I wouldn't mind having an esoteric discussion of the origin of
interest, but, really it is not a practical or useful thing to do to
help you or others unschool. I say this because it really doesn't MATTER
what the origin of interest is—our role as unschooling parents is to
observe and support and offer lots of potentially interesting options,
not to figure out where it comes from.
Instead of thinking there are real interests versus momentary ones (as
if those momentary ones are not also real or true), our time and energy
are better spent encouraging and supporting the interests that our kids
actually do have.
Picture a large piece of paper with circles of all sizes drawn all over
it. Each circle represents an interest. A kid moves from circle to
circle—they are like stepping stones. The child creates his or her own
path by moving from one stepping stone to another. Some are part of a
path that goes straight to some ultimate goal or achievement, others are
part of paths that meander and let the person have a variety of
experiences. Some are part of paths that twist and turn. Sometimes the
kid sits on one of them for a really long time. Sometimes the path leads
away from the current interest to something seemingly unrelated. And so on.
Looking back, we can often see the path pretty clearly. But we can't
look ahead and know what the path is going to be.
I know a guy (he's in his late 20's, maybe even 30) who was
homeschooled, mostly unschoolishly, and he loved history. LOVED it. His
family used to go to garage and estate sales and library sales and he'd
search for history books - one of is favorite things to do was read
about one period of history, in history books written at different
times, and compare their treatment of that time period. He was super
into all this for many years. And then he just dropped it in his late
teens and decided to pursue engineering. He studied a bunch of formal
math, on his own, and got into a prestigious engineering college and has
had a wonderful career already.
Where did his interest in history come from? Where did his interest in
engineering come from? Does it matter?
My own daughter, who spent all her teen years very focused on ceramics,
working in a ceramics studio and in a clay and glaze manufacturing
company, got a college degree in recreation and work running programs
for adults with developmental disabilities and now is in the process of
applying to grad school to become a marriage and family therapist. I can
see, looking back, how one thing led naturally and logically to another—but certainly could never have predicted the path.
My daughter always loved to play in mud and sand and water. I made
homemade playdough very very often—once or more each week—when she
was a kid. And I put weird things in it—oatmeal and pineapple
flavoring, etc. She fingerpainted with pudding in the bath tub. Where
did those interests come from? I don't see why it matters. What matters
is that playing around with clay and playdough and fingerpaints and
other goopy, soft stuff gave her pleasure so I offered more
opportunities to do more of it in lots of different ways.