My Definition of Child-led Learning

I feel it’s important for me to define “child-led learning” as it works for my family because I’m sure there are different variations of child-led learning in each family who choose this way of homeschooling.  (I think that’s great because every parent has to determine what works best for his or her child.)  Unfortunately, people hear the term “child-led learning” and often come up with their own judgment about it based on an arbitrary news report, article or a homeschool family they have met.  I think it’s wiser to hold off on our judgments until we know more about that family and the needs of the children.

For me, doing “child-led learning” means introducing my boys to a variety of ideas, subjects, books, places, classes, stories, and people.  I am a facilitator and mentor.  As we explore the world together, I’m going to observe what they love the most.  When they gain interest in a particular subject, I’m going to let them delve into it further, and I’m going to do everything I can to help them learn more about it until they are satisfied.  I expect some interests may peter out and others may be life-long passions.

I am going to make sure my children learn the basics: reading, language arts, math, science and social studies.  In fact, according to the law in Georgia (U.S.A.), I have to, but I do believe that each child may learn at a different pace.  I will nudge, but I will not push.  If I nudge I can tell whether or not my child is ready for a specific subject by his reaction to it.   I’m not going to force anything, and I’m not going to test (except when the state requires it).  If I can find ways of helping them learn difficult subjects, I’ll do that, but I think it’s useless to make a child learn something he or she isn’t ready for or doesn’t want to learn. 

I will also concentrate more on helping my children how to find answers to their questions, fostering their imaginations, and helping them learn how to manage daily life.  I’ll write more about this in future posts.

As an example of encouraging my son’s passions, I am currently working on a snake project with my five-year-old.  I am not interested in snakes, but he is, so I suggested we make a book about snakes.  He loved the idea.  Through this project, we are working on his research, writing and reading skills.  It’s also part of his science requirement.  If I can think of other ways to teach him basic skills through his love of snakes, I’ll do it.  For example, we might use a measuring tape to see what the length of a snake is.  In addition, (at my son’s request) snakes are always characters in our nightly stories.

As he gets older, I’m hoping he’ll be more in charge of deciding what his projects are and how we’ll complete them.

I should also mention that occasionally I will make my children do somethingThis goes back to my statement above when I said that I would introduce “my boys to a variety of books, places, classes, stories, and people.”  For example, the nature center we go to frequently is offering an after-Christmas mini-camp.  I know he will love this!  But when I asked him if wanted to go, he said “No.”  I know that he just doesn’t understand what a mini-camp is, so I decided that if we could get in, I’d make him try it.  Fortunately, after I took the time to explain what it was about more thoroughly, he wanted to go. If he tries it and hates it, we’ll reassess, but trying is a must.

There are other things that will be required of my boys like contributing to the care of the house and each other, but I hope to approach this in a manner so that they understand the value of it and want to do it.  I will write more about this in future posts as well.

What is your perceived definition of child-led learning?  Do you think it’s good or bad? 

Please stay tuned.  After the New Year I’ll be starting a series of posts about our homeschool mission, priorities, and how we do it on a daily basis.

22 Responses to “My Definition of Child-led Learning”

  1. As always, beautiful photo.

    I love the idea of child-led learning, it definitely would have worked for me as a child. Had we started hs when my son (9) was younger, it would’ve worked for us then, but right now he seems to need me to make the decisions. I hope when he’s older he can take the reigns a bit more.

    It probably depends a lot on the child’s personality and experiences, like whether or not they previously attended conventional school (where confidence in one’s own ideas is often squashed).

    I see child-led learning as a learning structure that is flexible enough to follow the child’s interests and passions.

    • I see what you are saying, Gabriela. That’s part of the reason I tried to stop worrying over whether or not to send them to school in the early years. I think that by homeschooling from the get-go, it will be easier. And I always think parents should decide what will work best for their own children. Kids and families are different. I imagine some may say that I’m not a “pure” child-led learning homeschooler because I’m still going to direct my children and make them do certain things, but that’s why I wanted to put my own definition up too. Thanks so much for your comment.

  2. Love your definition. It is actually very similar to our own. My goal in the new year is to work more at being a partner and a mentor and less like a “teacher.” I have awarded you with the Versatile Blogger Award over on my blog. http://everydaysnapshots.blogspot.com/2011/12/its-major-award.html

    • Pam, I’m honored to be a recipient of your award. Years ago I decided not to post awards anymore (mama of letters had a long life prior to my homeschooling days), but they do make me feel all fuzzy inside. Thanks so much.

  3. I tend to think of child-led learning as where the child gets to choose everything and the child takes the lead. I don’t like the phrase because I have trouble with the idea of me being the follower.

    In practice, I do take my children’s interests and stuff into account. Except I tend to think of it is as being child centered learning, because I try to teach the child not the subject, responding to my childrens needs, desires and abilities. The lessons are centered around who/where they are, but I am still the leader, guiding them.

    (I found your blog through the secular homeschool website.)

    • Thanks for your comment, Christy. I really like that term “child centered learning” and your idea of it may actually be more of what I’m doing. I’m sure as I continue in this homeschooling journey, I’ll vacillate between letting my child take the lead and then also directing at times too. I think of myself as a follower of sorts, but perhaps it’s as if we’re in a boat, my son is in front pointing the direction, but I’m the one in the back of the boat, oar in hand, much like a Gondolier.

  4. I think your definition is excellent. I have been struggling to define our homeschooling method/philosophy for myself and I really find that your words resonate with me. The ability to customize my kids’ educations and use their interests and learning styles to facilitate learning is the biggest thing that attracted me to the idea of homeschooling. I actually love “following” their lead – sometimes our conversations take us places I’d never have expected to go. (I mean that in a good way!)

    • Thanks for the comment! Yep, this is what makes me passionate about homeschooling too! It’s such a wonderful opportunity for the kids and me. I’m so excited to see where their interests take us!

  5. I’m new to your blog today and I also consider our family “interest led”.

    We are in Georgia, also — Peachtree City area to be exact.

    Yes, I do require certain things of my children in math, science, English, etc…., but more and more I am letting our family’s interests lead the way and it’s an amazing journey we are on!

    I am enjoying your blog!

    • Mary, it’s so nice to make the acquaintance of another Georgia homeschooler! Wish it wasn’t such a big state so that it was easier to meet up with folks like you. Thanks so much for your comment and checking out my blog. I’ll be sure to stop by yours as well.

  6. I just found your blog and I’m so very glad I did. I’m planning to homeschool my three-year-old son (I suppose I’m already doing that!) and I’ve done a great deal of reading/thinking about unschooling. I love it as a concept but I feel that it doesn’t define how I want my son’s education to be. I certainly plan to let his interests and passions lead when it comes to his learning, but I will be a guide and facilitator and yes, a teacher. I envision him becoming more of a leader in his education as he gets older. I’m so excited about going on this journey with him. I’m a former public school teacher, by the way!

    • Lisa, thanks so much for commenting, and it’s great to hear from a former school teacher too! I think another reason I don’t want to “unschool” completely is a little selfish – it’s because I want to learn things too, and there’s so much out there I want to explore! I can’t imagine not looking up books and topics to read about and introduce to my kids! Thanks again!

  7. Once again, LOVE your thoughts. I really agree with everything you have said and I do this approach as well. Second week homeschooling my 6 and 9 yr olds in Decatur, GA :) LOVE this blog!! Thank you!!

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