After almost a decade of home educating our children, I’m a huge advocate for learning how to homeschool according to your child’s interests. At first thought, this may seem impossible to do, let alone in a way that provides a holistic educational experience – but it’s quite easy! Keep reading (and save this post) to find out how to foster a child-led learning approach in your homeschool.
What is interest-led learning?
Interest-led learning is a concept that has unschooling-style roots, but simply means allowing a child to be the dominant leader in their learning experiences. It doesn’t mean they are in control of every aspect; however, their input has a lot to do with the concepts and lessons that are taught.
Through this approach, the parent takes more of the facilitator role versus the director role. This can be hard to do if you feel the need to control your child’s educational journey. Even the most controlling parents have seen benefits in allowing their children to take the learning reigns more often than not. I know, because I’m one of those parents.
Benefits of Interest-Led Learning
I wanted to start this post off with defining interest-led learning because that is the glue to making homeschooling according to your child’s interests stick. Fostering this type of learning environment is beneficial in some of the following ways:
- Intellectual, social, and emotional development are naturally enhanced.
- Children are more likely to have pleasant learning experiences.
- They are more motivated to learn in an organic (rather than forceful) way.
- It reduces the need for rushed timelines and unrealistic milestones.
- Subjects can be explored on deeper levels.
- Children can become experts in a particular subject/topic over time.
What interest-led learning is NOT.
Before continuing, we need to address what interest-led learning is not. For starters, interest-led learning is not school-at-home. It is also not structure-less. Most people look at interest-led learning as a lazy approach to home education with format built around no learning structure whatsoever, and this simply isn’t true.
Interest-led learning is also not an all-inclusive homeschooling method. While other styles and methods require particular curriculum, schedules, and the like, interest-led learning gives you the liberty to choose whether or not you want to use specific textbooks, lessons, or supplements.
How to Homeschool According to Your Child’s Interests
Regardless of what you want to call it, homeschooling according to your child’s interests can be seen as:
- delight-directed learning
- child-led learning
- life learning
- interest-led learning
In a nutshell, it can be seen as homeschooling outside the box.
One of the first things you’ll want to get used to doing with interest-led learning is taking notes. Your notes should consist of what your child is genuinely curious about, what they enjoy doing, and what they are naturally drawn to. The answers to these questions are going to become lesson plans used to help your child pursue a holistic education wrapped around their interests.
Create loose plans.
I say “loose” plans because things can always change at any given moment. And they should, at least as long as it’s for the benefit of the child. Having strict, concrete plans can often lead to stress and overwhelm both for you and your homeschoolers. So, use the interest-led approach to create your lesson plans one month, one week, or even one day at a time.
Another cool thing about the interest-led learning approach is the plethora of resources you can use. Instead of tailoring your child’s education to a particular curriculum, you get to do the opposite and tailor the curriculum to your child’s interests. Many of us interest-led teachers use resources such as:
- Books (think store bought, library, or books purchased online)
- Workbooks (my favorites come from Dollar Tree and Dollar General)
- Online Media (YouTube, PBS Kids, free courses, movies, etc.)
- Local Businesses (these make some pretty cool field trips)
- Hands-on Learning (STEM-like projects and experiments)
Foster accountability and progressive learning.
I’ve already mentioned that interest-led doesn’t mean the child gets to do everything. There is still lots for you, the parent-teacher, to do as well. It’s important to foster accountability so your child can understand the importance behind learning, but without being forced. I also believe interest-led provides the unique opportunity to instill progressive learning. This simply means giving your child more space and opportunity to dive in deeper into particular topics, concepts, and subjects.
What does it actually look like to homeschool according to your child’s interests?
Now that we’ve discussed the how-to, let’s look at the what. Using the example of my daughter who was interested in all things volcanoes, this is what our daily lesson plans consisted of for several weeks:
- Reading books about volcanoes. She would also use those books for learning to read (identifying sight words, sounding out words, and learning new words). And, those books were also used for spelling words and copywork.
- We watched educational videos and documentaries on YouTube.
- She (and her siblings) also played volcano-related games and did P.E. with the music and movement song called The Floor is Lava.
- We plotted locations and distances between volcanoes all over the world. She also was able to learn about depth and width as it pertains to a volcanoes different sizes and shapes.
- There’s a website that monitors active volcanoes and she was able to see the data in real time.
- She and her siblings created interactive lapbooks, kept a volcano journal, and wrote (or dictated) short stories and poems.
- We all had a blast making a model volcano and watching it erupt (and in different colors).
- They also learned scientific terminology.
As you can see, every major subject was covered in the different lessons we did with volcanoes. And it doesn’t take a whole lot of time to cover simple concepts. If she wanted to keep going, we did. When she wanted to stop, we did. The same was (and continues to be) done for my other homeschoolers as well. I’ve found that each one becomes inadvertently interested in what the other wants to learn about, which makes for interesting learning times!
Does interest-led learning provide a holistic education?
Yes! Once you come out of the indoctrination of public (and sometimes private) schooling, you can begin to see education for what it is. It was never meant to be filled with learning pointless concepts, strict milestones, and unrealistic expectations. Instead, real education is about equipping children to become meaningful members of a FREE society.
Today, education is more about creating worker bees to run a tyrannical government system where most people are never really able to keep their heads above water. Okay, off my soapbox I go – but it’s true!
Free Interest-Led Learning Planner
The Interest-Led Learning Planner will help you easily incorporate this method into your homeschool. You’re just one click away from 5 greyscale printable pages that you can reuse day after day, week after week, and month after month.
This planner pack includes a:
- monthly calendar layout
- weekly calendar layout
- daily calendar layout
- to-do list spread
- notes page
Everything you need to create an interest-led planner and smooth homeschooling days!
Interest-led Learning FAQs
Yes! This method works great for any age, grade, and development level.
I personally haven’t seen any; however, that’s because a DIY Curriculum model works best with this homeschooling style.
Find out what they like and want to learn more about. Then, take their ideas and formulate lesson plans.
The best thing about homeschooling is you can always change things up when necessary. I always tell people to go where your child’s needs lead – and don’t delay in doing so.
Absolutely! You can turn everyday lessons into fun, interest-led lessons without making any drastic changes.
In addition to the unschooling approach, interest-led works great with project-based learning, unit studies, the Montessori style, and the eclectic method.
You really don’t need much more than a regular spiral notebook. At the top of the page, you can write the date or write out a week at a time. Jot down things your child would like to learn about and then note different resources you want to use. Rinse and repeat.