The idea of setting a pile of sticks and logs on fire appeals to every kid who visits our farm. If we asked kids to walk through the forest and pick up the sticks so we can clean things up, the kids would get distracted. They would make guns and swords, they would look at caterpillars in the grass, they might even wander out of the forest completely. But if they get to light stuff on fire, they work hard. Kids love a good bonfire.

I read about these boys who put off going to college so they can lobby the Texas state government in favor of homeschooling. They are going to be great lobbyists because they care so much about what they want to do, what goals they want to accomplish.

When I tell people we don’t do forced curriculum at my house, invariably people ask me how my kids will learn to do stuff they don’t like. Here’s what I think: “How will your kids learn to stop doing things they don’t like?”

People who hate their jobs but do them anyway are not somehow better than the people who love their jobs. So why do we condition kids to accept that they must do work they dislike?

It’s totally normal to be unmotivated to do something you don’t care about. It’s abnormal, in fact, to pretend to care about things just because someone told you it’s a good, proper way to spend your life.

It’s your life. You choose how you spend your time. That’s the lesson school should teach. And then we’d have a country full of people who were engaged and passionate about the work they do.

So, the bonfire. Kids know right away what they want to do and what they don’t want to do. Then something happens: adults tell them it’s okay to pretend to like stuff you don’t. Adults tell them that it’s important to spend time and energy doing stuff you don’t care about. Then, suddenly, one day, that kid doesn’t know what he or she wants to do.

Passion to burn sticks in a forest is precious. Encourage it by telling kids they can do whatever they want, and then watch them exercise the muscle for choosing.