Updated: Nov 19, 2022
First, let’s address what Child led learning, child directed, interest led learning?
Child led learning or interest led learning goes by many names, but it is a backbone of why many parents choose homeschooling as an option for the short window of their child's education years. This tool in education allows the student to grow at their own pace and slowly develop the gifts they wish to give to the world rather than feel pressure to remember dates, get routinely tested, and cultivate any talents prematurely, or before they are actually ready. This gives kids the opportunity to bravely take on what they wish to personally share, with guidance from a loving adult usually the adults who know them best; Mom and Dad.
WHY would anyone want to do this? Doesn't it just take more time?
Let's be clear here, this is not going to be for everyone. Some people love boxed curricula, and they find it actually frees their child to be more inventive and creative outside of 'school' time. Maybe this is for you because you are frustrated with an experience in boxed curriculum, maybe this is for you because you are wanting to try something new or because you have already built interest led lesson plans or smaller unit studies and you're looking for ideas. Whatever the case, there's something that can be learned by everyone in community. The thing about homeschool that I repeat and repeat, and repeat is that it must look different for each family. As each homeschool is going to be catered towards the children that happen to be learning in the home and community at that time. Each child is unique, and I believe that each child genuinely has an interest and wants to learn, it is largely dependent on how that information is first presented.
If the information is presented in a dry way, only presenting the what, when, and where but not the why or the how, it can be difficult to digest. Especially for younger children. Gaining a sense of comfortability in how you want to teach is incredible in this journey. I highly recommend this book that I have affiliate linked here.
Why is it considered more difficult?
This can really place people in uncertain territory, considering most of us were taught that as children our own judgement and interests cannot be trusted. Take a few breaths, take a few moments to collect your own thoughts and then press forward. You know what is best and to trust your child, to lead your child, you must trust yourself. ESPECIALLY when it is difficult. Not only that, the reason why most people don't try something new is they are too comfortable, and they are using gratitude as a crutch or knowing that if you try something new you are bound to suck at it at first.
You won't keep all of these balls in the air, you will miss some appointments, you will miss co-op meet ups you really looked forward to, you will miss so much. Yet you will also gain a sense of what you can and cannot take on as time continues. If you choose to apply yourself, you will start to understand what it is your family, and your children need. I think each homeschool looking different is ideal, as each child has a certain education that would need to be catered to them specifically. It's just natural that yours doesn't look like anyone else's you're doing great just trying to get out there and connect!
Why is it actually not if the time is worth it to you? It's actually not more time consuming to do things this way. The thing is, even if you don’t stoop down to eye level and explain everything kids will receive lessons through other adults, mentors, and family members. Through observation and even nonverbal communication you will see your children learn and absorb things faster than you can take them back. If they can’t trust themselves because of a compulsory education though, you can be a resource and a bridge for them to connect with community nearby. Now you don't even have to have the pressure of 'teaching' them anything. You can tag along, learn right along with them, and just facilitate what they are already actively engaged in. "I thought ____ was really engaging. What did you think of what we saw?" The fact is no one knows your child like you do.
How to study your child as a student and then combine their own personality that only you know as their mother as well as include the honest observations of where your student is.
How do I get out of the way to let them learn?
This also will look different for each family. You want to know your child, and how they thrive. A huge resource I provide my children is organization in the home. Mind you, as I type this, we are currently moving 3 rooms in the house. This means that a good deal of our things are disheveled and will be put back in time as we keep working on the room transfer. Providing a place for your kids to learn in the way they do with minimal distraction is ideal for a homeschool environment. For example, my son is drawn to really cozy and beautiful places. The library has always felt so safe and inviting to him.
In our house what works best is we do not have a school room, we have a very cozy living room filled with books, 2 chalkboards, and lots of open space for yoga, dance, movement, and playing instruments. Maybe your kids will need more tech for learning (we are definitely growing into that more and more with my 4th grader). Maybe your kids will need time away from tech so will need access to crafts, books, and drawing supplies. Whatever the case may be- the environment is always so key.
Can I really replace a whole school? I'm not even a teacher! How can I be a board to approve curriculum or resources, a teacher of ALL subjects, a lunch lady, and more without completely losing my mind?
Here's the good news- you don't have to be a teacher. There has never been a better time to take your child's hand and learn with them. If you keep the relationship like a symbiosis rather than an authoritarian teacher/student relationship you actually nurture and grow the mother and child bond. This can be observed in many families and if you're on the fence about homeschooling, or maybe you're doing a public school at home option and you're looking to connect with a community I highly suggest you reach out and find a co-op. There are usually many and these are excellent places to start with children of any age.
There you will meet other mothers and families who have been doing this for a while. They can connect you with local places, museums, and classes that will guide your child in whatever interest they may have! Rather than attempting to play the teacher you will more so be the one involved in growing community around this adventure you and your children are on. Lastly, facebook groups are great but digital interaction is a poor excuse for the experiences of a real, active, and involved community! If you're struggling getting out there and connecting reach out! I would love to take some time to empower you in your homeschooling journey especially if you're new.
"If you want to know what’s truly important to someone, watch where they put their time, energy and focus” – Jim Kwik
I've considered what my child needs, but I also want to teach academics and fundamentals. How do I tie these subjects in with interests my child has?
My son loved dinosaurs from the age of 4 and on. He would wake up with his stuffed ankylosaurus (that he got for his 5th birthday) and read stories about dinosaurs. He was and still is fascinated with the story of the earth. Yet- it worried me greatly on how we were going to study this together. In science- everything is compartmentalized, it is hard to 'tie in' all of the nuanced bits into a cohesive story digestible for young minds. It is hard- but it is not impossible. I decided to put together a 'story of the earth' explaining bits and pieces of what we THINK we know and presenting it in the same way a grand storyteller would present a myth.
It is not that the gravity of the subjects are lessened, on the contrary when we allow repetition in with good emotions and interesting material we are making memory. There is a formula to memory and also a formula to a critical thinking mind. It is not easy to equip a child with the capacity to contend with ideas they do not agree with- and if you have attempted to have an intellectual discussion you know how quickly they can cascade into ungovernable dramas. This is no simple task- we are forming a community that is working to say "We can do it better than the broken systems that taught us, simply by learning and growing together." There are many ways to tie math into history or art into math. Many ways to expand your ideas on what to do and to move into how to apply them to reality and finish them.
I want to give this to my children, but I am unsure how to move forward.
While we may each have our limited beliefs like, "oh I'm just not creative" or, "I have never been good at math" they will all seem so small when as homeschool parents we consider how hard it would be to look at our child and know that we could have given more, made more, done more, reached out more. Instead of waiting, do it now but do it with an open mind.
The aforementioned sayings I took part in sounded like "Well, I've just always been this way" and "This is just how I am." I knew weren't working for me any longer. The gift of this realization is that I was and still am able to pursue the education of my child with an open heart because of the perceived limitations that the public school and college education I received. I am able to apply lessons on roman culture, through various subjects. I used those to drive me to higher answers.
How do I ensure my child understands money management and finances? How do I make sure they are comfortable with numbers and their relationships? How about reading and composing their own story? I want them to know the joys of both music and math, philosophy and art. In my case, which I am sure is not isolated, I need only to look into my own past and its shortcomings to find where I can pick up the torch, use a spark of forgotten interest within me to light it and watch my son take that torch deep within an academic subject related to his interest.
Providing the resources has looked like going to the library, putting together unit studies, finding and teaching handcrafts, making crafts, geometry lessons, purchasing unit lessons and doing those, science books upon science books. Setting up the materials needed while supervising (and filming) the actual science experiment, making worksheets to fit certain experiments for my son who hates unnecessary or repetitive writing.
If neat handwriting has benefitted you in life, share that part of yourself with your child, and build a unit study on it. This is your classroom, and just as you work with your child now so you also cultivate and build a relationship for you and your child while they are an adult. We must honor the sacred bond of mother and child first, then we can extend that out into our teaching. This makes the act of homeschooling come from a space of joy and "I get to" rather than a space where everything hits you at once and burnout is just around the corner.
Remember what you are protecting, remember your why. What you are preserving is undeniably the most important thing to an entire society and to the world. The more we rush children into adulthoods, the more we break the spirit of the adult within.
"Grades don't measure anything other than your relevant obedience to a manager." John Taylor Gatto, 2 time New York Teacher of the Year Award Winner.