Many home educating families use the children’s own interests around which to build their education. If you’re used to the prescriptive curricula approach to education familiar in schools it can be quite hard to see how this could be successful.
However, as home educated young people who have learnt in this way begin to graduate into higher education or work, they are living proof that it can be.
But how does it work?
Right at the start of their lives children are curious about the world around them and already want to learn about it. They do so through various methods of experimentation; a type of research which takes the form of grabbing and grasping and tasting. As they mature into language, the perpetual ‘why?’ question takes over as research. And growing up, guided by the adults around them, their study of the world around them becomes more refined – as long as interest (the motivation) is retained.
Through this exploration the youngsters are also developing their learning skills, although they perhaps don’t realise it. And the skills to learn are as important as what is learned.
Whilst they are motivated to learn about the things that do interest them they are developing and refining learning skills which can be applied to more academically focussed, and perhaps less interesting, learning at a later date.
They will be developing research skills, observational skills, analytical skills, problem solving skills, diverse and lateral thinking skills, confidence, willingness to push on past hurdles and mistakes, to name a few. And most important of all the desire to learn will be retained.
By retaining their interest in knowing and finding out – that curiosity they are born with – they retain the motivation to tackle challenges later on that may be less appealing.
There are many home educating families who use this interest-led approach to their children’s activities.
This is not to say that there is no encouragement from parents towards the skills we recognise as academic, like reading, writing, notation of maths, concepts of science, etc, these skills are added as they are relevant. But parents found that, because the young people have not been switched off to learning through years of academic exercises that seemed irrelevant to the youngster at the time, they can apply their learning skills to achieve academic outcomes when the time comes because they see the need to. The skills they’ve built through learning about the things that interest them over the years are transferable to course work and exams with a little added practice.
So without years of formal academics the children are able to polish up the skills they’ve acquired through an interest-led approach to meet the demands of more prescribed courses, like the syllabus for GCSE for example, when needed.
And by retaining their interest in learning they retain a positive attitude to it which is useful life-long.