Homeschool: unstructured and interest-led?

Our home education style is becoming less structured.

I’ve been reading and thinking about how learning happens best, and what sort of things are most important to learn. I’m moving more and more towards learning that is less structured and more interest led. I’m not doing anything drastic like throwing out our curriculum, but we’re making gradual changes.

We’re learning what we like to learn.

We enjoyed a week-long family vacation at the beach last month with oodles of unschooling, much of which focused on fabulous nature study on Tybee Island. All that learning was interest led. In fact, when we had a free day, Lindsey suggested we spend the morning at a nearby wildlife center. This is not something she would’ve ever suggested a few years ago, but she’s learning that she actually enjoys things like this.

{with Kathryn at the top of the Tybee lighthouse}
Top of Tybee Lighthouse

Kathryn’s mitzvah classes have been focusing on the recent Jewish holidays, including Rosh Hoshana and Yom Kippur. One of her recent Saturday classes was held in the outdoor sukkot (tent) made of bamboo. Her favorite part of these classes is learning Hebrew, and she practices on her own, just for fun. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to learn a new language at her age.

Our enrichment classes are interest-led.

I hadn’t even realized until recently that I’ve been letting enrichment classes be entirely interest-led. I make suggestions, and reserve the right to veto a choice since I’m paying for it, but the girls pick the classes they want to take. This semester Lindsey chose an art class, a Bible history class, and a knitting class she takes with Kathryn. In addition to knitting, Kathryn chose a LEGO simple machines class, and to assist in a kindergarten astronomy class. Good choices, good learning, in all of those.

{Physics fun with a birthday present: an Angry Birds LEGO set!}
Angry Bird Legos

Interest-led learning doesn’t mean skipping out on commitments.

More interest-led learning: Kathryn’s decision to play the flute and take band class. I completely gave her the option of whether or not to take band, and then which instrument to choose. However, I believe that once she makes the choice, she does have to honor the commitment she made. Even when it’s hard and feels overwhelming. We’ve been working on getting into a routine of flute practice, and music reading worksheets have helped her.

That same requirement to honor commitments applies to Lindsey, too, like when she did color guard year before last, and JROTC last year. This year it’s monetary and real-life responsibility things, like her job, and now, paying for a car! (More on that soon!)

Learning about life is important!

Last week, we moved Lindsey upstairs, something she’s been asking to do for a long time. I let her choose her paint color, then turned her loose in painting her own room; it was the first time she’d ever painted and she now appreciates how hard it is! We bought the paint and a new bedspread, but she’ll have to save her own money for decorations and projects she wants to do. She is so excited about her pretty new room that she’s even made her bed every day since then. {“Hooray!” says this neat-freak mama!}

Math has long brought grumbling in this house, but lately we’ve been doing business math, and the girls both love their variations of this. Because it’s about real life, rather than abstract concepts. And the Dave Ramsey finance course Lindsey is doing is really hitting home since she is making her own money and learning to budget.

Lindsey was the the Chick-fil-a baby cow in a parade recently. What did she learn from this? I have no idea. Except that cow costumes cause blisters. Surely there is some bigger life lesson here, but either way, I’m not missing a chance to share a photo of my daughter dressed as the Chick-fil-a cow. 😉

Chick-fil-a cow

Teach them how to learn — now and in the future.

Skills like painting a room and managing money (and being a cow?) go back to one of the key things I want my kids to learn: how to learn. Adults must know how to learn new things as the need arises; I try to model that in my own life, and it’s a big focus in our version of home education. There is no possible way I could ever teach them every single thing they’ll ever need to know. No diploma, even from the most prestigious university in the world, can do that.