Friday, August 12, 2011

Interest-Led Learning (and a Winner!)

I (Ralene) think that one of the most fabulous perks to homeschooling is the ability to cater to our children's interests in a way that public school just can't. So, this week's question is definitely one I want to see other people answer as well!

What creative ways do you incorporate your child's interests into their learning?


I don't really do this with my children yet, but I will. All children like to watch their favorite movies. One way to encourage dialogue about the movie so they are not just sitting there being entertained, is to incorporate a little Language Arts into the viewing. You can talk to them about different elements of the story including characters, plot, theme, and setting. That way they are actively thinking about what they are watching and they are learning important skills to use when reading. For example if my kids are watching Toy Story, I could identify the characters of Woody, Buzz, Ham, Little Bo Peep, and Mr. Potato Head. We could talk about the different settings like Andy's room, and Pizza Planet. One of the themes is friendship. You can make this activity as develped as you want depending upon the age and skill level of the child.

I ask the kids what they are interested in studying, and I try to find a unit study to do through the year that fits that theme.


I hope to do this more as my children get older, but the one instance I can think of is last year when my son heard about x-ray fish as he was listening to an alphabet song. He was so enthralled with the idea that we did cover it for the letter "x" even though it wasn't in my curriculum. I googled information and coloring pages, and we had a very memorable week learning the letter and learning about the fish. Google is a mom's best friend when it comes to tailoring to a child's interest.


It has really not required creativity on my part - homeschooling naturally lends itself to a child being able to follow his or her own interests. I try to leave plenty of time and opportunity for self-directed learning and it requires very little effort from me to facilitate the children learning from following their own noses. (For instance, I keep a list of what sort of subjects they might want to investigate at the library or supervised online, and I give them opportunities to apply what they are learning with their real-life obsessions.) I'm sure parents could do an incredible job of designing curriculum around a specific child's passions, it just hasn't felt necessary for us at this point.


I plan our Science and Social Studies unit studies based on Abigail's current interests or things that are going on in our lives (ex. - she is fascinated by firemen right now, so we have been talking about firemen and fire safety in Social Studies for the past few weeks; also, we are preparing for a vacation and have been studying the animals that we will see for our Science units). I also create learning materials based on her interests. We have alphabet flashcards in the shape of a variety of animals, we count objects of her choice, we make patterns using her favorite snacks. It can be a lot of work to create materials based on interests instead of using a purchased curriculum or materials, but it is worth it!

I love letting the girls explore their interests. That doesn't really work into our homeschool at the moment since they are so young--it mostly comes in the books we choose to read. However, I definitely look forward to working in stuff like field trips, internships, community service, and whatever else I can cook up when they're old enough to really explore their interests. I also know letting them use their interests for projects like papers and book reports will help them learn the techniques the assignment intends while keeping it interesting enough for them.

How do YOU help your child explore their interests?

Remember, if you have a question or subject you'd like to see us address, leave a comment below!

And now...

THE WINNER of the $30 Amazon Gift Card is..............


Melanie, if you could shoot me an email at raleneburke [at] yahoo [dot] com and I'll get that gift card out to you ASAP! Congratulations!
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