase a demographic that is not representative of the cross-section Canadians.  Its tone is authoritative about issues that are not necessarily settled and about ideas that are not necessarily true.  It depends heavily on one source, the organization, Samara. It selects opinions and gives them prime page space, sometimes more than the facts get.  And yet, it does its best to be objective on sensitive topics as well.

In terms of philosophy, Civics in Action focuses very much on human rights (except the right to life).  It even states that a responsibility of all Canadians is the duty to stand up for their own rights and that of others.  In the past one would have focused more on duties such as personally helping those in need; this book promotes a less personally involved, more hands-off approach that tries to involve government instead of quietly meeting others’ needs. As such, it is very contemporary; that trend was thoroughly discussed in the free Christian Citizenship Guide that I reviewed recently.  (I highly recommend that book to help clarify nuances and aspects of the human rights movement that are sometimes difficult to understand; it is about Canada but something similar is obviously going on in the US.)

In line with that, Civics in Action assumes that activism related to global issues is an important responsibility, although personal help and hands-on involvement is also discussed.

Furthermore, in discussions of economic systems, the ideal definitions of socialism and communism are given without pointing out difficulties in real world examples, especially of communism.

Finally, freedom of religion is not mentioned often, and the right all Canadians have to life and freedom is not mentioned at all. I suppose that is inevitable in a textbook for public schools because abortion is not a considered a politically correct topic for discussion, because the euthanasia debate has heated up since the book was published, and because human trafficking is a sensitive subject people prefer to ignore.  Free high school curriculum units from ARPA address these and similar topics from a Christian point of view and could be a good supplement to Civics in Action.

Our teen had already gone through Christian Citizenship Guide and she studied Civics in Action to complete her civics half-credit. She was able to go through it very quickly because much of it is review for anyone who keeps up with the news, attends ARPA events, and reads Reformed Perspective.  I read it quickly, too, to prepare to give an oral exam.  The oral exam took us about three hours and was a very efficient way ensure that there were no obvious knowledge gaps and to finish a required course.

If your teen wants to get involved in political life, see the example of Sam Oosterhof, Canada’s youngest  elected MPP and a committed Christian.

Note: Civics in Action has been heavily influenced by an organization called Samara, a “non-partisan charity dedicated to strengthening Canada’s democracy,” to the extent that there are more references to Samara in the index than there are to the prime minister, political parties, or parliament.

If you enjoyed this review, you might want to connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read or friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up. 

Disclosure: We borrowed this textbook from our public library.

This post may be linked to Booknificent Thursdays52 Books in 52 Weeks ChallengeLiteracy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook as well as to Inspire Me MondayThankful ThursdayFriendship Friday..

Three Pandemics and the Great Physician


Photo by CDC on Unsplash

The mainstream media is giving us an endless stream of information about the pandemic caused by COVID-19—the number of cases, the number of deaths, what governments are doing, what is happening around the world, how individuals ought to behave, and the progress of vaccine research.

The alternative media passionately exposes the pandemic of fear caused by this terrifying news and its disastrous economic and social consequences, pointing to the value of supporting the immune system with sleep, fresh air, sunlight, vitamin C and D, zinc, physical activity, relationships, and calm.

But very few voices discuss the greatest pandemic of all, the pandemic caused by sin.  This infectious agent is transmitted to newborns at a rate of 100% and has a mortality rate of 100%, but we have gotten so used to it that people rarely discuss it.  We just live with it.  And that’s probably why very few people are talking about the Great Physician who has the cure for this pandemic.  He never runs out of medication, he never runs out of energy or compassion, he never gets ill, and he never charges for his work.  Instead, he says,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  (Matt 11:28)

Dear reader, don’t be blinded by the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and fear.  Instead, look to Jesus who came to destroy the devil’s work.  The devil’s work includes the coronavirus;  it includes fear; in fact, it includes all illness, all terror—whether of death or of Satan accusing us before God or of anything else.  Jesus came to destroy all of this, and to restore humankind and the entire universe to its blissful, God-honoring perfection.

So do not be anxious, child of God.  Do not fear what these people fear; instead honor the Lord. (Isaiah 8:12,13)

And if you are not yet a child of God, do not fear what the media is discussing; fear God! Turn to him and prepare for the rest of your journey.

This Good Friday and Easter, we can celebrate that Jesus destroyed the devil’s works.  We no longer need to be terrified of God, because Jesus has paid the all the prison sentences, fines, and capital punishments we deserved for all the times we did not truly love all those around us, and for all the times we did not passionately love the God who made us.  Jesus has paid for it all and has written his perfect goodness over our criminal records.

We no longer need to fear death, because for those who love God it is the portal to always being with him.  We no longer need to fear that God will reject us when we slip into sin, as we still so often do to our great dismay, because we know Jesus has paid for those sins, too.  We no longer need to fear anything, because nothing can separate us from his love! (Rom 8:38,39)

Once we know these amazing things, we are no longer are aimless and wandering in this world, tossed about by conflicting bits of media.  No, we have a worthwhile life goal—to tell people how good our great God is, and to be joyfully close to him forever.

Is there still a dangerous virus going around? Are there still disastrous social and economic consequences?  Do we still need to wash our hands and keep away from others?  Yes, yes, and yes!  But we do not need to panic and, rather than focusing only on COVID-19 news, we and our families can pay attention to the Good News about Jesus.

Dear reader, may God bless you and your family this Easter weekend.  Above all, may he save you from sin, the greatest pandemic of all, and give you a way to tell others about the Great Physician and his most undeserved, unexpected, and miraculous cure.

Happy Easter!

If you benefited from this article, you might want to friend me on Facebook where I occasionally share helpful links or connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually discuss books I’ve read. 

This article may be linked to Inspire Me Monday, Thankful Thursday, Friendship Friday.

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