8 Ways to Provide an Interest-Led Learning Home

by ChristinaPilkington on June 1, 2011 · 8 comments

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Respect your child’s interests. It seems pretty obvious, but what happens when our children’s interests don’t interest us? Or, even worse, what if those interests even seem a bit silly or strange? First, they don’t seem that way to your child. You don’t need to like everything your children do, but you do need to let them know that you’re a safe person to talk to about their interests and whatever they want to learn about. Also, that interest can branch off into thousands of other interests, too; you might just find a related interest you both share. In today’s world where people can have an entire online business about the Smurfs or dryer lint, your child’s interest may not seem that odd. In fact, he might even built an entire business around his off-the-wall passion!

Look for ways to bring unique or unusual things into your home. Games, movies, CD’s, books, toys and art supplies are great learning resources, but think about expanding your idea of what’s “educational.”  Bring home a new fruit or vegetable you’ve never eaten before. Go to an antique shop and find old letters. Ask grandma if the kids can dig through her attic. My favorite thing is to frequent garage sales; things are both unique and cheap! Or go to your local thrift stores.

Look for unusual places to visit in your community. Museums, parks, local festivals, and library programs are wonderful places to visit with your kids, but don’t limit the places you explore to the familiar. Be on the lookout for new-to-you shops, or unusual celebrations. Check out www.roadsideamerica.com – “Your Online Guide to Offbeat Tourist Attractions,” and check out your state.  In Illinois, I could visit the world’s largest catsup bottle or visit the Superman museum.

Travel as much as possible.  Instead of getting the latest TV or upgrading your car every few years, why not use that money to travel more? We’ve been very blessed to have visited thirteen states, one U.S. territory and one British territory with our kids. They have learned way more than I would have thought possible and we’ve formed very strong family memories along the way. If long, extended trips are not your thing or if money is pretty tight, consider exploring as many places as you can within a day’s drive of your home. Check out the touristy and non touristy things. Travel opens up your world in so many ways and introduces you to topics, cultures and ideas you may never be aware of otherwise.

Let your home be an interesting place to live in.  There’s a hallway wall in our home full of crayon drawings. Some of our couch cushions have rips and at one time our back deck was a brilliant smattering of rainbow colors. Everyone has their own personal comfort in how much mess or noise they can tolerate in their homes, but if you go around telling the kids to stop shrieking, stop making messes, stop jumping on the couches, stop mixing the play dough colors together, stop, stop, STOP, they’re not going to want to get creative, to explore, to wonder. Spread new sounds, tastes, pictures, smells and things to take apart in your home. Watch it become an interesting, fascinating place for everyone.

Encourage questions and act on them. Questions are the backbone of an interest-led education. Take your children’s questions seriously. Look for patterns in the questions. Help your child to find answers to their questions. Ask questions yourself. Find those answers.

Be prepared for your child’s interests to last for months, years or just an hour. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our child’s interests, especially if we find them interesting ourselves. But what if your daughter wants to quit ballet after five years of lessons? You might first want to talk with her about why, there may be a problem with the teachers, other students or environment, but if she’s genuinely lost her passion for the art, she’s taken what she needs from the experience. She may come back to it later, or she may not. If interest and curiosity it not there, children will not really learn anything.

Be an interesting person yourself. Let your kid’s see your passions and interests. Too many of us grew up learning to consider our questions and curiosities as something frivolous, not really important. We had to do hours of busywork and sit still when we really wanted to work on our own projects or visit fascinating places. Indulge your childhood fantasies, do those things you’ve always dreamed of doing. When you are curious about something, read about it, watch movies about it, surf the web about it – do SOMETHING about it!

What can you do to encourage interest-led learning in your home?

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I’d love to hear your thoughts about this post. Leave me a comment below or shoot me an e-mail at chris@christinapilkington.com

Photo Credit: Original Nomad

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1188843132 Laura Grace Weldon

    Absolutely spot on. I’m most fond of the last one, “be an interesting person yourself.” It’s all too common for people to get wrapped up in their kids or work or appearance to even explore the interests that make them feel alive. That aliveness makes it all worthwhile. Sharing!

    • christinapilkington

      Thanks so much for sharing :) I know I’m a much better mom when I’ve spent some personal creative time during the day.

  • http://mamasbagoftricks.blogspot.com Lian

    I love your ideas especially about traveling. I haven’t done this with my kids but that is my goal. And like you said, besides learning it will create wonderful memories.

    • Anonymous

      Lian, thanks! We’ve found traveling to be one of the greatest bonding times for our family and we’re all come away learning so much more. I’ve been introduced to so many new things that I might not have ever experienced otherwise.

  • Anonymous

    Wow! Excellent ideas – very unique! Can’t wait to check out roadsideamerica.com, sounds just like what we need. I especially appreciate what you said about being prepared for their interests to change. DS has done Tae Kwon Do for a few years, and we’ve struggled with letting him quit or not. Your post has helped a lot.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Kimberly! My daughter took ballet for a year and then wanted nothing more to do with it. You do get a little attached to the idea of your kids doing something. It’s hard sometimes to adjust to that not being a part of their lives anymore, at least for the present time.

  • http://www.homegrownlearners.com Mary

    I appreciated your thoughts very much. I’m going to quote you in a post if that’s ok… it will be up later today at http://www.homegrownlearners.com

    • Anonymous

      I’m glad you liked the post. Of course, I’d be happy for you to quote from this post on your site. I’ll be over later to check it out!

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