“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” – Fred Rogers
What is Interest-Led Learning?
This is such a good question, and there isn’t a definitive definition to offer you. There isn’t a formula, a textbook, a box of curriculum, or a list of skills to check off.
Interest-Led Learning looks different for each family and for each child. Why? Because how we learn and what we’re interested is different for each of us.
(If you’re saying, I’m a teacher, not a homeschooler, and this doesn’t apply to me. I am both. It really does. Keep reading.)
What I can tell you is both at home and in the classroom, I’ve found every single child has one thing in common. They have interests.
What does Interest-Led Learning Look Like?
Again, great question, and it looks different for everyone.
I’ll be honest, it can look and feel a little messy and uncertain in the beginning.
This uncertainty is why I bought curriculum, used worksheets, painstakingly researched every option.
With teaching and homeschooling, no matter what I tried, I always came back to the knowledge that my students’ and children’s’ interests were important. I wasn’t sure how to let them lead.
Here are the questions I had about Interest-Led Learning. Maybe you’re asking yourself some of the same.
What are we going to do all day?
What are my kids/students going to learn? What about _________? Insert the subjects and skills you want to make sure they learn.
Will they fall behind?
Will I have time for myself, to work, run errands?
Here’s what I’ve found.
1. What are we going to do all day?
The sky is the limit. Your child’s interests may lead you on a hike, into a documentary, on the couch with a pile of books, making slime, reading to animals at the shelter, playing games, or learning Pre-Algebra.
If you’re a classroom teacher read and learn all you can about Reading and Writing Workshop. Nancie Atwell’s books can give you all the tools you need to implement both in your classroom.
2. What are my kids/students going to learn?
A lot! Kids are more motivated to learn (especially if learning is hard) if they are interested.
But, life isn’t always interesting and sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do. It’s true. Don’t worry, your kids will get PLENTY of experience with this fact of life just being alive.
What about _________? Insert the subjects and skills you want your kids to learn.
Reading, Writing, Math, Science- anything that you as a parent/teacher believe are important still happen. We just make sure the way we are teaching and the things we are teaching fit our kids the best way they can.
3. Will they fall behind?
We are all “behind” in something. Our kids can’t be experts in everything any more than we can. Tests and What a Child Should Know in Grade X are weak guides. As a former teacher, I can tell you, very few children fall exactly where they are “supposed” to be. Why? Because while it would be convenient and much easier to teach if every 2nd grader already knew x,y,z, every 2nd grader learns at their own pace and comes into 2nd grade with a variety of different experiences, gifts, and challenges.
Life is messy. No one is on the same page.
Interest-led learning helps us meet our kids where they are and go from there.
4. Will I have time for myself, to work, run errands?
Boundaries, we have to set them. We can’t be in facilitator mode 24-7. Just because our family practices Interest-Led Learning, doesn’t mean I drop everything the minute my children have an interest. They can pursue a lot of things on their own. Somethings, like buying project materials or going to the zoo, might need to wait a day or two.
Every season or few months, we create a family rhythm. I schedule time for myself and my work and I put it on the calendar. I’ve learned my time must be as important as any other appointment I’d never cancel. I also enlist the help of co-ops, friends, family, and babysitters.
We can’t do it all. We don’t have to.
Welcome to Curiosity Encouraged!
Each button below will lead you to all sorts of ideas to help your child/student delve into their interests.
Whether you are a parent, teacher, homeschool or you’re like me, all of the above, know there are lots of ways we can help our children love to learn. Interest-Led learning helps us focus on what’s most important- Each and Every Child.
“We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions — if they have any — and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.” – John Holt