Through the course of an entirely different conversation, someone told me it's not at all possible for my son to already know what God wants him to do with his life (working with animals). My son is 11.5 now and has had this passion for many years. He also informed me that I was hindering my son by not exposing him to other things and giving him other opportunities to explore and find other interests.
I would give this person the benefit of the doubt and assume he is speaking as someone who has had conventional schooling. Just nod and smile. Whether you are doing it intentionally or not, I would say you are following the spirit of unschooling, or child-led education. So let's think about what your son learns as he follows his passion for animals...
First, he is getting a fine education in applied science, something that would probably not be taught to him in a traditional school setting these days, especially for a child in grades K-6. He's probably better at recognizing patterns, since nature abounds with patterns. There's math. He's probably learning some very practical lessons about working together (ants and animals that live in packs), human relationships (courtships and friendships in the wild), and perhaps he is considering the philosophical question of his own place in the world. Not a bad education if you ask me.
Those of us who take the less traveled path are often faced with the uncomprehending looks of people following the well trampled path who catch glimpses of us through the trees. I only insist that my children be polite to them, as I consider it important to set a good example for the world. I was actually surprised recently when a woman who hadn't seen me in years (our daughters took ballet together when Sierra was a toddler) told me she remembered me because my children were so nice. It made me feel good about what I'm doing.
I'm very thankful that, unlike the pioneers of homeschooling, we have the advantage of a world wide web, where we can find like minded people to commiserate with when we can't find them in our neighborhood. It's hard to be a rebel. But knowing there are other rebels around makes it easier, don't you think?
I want to add here that I am grateful that I can give my kids the opportunity to follow their interests. I don't know where their passions will take them, but the very fact that they have passion for something is the start of great things. I was lucky in school. Most of my teachers indulged my need to constantly draw. I suppose it was less obtrusive than, say, a passion for singing or for sports. I will never forget my fifth grade teacher (may she rest in peace) who channeled my creativity by having me design sets for the class production of Peter Pan. I knew I was being given a special opportunity. I wonder how others in my class felt about that?
The result of my passion being indulged is that I never followed easy paths. I took off a year from school after I graduated high school. I taught myself to juggle and then taught myself to step out of my mother's protective shadow to pursue that interest at a juggling club downtown. Out of that came years of pursuing my own party entertainment business. I chose natural/unmedicated births over the typical hospital birth my doctor would have preferred because I'm asthmatic. Speaking of which, I've always been drawn to animals, something my doctors were also against. I breastfed my children until they were three. Thinking about all this, it seems only natural that I would want to homeschool and share my passion for learning with my children.
Far from thinking it is wrong, I believe we have a responsibility as our children's parents and first educators to indulge their passions. The opportunities we give them teach them that they can use that passion to make themselves better people and to make our world a better place.