Child-led learning and following your child’s lead are terms that are sometimes associated with unschooling. Some people have very strong opinions about unschooling, so let’s define what it means to homeschool while following your child’s lead.
Hint: It doesn’t always have to be synonymous with unschooling, and can be something that you do no matter what curriculum you use or philosophy you subscribe to.
Here are the key elements to following your child’s lead:
Observe Your Child’s Behavior
Following your child’s lead is about being an observer of your child’s behavior. In the early years you can learn a lot about your child’s natural learning style by observing the way that he plays. Be sure that you incorporate many sensory development activities and experiences into this play. Some children naturally gravitate toward music and movement-based play, while others prefer to quietly work on puzzles or other similar activities. Taking note of these early behaviors can help you to tailor their academic curriculum later on.
Provide Access to the World
The more experiences your child has, the wider their world will be. You can provide access to the world through books, documentaries, experiences, trips, etc. The wider the range of experiences your child can have, the more able they’ll be to choose their own path in the future.
Involve Your Children in Decision Making
Following your child’s lead is about asking their opinions on things. You can begin this at any age. For example, the next time you are planning a field trip, ask your children to tell you all the reasons why they might want to go to this certain place. Ask them what they think they can learn by going to this place. You might want to talk about pros and cons. This helps develop critical thinking skills as well. Also, once you open up the conversation, you’ll get a glimpse into how your child perceives things. You might think that a trip to the local science center would go along nicely with whatever unit or subject you’re studying, but your child may have other (better) ideas.
Become a Facilitator
You’ve observed your child’s behavior and and asked for their input all along. Once your child reaches the middle school years, this is the time to take note of your child’s individual and unique alents and abilities and help them develop those. Following your child’s lead is about providing opportunities for your child to pursue activities that help them develop their gifts and talents. These may be academic or non-academic. The important part about sticking to a child-led curriculum is knowing that your role now becomes more of a facilitator and road-map creator.
Keep Your Eye on the Future
The homeschooling years go by so quickly. If your chid has an interest in something that goes beyond what you consider to be passing fancy, delve deep into it. Provide all the opportunities that you can for your child to study, engage in or practice this pursuit. This is what being a chilld-led educator is all about: being observant, providing access to a myriad of opportunities, involving your student in decision making, and becoming a planner or facilitator.
I speak more on this topic and provide excellent resources for following your Childs lead throughout all stages of schooling here at the 2018 Digital Homeschool Convention. You can still purchase access to these sessions here.
Terri L. Hedrick, M.S. is a Catholic homeschool mom to two teens. She is also an online instructor to hospital-homebound students, a homeschool consultant and curriculum creator for Our Happy Medium Academy. She blogs about homeschooling and homesteading at Our Happy Medium. When she’s not working, you can ﬁnd her in her garden or up on top of her horse.
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