Many of us are homeschooling because we see that the type of learning required in public schools don’t work for our own kids. Problem is, when we bring them home, we often try teaching them in the way WE want to learn, not always the way THEY want to learn.
Once you open yourself to learning about your kids and their personal learning styles, your homeschool can become less like school and more like fun.
Enter Interest-Led Learning
If you are not seeing enough enjoyment of learning in your home or homeschool, this post is for you. Traditional learning, things like listening to the teacher, reading, writing, following directions, or following the group don’t always come easy for our naturally curious, outside the box learners. They are often happiest when they’re playing, creating, exploring, or pursuing other interest-led activities. In fact, most kids probably are.
It would be amazing if our kids could learn by simply following their interests. What if they can?
What Interest-Led Learning Looked Like in Our Homeschool
My son loves animals, so I was always looking for ways to incorporate animal games, field trips, and learning about animals to his ‘school’ time.
He hated reading – and was later diagnosed with an eye-tracking disorder and ADD that contributed. But before we knew why he didn’t like to read, we just side-stepped that problem. Audio books, videos and other on-line resources worked just as well.
My daughter loves movie making and media. Some of our best days were spent with her producing, directing and editing movies about our recent topics. She learned so much with that much focus on a subject in a very no-traditional way.
Interest-Led Learning and Academics
This doesn’t mean forgetting traditional school subject, but you will be shocked at how quickly a child can learn when they are interested. I know for myself, I always had a really hard time with fractions and percentages. Once I realized that these operation are integral to personal finance and investing, suddenly they became actually fascinating! It suddenly wasn’t math, it was money!
(Be sure to check out our fun and accessible finance course for teens, pre-teens, and young adults at Learning Financial Independence)
Why shouldn’t handwriting be focused on writing something interesting? Math problems can easily use animals, movies, or any topic as a jumping off point and a great source of projects. Almost any topic under the sun will have great books to read and write reports about.
Benefits of Letting Kids Pursue Their Interests
If adults followed the same curriculum as high school students, they would read the textbook, take the test, and then move on to the next chapter forgetting most of what they had learned. Is that how you want to spend your time? Why force it on kids?
What was the best day of your life? For many people, it was the day they became parents. They read everything they could find on pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. They talked to others who had been through the experience. This is how people usually learn. We are interested in learning because it is important to us.
When kids are able to follow their interests, they are more internally motivated to learn which means external motivations are minimized. This makes learning more enjoyable for both kids and parents!
Helping kids explore their interests is not only fun, but it is also very flexible. There are many ways to add to kids’ learning. For example, you could take them to a museum or historical site, or if it’s a day when you can’t leave the house, you could put on an educational show for them.
How to Start Interest-Led Learning
You can encourage your child’s interests by being more aware and helpful with their interests. Not being able to explore everything at once shouldn’t stop them from learning on their own terms.
Choose one of your child’s interests.
Anything could be their interest, even video games. It doesn’t have to be what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Kids have lots of interests that are constantly changing. If you have more than one child, try to choose something that interests as many of them as possible.
Show an interest in it.
Join in on what they are doing. Inquire about what they are doing. For example, ask questions about their video game. What do they like about the game? In addition, ask them questions about other things they are interested in, like dinosaurs, Legos, chickens, or how to make lemon curd. Do not label these interests as academic or non-academic.
Dive deeper into that interest.
Some ways to make learning more interesting for your kids without destroying their interest are: going to the library or researching online together, finding a variety of books on the subject and reading them out loud, paying attention to what questions they’re asking and what thoughts they share, and adding hands-on or experiential learning to the mix.
What Are The Most Common Homeschool Methods And Styles?
What are Homeschool Methods or Styles?
One particular method of homeschooling might not work for the entirety of a student’s homeschooling career. This is because many things can change over the years, such as what works well for a student or their attitude and behavior. Additionally, homeschool moms may also change over time.
You could also decide to only use some aspects of different methods to create your own unique homeschool style, which is totally cool. This is called eclectic homeschooling and in fact, it’s what I do right now. I love how customizable homeschool is and that I can make it fit best with our family.
You can figure out which learning method works best for your family by determining which learning styles your kids have.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to homeschooling, but you may find that you prefer some aspects of certain approaches to homeschooling over others. If you find an approach that you like, you can adopt aspects of it to make your homeschool fit your needs.
Common Homeschool Methods
The various approaches or homeschool styles can be distinguished by how they are structured. Some are based on a more strict philosophy, while others are very relaxed. Choose the one that fits your lifestyle. There is no right or wrong approach!
1. Unit Studies Homeschool Approach
In a unit study, everyone is taught the same thing using a theme. This theme could be something like the American Revolution, or a characteristic like integrity. A lot of times, unit studies are based on topics or books, like Tuck Everlasting, Sarah, Plain and Tall, or Little House on the Prairie.
Families can either choose to do one long unit study throughout the entire school year, or they may prefer to do many smaller unit studies throughout the year.
Subjects are typically covered in a unit study by incorporating various activities, such as reading, spelling, writing, science, history, geography, math, vocabulary, geography, and fine arts, into the lesson plan. In addition, Bible study and other optional subjects can be included as well.
For instance, in a unit study about the New World Explorers, you could:
- do geography by tracing the different voyages of each explorer,
- write a paper about all the explorers,
- learn exploration vocabulary (like navigation, magnetic, compass, caravel, etc.),
- about one of the explorers like Leif the Lucky by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire,
- compare the various timelines to that in the Bible,
- learn the history of the explorers and why it’s important today,
- do a craft about what each explorer is famous for,
- calculate the different miles of each explorer, total miles they traveled, and how long it took different ones to travel in their voyages
2. Charlotte Mason Homeschool Approach
Charlotte Mason founded the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling in 1892, when homeschooling wasn’t a popular option for education. She believed all kids deserved an education regardless of rank or societal status. Her philosophy and principles are outlined in several of her books, which explain the depth of this particular method in language that is easy to agree with.
This method is based on Charlotte Mason’s 20 principles, which educators use as guidelines.
3. School-At-Home (Or Curriculum-In-A-Box) Homeschool Method
Homeschooling can be a challenge when you are first starting out. School-at-home may be the most familiar method, but it definitely requires a lot of time, especially when you have multiple children.
With the school-at-home method, a textbook and/or workbook is often used for each subject. Kids sit down and go through the textbook all year until they complete it. The homeschool system mirrors the public school way of education.
School-At-Home is a type of schooling where you get all of your school curricula from usually one company. The company often includes textbooks, workbooks, and school supplies within their curriculum, and many use an online component for lessons or further learning practice.
An example of this would be K12. They offer a school-in-a-box where you can order everything you need for each grade level. I ordered 4 boxes full of textbooks, student workbooks, teacher books, lesson plans, math manipulatives, login information, answer keys, maps, posters, and learning tools.
4. Classical Homeschool Method
Instead of teaching your child what to learn, the classical method focuses on teaching them how to learn.
You might want to visit ClassicalCurriculum.org to learn more about the classical homeschooling method. The website may also be able to help you find a teaching style that best suits your family. Keep in mind that everyone’s ideal homeschool setting is different. What matters most is that you find a method that works for you and your children.
If you want your curriculum to be based on history, a classical curriculum may be ideal for your family. The classical approach has the goal of teaching children to think for themselves. The “trivium” model is used in which children go through three stages of learning: concrete learning (the grammar stage), critical learning (the logic stage), and abstract learning (the rhetoric stage).
If you want to learn more about the Classical homeschool method/model, The Well Trained Mind’s A Guide to Classical Education at Home is a good place to start. This book contains a wealth of information on the philosophy of implementing a classical education into your homeschool.
5. Unschooling Homeschool Method
Unschooling is a type of homeschooling where children learn through their natural interests, rather than following a set curriculum. This approach is generally more relaxed than other types of homeschooling.
The unschooling method of homeschooling is the opposite of the curriculum-in-a-box method. With unschooling, the child leads the way in what they are interested in learning. The homeschool day is based around the child’s interests.
Children decide for themselves which topics they want to study. If they don’t want to study math, then you don’t have to force them. The same goes for if they want to learn more about a specific topic, like indigenous people. If your child doesn’t want to participate in hands-on activities, then you shouldn’t make them.
Every Child is Different
Don’t forget why you started to homeschool! If you goal is your child’s growth and learning, one of the best ways is meeting them where they are. Interest lead learning can get you there fast.