Why Interest-Led Learning Works
When was the last time you were interested in something? Maybe it is a new skin care routine, clean foods, self-help, cutting out sugar/caffeine, building furniture, workout routines, etc. Whatever it may be, did you do some research? Did you click around on FB or Instagram, listen to a podcast, read a book about it, talk to your friends and family about it? That's what we do when we're interested in something. We are intrigued to go learn more. Kids are no different.
Kids probably have a new interest every hour. Which we can and should leverage for learning. When kids are interested in something, they want to watch it on tv, buy or play with those toys, read books about it, tell their siblings and family, etc. They are not much different than us adults. So why do we go about their learning in such opposite ways? Why do we force them to sit down and complete a worksheet? Why do we make them work on multiplication when they hate it? Could we tie in multiplication into something they're interested in? We need to embrace their curious minds and tap into what they love!
I did this when I taught in a public school. Weekly we would take our writing and reading time and research about things that interested them. I made a chart so I could see what they we're working on. They had a template to fill in things they learned. They used EPIC and Pebble Go apps to read and research. I would help throughout each step, scaffold when needed. If student's couldn't write full sentences yet, they would draw pictures and label them. When they were finished, they would present what they learned to others. They were able to decide how they wanted to share their information. It was not one size fits all. It was different for each student, which is why they all enjoyed it. No one felt left behind or anxious to finish their work. It didn't matter what reading levels they were at, or how advanced their writing was. This was always our favorite time of the day. It was a time when they could explore what they liked. They felt ownership in their learning. They knew I valued their interests because I gave them time to explore them. As fun as this was, it was hard. Hard to pull off with 20+ students at all different levels. But worth every chaotic moment and time spent.
When we switched to homeschooling this year, I knew this would be a huge part of our days. I recently tried this out at home with my own 2 boys. My oldest is 8 and my youngest is 5. I created a bundle of resources about video games. We watched videos, used that information to write out a timeline of when certain video games were invented. We used video game pictures to count and hunt for letters and sounds. We labeled the pictures. We read books about different jobs you can have if you love video games. We took a day and became a video game writer. We drew and wrote our own video games. Then we became a video game composer and added music and sounds to our stories. We used all of this information to then make a video to teach others what we learned. We spent 2 weeks learning about video games. I tied in academics where I could and my boys didn't want to move on. For each activity I kept in mind where each of my boys were at, and scaffolded based on their needs. They loved what we were doing. It was relevant to them. They were interested in it. And most importantly, there were no fights or resistance.
Interest-led learning is when we allow the child’s interests to guide their learning. There is no exact formula, specific textbook, or box of curriculum to follow, and that’s the beauty of it. This may bring anxious thoughts, because we want things laid out for us, minimal work, a bullet list of specific skills learned and achieved. But the real authentic learning comes when we work backwards and start with our children’s interests, then plan out how we can add in academics.
We know every child has interests and specific areas they love, which is why interest-led learning can work. This can make it both beautiful and challenging at the same time. I've seen it firsthand in a public school setting and at home. If this scares you or you wonder where you need to start, this is where I come in. I have created small bundles based on children’s interests. Like dinosaurs, video games, horses, butterflies, bridges, etc. These bundles include specific ways to tie in academic skills based on a specific interest and ways to spark more questions. This is just a starting point, a bank of ideas, that can grow as you and your child explore their interests.
This type of learning can work for everyone. It doesn't matter what deficits are there or learning struggles your child may be experiencing. Your child has interests and that is your way in. Take the leap and try it. Your child will thank you later.
Tell me, what is one thing your child is interested in?
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If you're ready to jump in, check out the interest-led learning bundles here.