Have you ever watched a child struggle with school work that he/she thought was “dumb”?
Provided that this child does not have an learning disability or other legitimate issue requiring professional help (which is often unavailable through public school systems), you have likely witnessed the best single argument for child led learning. As an adult, do you relish sitting in meetings or doing other jobs that seem utterly pointless just because another adult told you to do them? How does that feel?
So why would you put a child in the same situation that you despise?
Child led learning allows the child to learn by using topics that interest the child. You don’t have to skip any particular disciplines, just tailor them to make them more interesting to the individual learner. Homeschoolers often use the term, “unit studies” to describe what they are doing. But, there is really no reason to purchase a special curriculum of “unit studies” for your students. For the parent/educator who thinks about it, it’s pretty simple to put together a unit study for his/her children.
For example: My oldest son has always had an adoration of horses. He also has some special needs that causes him to really get attached to a subject, so it is far easier for me (and enjoyable for him) to work with his special interests, rather than against them.
Literature: Depending on a child’s age and grade level, select stories to read about horses, from a horses point of view. Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell, The Ballad of the White Horse, by G.K. Chesterton, and Death Was the Black Horse, the Story of Rough Rider, Buckey O’Neill, by Dale L. Walker would all work here.
History: Study the Pony Express, where horses came from and how they were bred and used for war, farming, pulling carts, etc., or how the evolution of the war horse in Europe enabled taking heavily armored soldiers into battle, who were the Rough Riders, what is the history of the calvary?
Math: Word Problems involving tricky little ponies! Time, distance, and speed calculations of horses in motion, etc. How many mpg can you get pulling a horse trailer. If you have 35 horses and 2/3 of them have ponies, how many horses do you have?
Science: anatomy of a horse, what horses eat, how to care for a horse, diseases horses can get, what kind of environment that horses require, what animals can live in harmony with horses.
Field Trips: go to a therapeutic riding farm and learn how horses can help special needs kids, stroke victims, injured soldiers returning from battle.
Physical Education: take a horseback riding lesson. Go on a trail ride or two. Volunteer to help care for the horses. Mucking stall builds muscles and character at the same time! No, I am not kidding.
Even in a subject that my son doesn’t enjoy, learning about horses is much more interesting than just workbooks and reading a text about something he doesn’t care about.
The same type of activities can be done for everything from ballerinas to medieval castles to zebras. Google and your local library are a great places to start finding out what types of material is readily available for free.
Often, kids learn best when they don’t really think of it as “school work” and it is just talking and learning about something they love! They may even explore the subject on their own (reading books, documentaries about their subject of choice) that will make the teacher’s job easier and more fun!
And you know what? Eventually, your child will ask a question that won’t be part of what you planned. Then what? Look it up together! That is a great way to teach basic research skills and self initiative while you both learn something new! Isn’t that how education is really supposed to be?
How do you keep your child’s interest in your homeschool?
For more of this series of homeschooling articles:
Why Homeschool? Academic Excellence
Why Homeschool? Appropriate Socialization
Why Homeschool? Learning Styles & Multiple Intelligences
Why Homeschool? Life Long Learners
Till next time,
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