Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What child-led learning looks like here


We are mixed-method homeschoolers, but one feature of our homeschool that is really important to me to protect and maintain is the time for child-led learning.  "Child-Led" or "Child-Centered" are terms that are overused and sometimes used for completely different things, so I should define my use of the term.

For me, child-led means that they lead the way, choosing topics of interest to them and projects they want to pursue.  It does not mean that the adults are not involved in the learning, and it is not the same as unschooling.  But also, true child-led learning is more than just being given a few choices on what to study (which country in Asia would you like to study, for instance) and more than just a choice in formats (do you want to write a report about it or do a presentation?)

We are currently in the midst of a child-led learning here that has sustained itself for a few months and shows no sign of stopping.  My son's interest in dinosaurs was reignited, and he began asking to have dinosaur documentaries added to our Netflix instant queue.  (Here, I will admit that my children get a lot more screen time than you might think is good for them.  We don't have commercial television, so they only get to watch what I put on the Netflix queue for them - but they watch a lot of that).

The next thing was that he asked where the dinosaur books would be in the library, on our weekly library trip.  He checked out every book they had.

For independent reading time he asked to read his dino books.  For bedtime read alouds, he asked for dino books.  He made model fossils out of fimo clay.  Then the interest expanded into the process of evolution.

I brought out our evolution timeline and cards, and we got more documentaries and books.  He's started to invent his own creatures and show how they evolve into each other - the bionicle pieces feature heavily here.  I've reserved a "museum in a box" kit from the natural history museum, and we'll be getting that and exploring it soon.  He's asked if there is any way he could be part of a dig site, but I can't find one for a kid his age. :)

The main thing here is this - all this learning is because he was interested.  He led the way.  My job has been to help him get the resources he wanted, to be interested (and listen to hours of him talking about dinosaurs), and to make sure that he has the most important resource of all - Time.

My husband remarked that he remembers being interested in dinosaurs around this age, but that there was no time to follow that interest because there were other things he had to study in school.  In our homeschool, the kids have time to follow their interests, and I think that is one of the most important things.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting approach. Apparently we had been doing child-centered learning (outside the public school my kids attend). The thing I wanted to comment on is screen time. I think the notion of screen time, which has traditionally been related to TV entertainment and gaming, is breaking down. Today much of what we as adults and now more and more what children are doing (learning via videos, game-centric learning, ebooks, etc.) is being done through electronic media.