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 something. This 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?